Disability Aesthetics by Tobin Siebers is now considered one of the foundational texts at the intersection of disability studies and art history and visual culture. The book is an important and key text for introducing readers to concepts of disability and its always-already presence in art history.
Disability Aesthetics is the first attempt to theorize the representation of disability in modern art and visual culture. It claims that the modern in art is perceived as disability, and that disability is evolving into an aesthetic value in itself. It argues that the essential arguments at the heart of the American culture wars in the late twentieth century involved the rejection of disability both by targeting certain artworks as “sick” and by characterizing these artworks as representative of a sick culture. The book also tracks the seminal role of National Socialism in perceiving the powerful connection between modern art and disability. It probes a variety of central aesthetic questions, producing a new understanding of art vandalism, an argument about the centrality of wounded bodies to global communication, and a systematic reading of the use put to aesthetics to justify the oppression of disabled people. In this richly illustrated and accessibly written book, Tobin Siebers masterfully demonstrates the crucial roles that the disabled mind and disabled body have played in the evolution of modern aesthetics, unveiling disability as a unique resource discovered by modern art and then embraced by it as a defining concept.