Essays, Analyses and Meditations

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Two-faced Aesthetics

  • Aesthetics confuses two different processes: 1. making art and 2. enjoying art. Aesthetics assumes that one is the mirror process of the other, or is someone directly related to the other.
  • The process of making art, in turn, is often confused with the medium, but they are actually different dimensions. For example, language is used to create stories: neither the language nor the stories are art in themselves. Stories can be novel, which is art. For example, singing might be the original form of speaking, and playing instruments might be the original form of instructions for ritual ceremonies. Those are not art, but both singing and playing instruments can be used to make art.
  • The process of enjoying art and the process of making art are inherently different. The reason for "using" art (e.g., of listening to music or staring at a painting) is not necessarily the same motivation that prompted the artist to create it. The user and the maker of art have two different concepts of beauty. Beauty is not only in the eye of the beholder, but also in the eye of the "presenter". The beauty perceived by the former is not the beauty perceived by the latter. The beauty that is in the eye of the beholder is not the same beauty that is in the eyes of the artist.
  • Making art is about being creative.
  • Enjoying art is about one's knowledge state and psychological state.
  • Perceived beauty itself (the beauty in the eye of the beholder) is an ambiguous concept as it might refer to different kinds: the beauty of a landscape, the beauty of a person, the beauty of art. Landscape beauty rarely applies to catastrophes. Personal beauty rarely applies to weird people.
  • Artistic beauty, instead, often applies to weird and catastrophic artifacts. Artistic beauty is about oddity.
  • Creativity/oddity (the beauty in the eye of the artist) tends to mirror changes in science and society. For example, the visual arts and music became more abstract (decoupled from natural reality) at the same time that Physics turned to Relativity and Quantum Mechanics.
  • Beholder's beauty and presenter's beauty are polar opposites: the former represents the establishment, the accepted conventions of society, whereas the latter represents rebellion precisely against those conventions. Creativity is, ultimately, an act of rebellion against the accepted concept of beauty. Artists and mad people are similar in that they don't comply with expected behavior. Madness is a source of inspiration for art precisely because it violates social norm.
  • The evolutionary reason we make art is multi-faceted: because of sexual selection (just like the peacock makes a tail), because it helps us classify the world (by sharpening our intellect), because it trains us to face situations that we never experience (just like training in a camp), etc.
  • The evolutionary reason we enjoy art is, ultimately, that it improves our brain. Art, being creative, induces paradigm shifts. Having to react to the artist's creativity forces our brain to think differently, i.e. to increase its capabilities. We (the users of art) get better at dealing with unpredictable changes in the environment.
  • Thanks to art, we become the change that we have to adapt to.