Gloating delight, right?

Does knowledge interfere with feelings in a bad way? Some people say, the more you know, the less you feel spontaneously. This “Woe from Wit” concept essentially means that impromptu feelings are deeper and stronger than emotional reactions kicking in after the thinking engine, fuelled by knowledge on the subject, has done its “rationalising” job.

All our joys come from follies, and all our woes stem from thinking too much, yeah?

This’s so much not true, with the latest refutation of the thesis provided by Dasha Zhukova.


The public emotional reaction to this photo was a function of conclusions about the Act of Sitting shown in the photo. These conclusions were linked to knowledge about who and what was represented in the picture.

I have four types of reactions summarised into tables as proof.

If knowledge was ground zero:

Knowledge level Conclusion Emotional reaction
A white woman sits in a chair modelled as a black woman This is a racist white woman (RWW) Dislike/Cringed nose: nothing new, just another RWW

If knowledge was limited (which was the case for the majority of commenters):

Knowledge level Conclusion Emotional reaction
Dasha Zhukova, the Russian wife of a Russian billionaire sits in a chair modelled as a black woman This is a rich racist white woman (RRWW) Antagonism and Resentment. An RRWW begs for something deeper than just a RWW, because it is a class thing now on top of racism: the rich who are also white believe they will always be on top of coloured people!

If knowledge was above the average (like, in most people who’d had a fleeting brush with art):

Knowledge level Conclusion Emotional reaction
Dasha Zhukova sits in a chair created as a work of art Dasha Zhukova is a personification of the insensitive stupidity of the white, rich, and famous Glee: the new rich can be utterly stupid

If the commenter suffered from obesity with knowledge:

Knowledge level Conclusion Emotional reaction
Dasha Zhukova who invests a lot of her sugar daddy’s money into modern art sits in a chair created as a work of art after a famous work of art created by Allen Jones in 1969 (a chair, table, and coat rack) Dasha Zhukova is a personification of the insensitive stupidity of the white, rich, and famous who want to be accepted by the modern intellectual elite as equals Gloating Delight: the new rich can’t be the modern intellectual elite regardless of how hard they try
Allen Jones' sculptures
Allen Jones’ sculptures

Emotional reaction in the last table is well exemplified by Jonathan Johnes in the Guardian, whose ending line was, “There is lot of idiocy in this tale, but none of it necessarily comes from the work of art now crassly labelled a “racist chair”.

Gloating delight is a longer-term emotion than simple glee or resentment. It runs deeper, its current is stronger.

So, knowledge dials up the power of emotional response. 

I am not saying that knowledge = wisdom here.

A wise man would probably feel pity and compassion towards a young woman full of aspiration but lacking the capacity to change into an intellectual queen she wants to become. She is loaded with dough, but she ain’t cooking any pastry. it can be the beginning of a deep human drama, actually.


      1. Exploitation = exhibit of power, hence it is always in demand among people who feel insecure about something. The elite, especially the new rich, do not feel secure – if not financially, then socially or intellectually.

  1. I think the hysteria is a bit much, but I do think it’s pretty damn racist. However even if it was a white woman chair (which are shown here but not elsewhere) it still demeaning towards women. I don’t know, I think this piece is made to shock and by spreading outrage you are giving Mrs. Shukova power.

    1. In fact, my post was not about Dasha Zhukova. She is simply my Exhibit No.1. The white woman chair is currently at Tate Modern – and serves a shaming reminder to men (men, with whom it resonates) about their deeply buried attitudes to women. The white woman chair is provocative, but – well – it has a purpose and it achieves this purpose. THere are much more provocative artworks in contemporary art. The black woman chair is an artwork that adds the race issue into the provocation. As an art object is does its job. The moment it becomes a household item (a chair for sitting) it becomes an art installation that includes the sitter. Dasha Zhukova was simply dumb enough to NOT understand it.

      1. Her boyfriend Roman Abramovich certainly one of the more interesting art collectors alive today. I remember your post about that Lucian Freud that he purchased at a record breaking price.

  2. I’ve been waiting for your post on the Dasha Zhukova gaffe – there had to be one! When it first broke (on Martin Luther King’s day btw) I read a fair deal about it, including JJ’s article in the Guardian, so in this case my reaction is totally in the obese category. As for woe from wit – maybe rationalizing something that has emotional impact cools down the passion at first, but in my experience, knowledge unveils new layers of meaning which ultimately leads to new, deeper emotion.

    1. I am totally with you on the woe from wit issue )
      Knowledge allows to ask questions, and then find answers, which produce more questions, and more answers. Knowledge allows the viewer to experience an artwork as an emotional journey, not just as a stimulus for an emotional kick.

  3. Ah. So unfortunate… It’s sad that this is how Russians are portraying themselves. A culture so rich in art and history has turned into a laughing stock. I wouldn’t say its a racist chair, but it’s about who you are while sitting in this chair.
    What kind of voice do you have, what kind of individual are you, what are your ideas and what is it that you do? I have to agree, it’s sad when your loaded with dough but you ain’t cooking any pastry.

    1. Well, Mrs Zhukova is, in fact, more British than Russian in terms of where she’s spent most of her life. Fortunately, Dasha Zhukova has had nothing to do with Russian culture or art. I am sure she would fail any beginner test on Russian culture.

    1. Yes, but there’s too much gloating in his article: open about people who picked up the racist chanting, hidden about Dasha Zhukova. Clever, not wise. This is why he is exhibit No.4 ))

It would be grand to hear from you now!

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