Becoming an Artwork by Boris Groys

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Modern history is a history of aesthetisations – and every aesthetisation raises a claim of protection. We aestheticise and want to protect almost everything, including Earth, oceans, the atmosphere, rare animal species and exotic plants. Humans are no exception. They also present themselves as objects of contemplation that deserve admiration and care. For some time, artists and intellectuals struggled for the sovereign right to present themselves to society in their own way – to become self-created works of art. Today everybody has not only a right but also an obligation to practice self-design. We are responsible for the way we present ourselves to others – and we cannot get rid of this aesthetic responsibility.

However, we are not able to produce our own bodies. Before we begin to practice self-design, we find ourselves already designed by the gaze of others. That is why the practice of self-design mostly takes a critical and confrontational turn. We want to bring others to see us in the way we want to be seen – not only during our earthly life but also after our death. This is a complicated struggle, and the aim of this book is to describe and analyse it.