Aristotle proposed that art must be both moral and educational, yet non-beautiful art can have both of these qualities. Does this overturn Aristotle's proposition? When we say that an artwork has an educational quality about it, we mean that it contains or transmits some knowledge. That is, a true work of art has the capability of teaching us something. Disturbing or disgusting art can contain a great deal of knowledge.
Jake Chapman looks at the history of shocking art and tries to find the most shocking piece of art ever, and also to find out what artists who create such works think of other artists who create shocking works of art.
Jake Chapman suggests that transgressive art has risen to prominence as a reaction to a world traumatised by the horrors of the world wars and the genocides of the Nazis, Stalin, Mao, Pol-Pot...... Using the language of Freudian psychoanalysis, he suggests that the emergence of transgressive art, the "extreme culture", is a form of societal abreaction, where confronting the original source of the trauma one hopes to achieve a "beneficial catharsis" for the one suffering neuroses, in this case Western society. Just as shock is used in individual psychoanalytic therapy, so extreme culture hopes to shock society out of the "paralysing hysteria" through confronting the viewer with transgressive imagery.