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Old 10-16-2015, 04:25 AM View Post #1 (Link) Aesthetics
2sh4r (Offline)
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This is going to be a vague sort-of 3 am conversation, but I'm going to try to start it as clearly as I can.

What is "beauty"?

I think this question is really important to us, as artists, because (often) we attempt to convey a sense of beauty. Moreso, its important to us as humans, in general, because humans are experiencers. By that, I mean that we seek beautiful experiences. In fact, to many, it becomes a purpose of life. I mean, why live a life if you don't find some aesthetic value in it?

So really what makes one experience more beautiful or significant than another? What makes one poem or painting more beautiful than another?

I've been struggling with this question for a while now, and I've gotten this far:

Things, in and of themselves, are not beautiful. A hill covered in fog or a red wheelbarrow glazed in rain - these things, by themselves, are not beautiful, I think.

What is beautiful is the thought or emotion that these things produce. Emotions (and ALL emotions, I think) are beautiful, but I don't know why this is the case. This feels significant and is worth exploring. Thoughts are beautiful too, but I feel as if they work on a different level than emotions.

This is important because it means that anything can be beautiful. For example, through some strange mental exercise (or experience), I could come to associate some intense emotion with poop. Then poop would become beautiful to me in the moment of experiencing, and if I appropriately conveyed that idea, then poop would become beautiful to you too. A local poet at Cornell actually wrote a long poem about garbage, discussing the nature of existence.

In this model that I've created, emotions = beauty. That means that the more intensely an emotion is felt in an experience, the more beautiful that experience becomes. However, this is strange because this means that intense but negative experiences like grieving are very, very beautiful because negativity is often felt more intensely than positive emotions.

I'm still not sure how thoughts tie into this. I think, somehow, our thoughts mediate our emotions as we grow up. Thoughts become a channel for producing and repressing certain emotions, perhaps.

Do you guys agree/disagree? Anyone know any cool literature about this?
  
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Old 10-16-2015, 04:28 AM View Post #2 (Link)
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One problem with my model is the idea of universal beauty. Some things tend to inspire beauty universally. For example, mountain landscapes, beach landscapes, are considered, by most people, more beautiful than suburb landscapes. Why do some things produce emotions in all of us while other things only emotionally impact few of us?
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Old 10-16-2015, 02:26 PM View Post #3 (Link)
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Beauty is definitely an opinion word. I don't think it's a natural trait of a thing, that the cart has beauty, but a trait of the person to be able to find beauty in the cart. The beauty of numbers is perhaps a good example. A lot of people hate math and get anxious just seeing numbers, but those interested in math find their own beauty in how the numbers relate to each other and how theories exist.

That said, things that are visually pleasing tend to be easier to find beauty in. It's been well-studied the sorts of things that make subjects visually pleasing. Symmetrical faces, landscapes that follow the rule of thirds, colors that go well together, etc. Longer graceful gestures tend to be more pleasing than short angular dashes.

I do think context plays a pretty big role in finding beauty in things, too. For example, going back to the beauty of poop: I recently watched The Martian which is about a guy who has to live on Mars by himself.

(I realized just now this might be considered a spoiler so have a spoiler tag)
Spoiler:
At one point, he's running out a food. The only way to get more food is to grow it, and for that you need some sort of fertilizer because nothing grows in the Mars soil. So, he ends up using the astronaut's poop to grow the plants. When you see the first little green shoots coming up through the globs of manure, I'd say that's a pretty beautiful image. The poop kinda just saved the guy's life.


I'm a bit hesitant to say that finding something beautiful relies on emotion. I don't know. When I imagine beautiful things, I do feel an emotion of attraction toward them, sort of admiration or sometimes wonder. Logically, I feel like someone could find something beautiful without having that sort of attraction, but I can't think of any actual examples. And the context of emotion certainly helps people find things beautiful that might not otherwise be, like mothers finding beauty in their children.

