The World as a Work of Art

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The World as a Work of Art

Postby Waderby_Orchard » Fri Aug 27, 2021 7:05 am

What will follow is three posts I originally composed for the Wäderby blog. I believe they are interconnected and each helps to illuminate the message of the whole. The first post is:

The World as a Work of Art

This is a call to everyone to consider and discover the power of ourselves as artists. What is art but the skill to conceive of a vision or intent and act to see it manifest in the world around us?

The composer Richard Wagner conceived of the idea of Gesamtkunstwerk, a work of art which embraces all forms. Wagner’s ideal took the form of the opera, combining music with storytelling, and dance, and painting in the scenery, and together it would express a final idea, which would be transferred to the audience of the artwork.

What I propose is that Wagner did not go far enough. He still understood art as something somehow separate from our daily lives, like an event which one enters, then returns to ‘the real world’, to some extent. In reality, from the perspective of any living person, since even an artist or an engineer exists in various capacities in the world, any works of art are not something removed from our lives, but rather part of the experiences or story which makes up the length of our mortal existence.

For the observer, a painting is kind of message or signal for them to read, and a work of architecture is a part of our daily habitation and dwelling, music augments and can enrich our environment, or at least our experience of it. Dance, like grace, is not very different from exercise. It is the movement of the body in such a way which promotes health, vitality, and a feeling of inner strength and well-being. One might even consider changing the way tasks are performed entirely, because they are not ergonomic for our bodies, and our goal in life is to live-well, rather than, for example, sit behind a computer for hours.

I advocate a position which holds that art and skill are much the same. One’s goals, principles, and intentions influences the final ”work” or ”product”. For this reason, working, producing, making art, and performing various actions throughout are day are all the same. This is the true Gesamtkunstwerk and we’re doing it all together all the time already, and humanity has been throughout history.

Look at the world around us, this is the artwork we have all created.

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Re: The World as a Work of Art

Postby Waderby_Orchard » Fri Aug 27, 2021 7:06 am

Skill and Illusion

It is first necessary to display how art and skill are in reality the same thing and always have been. In earlier periods, art has been used as a literal synonym for skill, craft, and capability. One can speak of ”the art of public speaking” or ”the art of flying a kite”.

Even when one speaks of ”the arts” proper, one refers to a category of crafts. These crafts can include such things as filmmaking, animation, music making, illustration, painting. To each of these categories one could say that a person practices the ”art” of… filmmaking, animation, making music, painting, and so on. These could in turn be broken down to such things as the ”art” of cinematography, design, playing the violin, hatching, and so forth.

We are encountering a historical, cultural, and linguistic problem where the pure relation between art and skill is being lost. This is an issue with deep historical roots connected to how humans conceive of their ”world” and their relation to it. Any attempt to express an understanding of our world and our place in that world is bound to become abstract and include things that we know little about.

Pre-historic tribes encountered a highly volatile world which they had no pre-conceived cultural toolbox with which they could deal with. Much less did they have ”reasons” for anything. Instead, they recorded those things in their environment. It is telling that the cave paintings at Lascaux, France are more realistic than the art of the later early civilization Mesopotamia.

The natural world, particularly to humans unprotected by tools, technology, and generational education and the compilation of knowledge, is a dangerous place, and to survive in it demands a lot of arduous work and activity. Humanity, huddling in those places of comfort and security, surrounded by their drawings, ways of communicating their experiences outside of the cave, no doubt became a world of tales of beasts and the cosmos, and became part of a chain of religion and cultural expression stretching beyond our insulated bounds into the strange wide world and cosmos.

We have achieved some form of material comfort and security, particularly in what are referred to as ‘developed nations’. This state of technological sophistication has allowed us to insulate ourselves from many hardships in the external world, even those taking place in our own communities and sometimes even among our family members and those most dear to us. Part of our mode of insulating ourselves is through our art forms, through creating representations of reality or representations of our imagination which others can inhabit through using our various art forms.

The imaginative capacity is a valuable tool. Using our imagination, we can make designs using abstractions and calculations using the elements present in the world around us, commonly referred to as ”things”. We can then re-impose those conceptions onto reality, and this is part of the process of engineering, which can be a useful and valuable tool.

But we live in a culture where the balance is tipping from our imagination being used to enrich our world to a world where our imagination is used to create virtual realities with which we replace interaction with the natural world around us, including the people, animals, and natural landscape with which we cohabit the Earth.

It is up to us to create our own future every day, through choices of the things we put our time, energy, and effort into, by being aware of what kind of impact those things have on the world. We can be more conscious of what kinds of processes lie behind the activities we are involved in, whether they be processes of production, or other social or personal interactions with impact on our everyday experience.

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Re: The World as a Work of Art

Postby Waderby_Orchard » Fri Aug 27, 2021 7:10 am

General Introduction to Aesthetics

Research has been done showing how our environment affects how we feel, and we know that the effect of how we feel based on other things can unconsciously impact how we feel and react to other things. (The field of environmental psychology studies this. For further reading: also worth considering is the psychological effect known as priming: Our emotional life is important for decision making, feeling energetic, inspired, and engaged.

