I’ve been obsessed with the concept of an aesthetic recently. In particular, aesthetics applied to things other than art and design. I’ve come to believe that your aesthetic posture is one of the most important determinants of how you think.
This post was threatening to snowball into a 10,000 essay (here’s why) so I decided to spare you the pain and provide three sampler pieces of the dozen or so I am trying to assemble into…something. Instead I’ll leave you to try and assemble something out of these pieces yourself.
Hint: you may want to try viewing a variety of distinct examples that are not formally pieces of art using these three constructs. Like say, coffee, the Republican/Democrat parties (in America), popcorn, a slum, a forest, a language, a mathematical result, a piece of code, an approach to planning a vacation, a way of organizing a desk…. So here you go, your first DIY ribbonfarm post.
First, always a good idea to start with a 2×2. Here, the challenge was to come up with a useful y-axis.
Next, an attempt to link aesthetics with attitudes about time. Paired-term lists are always good for exploring a dichotomy, and time is a reliably fertile variable to attempt to link to just about anything else.
And finally, a grab bag of derivative stances that I think arise from aesthetic stances. Generative application of a dichotomy to a large sample of related abstractions usually yields insights. Sometimes predictable, sometimes not so predictable, sometimes counter-intuitive. There are examples of all three here. Normally, I would throw away the scaffolding and start worrying about the predictable ones. I don’t like it when thinking goes according to plan. But do your own thing. Sometimes it is interesting to switch to a skeptical perspective and cross-examine the counter-intuitive results, to make sure the pleasure of an Aha! isn’t blinding you to a weakness.
I won’t share any more pieces just yet, but you may want to try applying a yin-yang to romanticism/classicism, or think about the negative space of this ideaspace (the space of ideas/abstractions etc. that this set of thoughts does not organize explicitly or reach via generative expansion). Or think about tricky-to-analyze aesthetics like wabi-sabi (tricky examples often turn out to be counter-examples to something or the other).
A word of warning: based on a casual online scan I’ve been underwhelmed by what I’ve seen written about the two words (romanticism and classicism) by way of definition, so I’ve gone Humpty-Dumpty and am using the words in ways that make sense to me. I may be reinventing the wheel, repeating mistakes, confusing people who are used to the way a particular academic field uses these words, etc. You can actually use these diagrams to figure out why I think the way I think. Very meta.
Have fun. Feel free to use the images as you like. If you blog your DIY take on these pieces somewhere, a comment with a link or a trackback would be appreciated. If people enjoy playing with this, I may do more DIY posts.