Yves Michaud was born in 1944 in Lyon. After studying philosophy and sciences at the Ecole normale supérieure and the Sorbonne in Paris, he successively teaches at the universities of Montpellier, Rouen, Paris 1 Sorbonne. He also holds various positions of visiting professor at UC Berkeley, the universities of Tunis, Sao Paulo, Edinburgh.
His first research bears on empiricism (he writes two books on Locke and Hume) and on political violence.
During the same period, he becomes an art critic and befriends the generation of the abstract painters of the years 1970 (Viallat, Clément, Hantaï), and later some American painters like Joan Mitchell, Sam Francis, Jean-Paul Riopelle, Shirley Jaffe. This side of his activity leads him to be appointed director of the school of the fine arts of Paris from 1989 to 1996. In 1997, he decides to go back to the university and concentrates from then on the philosophy of art and of culture while continuing to write on violence.
On the occasion of the Millenium in 2000, he launches the University of all the knowledges (Université de tous les savoirs), a free university which popularises the most recent results of scientific research. The success of this University is so important that the project which was to stop at the end of 2000 is prolonged. To date, the University of all the knowledges has organized more than 700 conferences for popular audiences. All these conferences are accessible on line on the site of the University http://www.utls.fr/.
Yves Michaud now focuses on the recent development of the arts and of the contemporary culture in a globalized and technological world. He also investigates the relations of the individual to society in this same context, while going on in his work on the phenomena of interior and international violence.
1 the contemporary individual, between selfishness and compassion
Since the 18th century, individualism and democracy go hand in hand. In a democracy, free, voluntary and reasonable citizens decide in common what goals they want to reach, what projects they want to complete.
Democracy must find a delicate balance with individualism. As John Locke said, each man is the natural owner of himself, of his actions and of his properties. How is it possible to share common projects?
Contemporary individualism is still more complicated. It is loaded, of course, with egoism, but at the same time, it is accompanied by benevolence, compassion, love of the others - and it also expresses a great desire for community. Me, my community, mankind : what space is left for that abstract community we call democracy?
One will examine this mixture of self-love, of love of mankind and of desire of community, which links together today democracy, individualism and communautarianism.
2 the beauty today
It is usually said that modern art, especially that of the 20th century, said farewell to beauty. It searched for provocation, shock not only through the invention of new forms but also by recurring to ugliness, monstrosity, pornography, disgust.
This vision should however be tempered.
For beauty continued to haunt art in surrealism, in photography, not to forget the obsession of beauty in movies.
From an other point of view, when one leaves art aside, one has to realize that the overall society is submitted to a process of estheticization.
The aesthetic categories frame our judgments on very many aspects of our lives, since physical shape, clothing (fashion), the environment (design) and the bodily appearances ( gymnastics, cosmetics, aesthetic surgery) until the moral behaviour and even politics, which must be decent and correct - what is called political and moral “correctness”. The quest for beauty, tends to become an ideal standard for the lifestyles.
It does not mean that reality in itself is beautiful but that one esthetic pair of glasses was fitted on our noses. Beauty must be everywhere.
3 Tourism, culture and art
Tourism is an activity of mass which will develop in a way even more spectacular and globalized. There was 700 million tourists throughout the world in 2005, there will be 1,5 billion of them in 2015.
Tourism did not receive much attention up to now for various reasons.
It has bad press, it is vulgar. We are not tourists - the others are -, even if every of us wants to travel and visit the world. Tourism has become, as it were, one more right among the rights of men.
One will describe first the diversity of tourism.
Then one will examine the relationship between tourism and culture. Tourism indeed has a positive impact and a negative impact on cultures. Tourism makes us discover the cultures of others but at the same time it consumes them and standardizes them by turning the cultural identities into stereotypes.
Art also is related to tourism. Here we must become aware of the trend toward the “touristification” of art today, since art also is a tourist attraction: one travels to visit the famous cities of art, the large museums, the new artistic events.
At the crossroad of these three concepts of tourism, culture and art, we find the real spirit of our time.
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