I'm not sure if you mean that thoughts themselves are beautiful, or that thoughts make other things beautiful. I do find thoughts beautiful, but it's more the idea of having this silent network of ideas, an entire world in my head that makes it beautiful rather than the idea of the thought itself.

There's other things that make things beautiful to me and I'm not sure how they really relate to any of the rest of it: the idea of distance or size (ie. stars/ the universe, oceans, looking down from the top of a mountain/hill/plane), abstract ideas (such as life, hope, religion, truth, liberty, etc), humanity (people's interactions, different races, communities). Water tends to make everything a bit more beautiful. (Except showers, which I hate, but that's unrelated.)

Music is maybe another area to consider-- certain instruments tend to lead to more beautiful songs, such as the piano or the flute, but certainly not all songs made with those instruments are beautiful. Perhaps this leads back into what makes a song pleasing to listen to.

Defining abstract ideas like beauty is always strange to think about. It's a good question.
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Old 10-16-2015, 03:43 PM View Post #4 (Link)
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Defining abstract ideas like beauty is always strange to think about. It's a good question.
Is it possible to define the concept of beauty? <---- I don't mean this cynically or sarcastically. I'm actually curious as to your opinion on this.

It's interesting to consider the nature of such an abstract concept as beauty.

Questions worth considering:

Can concepts exist outside of the self? Is there a concept of beauty that exists, and we, as humans, intuitively grasp it?

Or do we each hold a set of assumptions about the idea in our heads - each have separate ideas of what is beautiful?

I prefer the first idea (that of the concept outside of the self) because then I can try and define beauty, and also, it appeals to me spiritually. If the second is true then its impossible to define beauty because we all have different ideas of what is beautiful.

... but the second is probably more true.
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Old 10-17-2015, 03:15 AM View Post #5 (Link)
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Funny this topic showed up becuase just the other day I was looking at this video from Prager U about Modern Art:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lNI07egoefc

In fact, stumbling upon Prager U was weird in general. It's a generally conservative YouTube channel aimed at "opening the minds" of students who are taught "one-sided liberalism". Regardless, I was curious in hearing their POV about many things.

If you don't want to bother watching the video, they basically say that Modern Art is crap and that standards in art have been ruined. They give the example of how in figure skating nobody is going to just skid across the floor, fall down, and demand that their act is a perfect 10 becuase it was artistic.

I personally think that there is no standard to art. I mean, they made it sound like conventional art is dead, which is really not. I'd argue that there is no defining art style of the age. We only have Modern Art because it was the most recent movement that developed. We have so many people in the world now with so many ways of communicating so people just like what they like.

Although I don't believe in a standard to beauty, there are certainly trends - groups of people who share the same sense of beauty. So while it may seem like there are standards, there really aren't any. . .I mean, say there's a parallel universe out there with a parallel Earth. Figure skating could be judged based on skidding and falling across the floor. You know what I mean? It could be a completely different mindset on what "figure skating" actually is.

But here's where we get really crazy though. This just popped into my head right now and it's driving me crazy.

Let's relate beauty to writing.

By my reasoning, I'm being a hypocrite. I am here on this site advising people what good and beautiful writing is. I think Twilight is horrible writing. It's "bad art" to me. But others can see it as "good art." We are on this site critiquing people's work. But what does that mean? We all have a sense of how a story should flow, what good dialogue sounds like, how to structure your paragraphs logically - etc, etc. And yet a five year old or an inexperienced reader or just someone with another train of thought can go "That was great reading!" What really IS the standard of writing? Good books sell. But bad books sell too. Is critiquing essentially useless then? Are we just assholes trying to tell people how to write a "good, beautiful" story based on certain standards that were passed down by the majority? Or is there really a universal standard to what makes a story beautiful? Just like with the figure skating analogy, you could write a story with events that don't even connect or have any inherent meaning. You're just writing shit that comes to mind. Is it possible to still view that as a "beautiful" story? Can it still be art? But if there's a standard to writing then does that mean there's also a standard to art in general? Captain Underpants works as a children story but what if you were an adult seriously passing it as an adult novel? Why is it suddenly bad? Solely because of the age group? Is a child's sense of aesthetic invalid simply because they're a child? This can go back to the thing about emotional connnections. Someone can love The Hardy Boys because they read it as a kid, but another person who did not grow up with it can say, "This is crap. This is not beautiful." Is there really any fucking point then?