Most people think of art as merely a form of entertainment, but in reality, it is the human vision applied and brought into the world. The same principle behind what is generally called the arts is at work in engineering, business design, marketing, and many more practices. The human mind is capable of making abstractions of the world, in the form of ideas and words, and then manipulating those ideas in the mind by the same logic which one would in physical practice to create new conceptual models. One can enact that process in a number of ways, either through building physical structures, through painting them or on other material, through performing an action in the template of our conceived idea, and so on. At the bottom, art is nothing but applying the human intelligence for creation, including creative problem solving, play, and more.

It is important for that reason to understand the modes in which our mind works with information. These modes have been named and their possibilities developed throughout history. They are, for that reason, not fixed categories but attempts to create and define patterns which can be used effectively to reproduce harmonious effects.

These categories are symmetry, proportion, harmony, the picturesque, and the sublime. Symmetry, proportion, and harmony were the classical trinity. There was a problem, which was that harmony was both a technique and an effect, but how could one know the effect before the technique is implemented? For that reason, the idea of harmony, and other aesthetic concepts have been connected to such ideas as grace, serendipity, fortuitousness, and judgement, i.e., external to the creation. It was not until the age of Enlightenment and the succeeding Romantic reaction that the principles of first the picturesque and then the sublime were conceptualized.

Symmetry relates to our perception of control. It is related to a preference for balance, and stability. If you imagine regularity on either side of your vision in a series of parallel pillars, you can create a sense of order and lay down demarcations. If anything new came into this field of vision, we could recognize it immediately and mark it. In this way we gain control over our environment. This is analogous to a renaissance or baroque garden, an encyclopaedia, filing system, or map. Symmetry is also tied to a sense of balance and moderation. Balance and moderation have to do with the relation of parts and a whole. One cannot have true symmetry without proportion.

Proportion is the measured relation between parts, and their successive relation to the whole. To understand proportions, one must analyse and understand the materials one is working with as well as how that material relates to other things, both physically and historically in its process of conception, place, and effects in space. For example, in designing a garden one would want to know things like the conditions of the soil and sunlight, as well as the position of the garden in relation to other places, and their effects, as these impact the flourishing of particular plants which are needed to design the whole. Proportion understands the whole of how things relate to one another.

Harmony, as already stated, is rather more of a desired effect than a technique. Harmony always includes flow, and progression over time. A work of architecture, for example, may seem static, but it is interacted with from distances and vantage points, entered into, and the entire process of entering and observing one’s surroundings is part of the flow which architecture invites. But that flow need not be harmonious, not only because the observer is literally blocked in time and space by obstacles, but rather because the effects given by the architecture itself are a cause of disharmony in the mind of the individual. Traditionally, this has been understood as connected to considerations of proportion. For example, the proportion of a building would be relative to what it is used for. If it is used to house a dog, it might be different in proportion from a building to house an airplane. Though these considerations may impact the impression of harmony in any finished product, harmony is a quality rather of the relation of the ”work of art”, construction, performance, and so on, to the world outside of the art, including the people and things which it interacts with. An entire enterprise could be disharmonious because it promotes nothing but disharmony in our lives.

In music, harmony is related to the consonance and dissonance of tones as they develop over time and either create a melody or discordant sound. Between two people, harmony would be a kind of peace or agreement. With nature, harmony would be living in a mutually beneficially symbiosis between us and our environment. In the body, harmony would be health and capability before the future. Harmony is the thriving and conditions for the thriving of an ecosystem. If groups of humans are in harmony with their environment, they are acting in such a way that they and the people and things around them may thrive.

The lack of clarity around the concept of harmony brought forward new considerations of what brings harmony besides considerations of symmetry and proportion.

The picturesque was then studied, as an example of that which is pleasing but yet breaks from the principle of symmetry. The picturesque is an account of how the novel emerges, change takes place, variety of forms might appear, and difference establishes contrast. The picturesque was in fact built upon the classical standards of beauty which had formed the Western mind and their aesthetic thinking. Yet there was difference, in the unique forms of people throughout this supposed ”West” or ”Christendom” and beyond. The West had, in its way, been open to and fascinated by the novel, the diverse, and the singular, but they had brought them into the controlled spaces they had created for themselves by the rules of the classical aesthetic. This allowed them to bring things which were unique or novel into the sphere of familiarity and identity. It contributed to imagination, expansion, and growth.

Symbols of the sublime are the wilderness, rugged mountain slopes, gorges, vast oceans, the dome of the sky, the stars, planets, and mystery of outer space. These are things which are great in their antiquity, their mystery and their power. These symbols of nature are also indicators of humanity’s existential origins in the natural world and cosmos. The view of the sublime allows us to discover whether we are in unity with those primordial forces which are greater than us, and to some degree beyond our control and comprehension.

The picturesque and the sublime were attempts of artists and thinkers to see themselves as parts of a whole greater than themselves so that they could be in harmony with that whole.

It was particularly popular in the Renaissance period to insist on the importance of plan or idea. Any work, whether of art or in daily life, can only be harmonious if the plan or intention of the work is itself harmonious, and this principle lies above the rest.

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