From Whitechapel: Documents of Contemporary Art


Edited by Walead Beshty

With Ian Farr

Texts examine how the encounter of ethics and aesthetics has become central to the contested space of much recent art.





Texts examine how the encounter of ethics and aesthetics has become central to the contested space of much recent art.

The boundary of a contemporary art object or project is no longer something that exists only in physical space; it also exists in social, political, and ethical space. Art has opened up to transnational networks of producers and audiences, migrating into the sphere of social and distributive systems, whether in the form of “relational aesthetics” or other critical reinventions of practice. Art has thus become increasingly implicated in questions of ethics.

In this volume, artist and writer Walead Beshty evaluates the relation of ethics to aesthetics, and demonstrates how this encounter has become central to the contested space of much recent art. He brings together theoretical foundations for an ethics of aesthetics; appraisals of art that engages with ethical issues; statements and examples of methodologies adopted by a diverse range of artists; and examinations of artworks that question the ethical conditions in which contemporary art is produced and experienced.

Artists surveyed include Tania Bruguera, Christoph Büchel, Paul Chan, Lygia Clark, Danh Vo, Dexter Sinister, Andrea Fraser, Liam Gillick, David Hammons, Thomas Hirschhorn, Khaled Hourani, Sharon Lockhart, Kerry James Marshall, Renzo Martens, Boris Mikhailov, Hélio Oiticica, Seth Price, Walid Raad, Martha Rosler, Tino Sehgal, Allan Sekula, Santiago Sierra, Rirkrit Tiravanija

Writers include Giorgio Agamben, Ariella Azoulay, Alain Badiou, Roland Barthes, David Beech, Claire Bishop, Nicolas Bourriaud, Simon Critchley, T.J. Demos, Maurizio Lazzarato, Jean-François Lyotard, Jacques Rancière, Jan Verwoert


$24.95 T ISBN: 9780262527187 240 pp. | 5.75 in x 8.25 in

Not for sale in Europe or the UK.


Walead Beshty

Walead Beshty is a British-born artist and writer based in Los Angeles. He is a regular contributor to Texte zur Kunst and Afterall, and is Associate Professor at Art Center College of Art and Design, Pasadena.


Ian Farr.


  • This is an impressive anthology, one that captures the breadth, complexity and inner contradictions of the relation between aesthetics and ethics. Beshty is a learned and supple artist and scholar who moves comfortably not only through art, literature and media studies, but through history and philosophy as well. Elegant and lucid, this book is one that students will find very engaging.

    Alexander Alberro

    Virginia Bloedel, Wright Professor of Art History and Department Chair, Barnard College/Columbia University

  • Ethics stages a provocative debate about the multiplicity of connections (political, financial, educational) that structure the art world. To think ethically necessarily means to think relationally; fittingly, a great diversity of texts is pulled together here and made to share close quarters. Amidst the recent discussions about the end of the anthropocene and the rise of the 'thing', it is refreshing to read that the choices, decisions and demands we make might matter. Ethics, in other words, is an invitation to engagement.

    Alex Kitnick

    Visiting Assistant Professor of Art History, Bard College

  • Aesthetics are not necessarily ethical—something can be beautiful and at the same time evil—but this volume persuasively argues that there can be an aesthetics of ethics. Once the fiction of artistic autonomy has been abandoned and an artwork's network of relationships to the world become clear, a new aesthetic 'feeling' is possible: one that is as palpable and pervasive as the sublime.

    Stan Douglas


  • At a moment when political tendencies in art have been rigidified (if not domesticated) as a series of professional or artistic genres ('social practice art', 'relational aesthetics', 'institutional critique'), we need to open up again and in a new way the old debates on form versus content, aesthetics versus politics, artistic autonomy versus social engagement. Walead Beshty's surprising selection of essays and texts provides a potential road map for readers to use in this collective endeavour—raising the key questions of the moment without providing answers or prescribing specific pathways.

    George T. Baker

    Professor of Art History, University of California, Los Angeles