Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Subjectivization of Beauty

Gadamer tells the tale of how in the eighteenth century beauty both in nature and in art became a subject of scrutiny. To judge and reduce the essential being of artistic beauty to its substance, qualities, attributes, or how we relate to it as a community. We are not looking at art objectively as a something perceived and named as separate outside of the culture we live in. It is a shared understanding. He states that the validity of an aesthetic judgement cannot be derived and proved from a universal principle (p. 37). Yet we are talking about absorbing a particular way of understanding within the universal. Goodness where’s the fun in that? The real joy of experiencing art for me is being able to approach it with my own individual backpack of lived experience. A common sense yes, but very, very personal at the same time. The most powerful encounters with art for me have been both pure emotional and intellectual. Something pretty that has attracted my attention and something that makes me think. I do not think of these as to different kinds of art I just think of them as two different relationships with beauty. I recall sitting quietly in awe with a Leonardo da vinci painting in the National Gallery of London. I only had three days in London so I went everyday just to spend time with it. It was indeed beautiful but the complexity of its historical importance on us a civilization was also in my thinking.
Gadamer is revealing to me this account because we live in the world build of the wisdom of the past. I do not think it is really is helpful to think of beauty and art as either subjective or objective. I think that viewing the world with this paradoxical lens is limiting but we need to take from the past this historical knowledge and add layers of our own understanding to be wise in our own time.

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