Where is this going? What's the meaning of life? Do you know where your children are? Who's on first? What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?
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Old 10-17-2015, 03:28 AM View Post #6 (Link)
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Where is this going? What's the meaning of life? Do you know where your children are? Who's on first? What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?
Haha yea these are all useless questions that are fun to ponder on sometimes.

I wish a god or spirit would come down to me and tell me, reassure me: "Your life means something. Beauty is real. Your experiences are real."
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Old 10-17-2015, 02:08 PM View Post #7 (Link)
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Originally Posted by 2sh4r View Post

I wish a god or spirit would come down to me and tell me, reassure me: "Your life means something. Beauty is real. Your experiences are real."
Isn't that like ... why we make art?

I don't wish someone would come down and reassure me about shit (even if I want a hug from my mom sometimes, but that's more about work stress than art, beauty or the meaning of life). And that's in part because I make my own record and validation. I have a record of myself as a human being from my poems, paintings, and journals.

I think beauty exists when there are humans or other beings there to perceive it, and that while trees and sunsets and sounds certainly would still be present without a conscious creature to sense them, they probably wouldn't be called "beautiful", because who would be calling them "beautiful"?

I think that what we see as beautiful is probably shaped by both how humans are as a species, how we see and feel and think, what we need to live (lush landscapes), who we want to reproduce with (symmetrical hotties). But I think it's hard to tell what's beautiful at that "just human" level because we have such huge, important cultures layer on top of our physical, basic ideas of beautiful or "good, need this now please". Culture tells us what is beautiful. A few lucky people can get their idea of "beautiful" to show up in the culture, and in turn tell more people what is beautiful. I think that gets back to Scotty's idea about alternate-world figuring skating as sliding across the floor. Culture teaches us what to see and appreciate. And many of us look for alternative ideas or variations within that.

P.S. Scotty, while I'm sure that video is informative about "the other America", there is no way in hell I am watching it. I watched some electoral politics stuff a few months ago and have filled my rage-stroke quota for the rest of the year.
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Old 10-18-2015, 11:15 PM View Post #8 (Link)
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I have a question about that video.

Is there actually a 10 million dollar rock that's hailed as art? Because that's stupid.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E56P55i3HHQ

That's a good-ish defense of abstract art.
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Old 10-18-2015, 11:24 PM View Post #9 (Link)
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"I have a record of myself as a human being from my poems, paintings, and journals."

My discontent is not because I feel that I cannot record/prove my existence to other humans. I can stand with my fist in the air, art in my hand, screaming, "I exist!" and someone will hear and take note, but that's not enough. I want to know that I exist as more than just another infinitesimal cog in the universe. I want to be infinite. I want my life to matter, not necessarily only in society or to humans.

That's what I was talking about, but it doesn't really have to do with aesthetics. This is an existential struggle for me, at least - perhaps for everybody on some level.

In response to that aesthetic argument: Yes, it's probably true that the art standard is invented by a collection of human minds, that it is subjective and subject to change all the time. But I don't like that idea because that makes art feel infinitesimal.

I want the emotions I feel (when I read good art) to have significance outside of the physical world because everything in the physical world is subject to decay.

IDK if that makes any sense.
  
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Old 10-19-2015, 12:29 AM View Post #10 (Link)
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Originally Posted by 2sh4r View Post

I want the emotions I feel (when I read good art) to have significance outside of the physical world because everything in the physical world is subject to decay.

IDK if that makes any sense.
That makes sense because a lot of people feel that way, but for those of us who only believe in the physical world, it's hard to connect with. It sounds a lot like you want some spiritual experience or religion when you look at art or do something intellectual. That happens for some people, but not for all of us.
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