I wanted to strongly recommend The Art of Cruelty by Maggie Nelson
Its not so much about cruelty, as about art, using the desired impact of cruelty as a probe to interrogate ways of making and experiencing art.
Among her most salient points:
Works that open themselves up to the possibility of cruelty, e.g., performances by Yoko Ono or Marina Abramovic are more able to shake ourselves of our preconceptions than those that are ostensibly cruel -- something truer now in our age of torture-porn than when the works were originally performed.
How Pope L's links between precariousness and "have-not-ness" fits into this framework.
How Bacon regretted the decriminalization of homosexuality, since he derived so much pleasure from the risk, taboo and threat of punishment.
She brought the whole argument to bear on Ryan Trecartin's I-Be AREA with enough force that I watched the entire piece, which certainly was a memorable experience. I liken it to an image vomitorium, in the "common misconception" sense -- but I mean it in a good way.