Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Beauty Thing.

To discuss what beauty is and what we find beautiful is to talk about the unspeakable. Beauty is beyond words and what we find beautiful often transcends so far over our highest level of understanding that we can’t even begin to apply analytical techniques. But for us attempting to make something beautiful we must be able to do this – or at least try to do this. We must find a way to make a definition of what is beautiful and create a sort of system or formula that functions as our means to achieving beauty. Paradoxically the creator cannot fully understand what they are making, how it is perceived by others and even how it functions in society. How we experience beauty is purely emotional and how we create beauty is (supposedly) largely mathematical and formulaic. The kind of creativity that makes something beautiful is more than just a well thought out formula at play but it is a large part of what’s at play.

Beauty has to fall into the same category as other deep and extreme words that are associated with strong feelings. To experience something beautiful is to just know that it is beautiful. When something is bland or mundane the word ‘beauty’ will never come to mind. Extreme feelings of varying sorts are often triggered by something beautiful in one way or another. For the people who just experience it there is no real need for them to identify and label what they are experiencing. But for the people who profess to create it, a much more careful and self aware approach is needed. A beautiful thing can be many different things. Beauty is experienced through the senses and many different fields of creativity work at making something that triggers emotion through the senses. Some fields are specifically for one sense others use different more than one. Beauty can play on psychology and often takes the audience by surprise. Beauty can be intellectual and experienced as something more like admiration or appreciation.

Forming a flexible definition of beauty is essential because of the vastness of what one might call beautiful and how our perception of those things (and all things) changes with time. As we have a number of beautiful experiences we should find what these things have in common. The general principals of what we find beautiful is what makes a flexible definition possible. This definition is complex but should be put into descriptive words (whatever they may be). The experience usually involves some sort of deep emotion and so the definition usually uses words of that nature but only functions as a basic foundation for creating the formula. This definition can be used to explain what one might find beautiful in any medium or felid of creativity (but not how to make it). It can also be used with varying amounts of combinations, something may fit only part of the criteria and others may have more or less of the criteria working for it. Updating the list on a regular basis allows for one to let go of what one may have found beautiful in the past but may not now and also the things that one may find beautiful now but not fit the current definition. The extremity of an experience is what should guide the change in definition and the weight of its influence on the prospective creators definition. The definition is the goal. The definition is what the artist should always work towards. The formula should be driven to achieving the goal.

For one to make something beautiful one must not only identify what is beautiful but how it was made to be beautiful. There are a number of ways in which one can go about analyzing why something is beautiful and how it was made. Usually the work in question will always maintain some level of mysteriousness. A hybrid of many techniques discovered from many sources is the only way of encompassing all the steps involved in the procedure and making a rich formula. Something that is beautiful is rich and has many layers that can be seen on many different levels. To understand something this complex a creator must question how every act and thought was involved in making the works of inspiration and draw them all together.

To analyze something beautiful one must first understand the plain aesthetics of what it is they find beautiful. This is usually best done by imitating, as precisely as possible, the thing the prospective creator finds beautiful. The attempting to re-enact the creative process with the same tools in the same way, for the same reasons and for the same outcome is highly insightful but only serves as a development of a larger picture. Of course these sorts of things are unique and exact copying is unfathomably impossible. The inconsistencies can give birth to new ideas for the formula. Copying alone has nothing to do with beauty, it only serves as an exercise. Originality should be embraced in creative fields for that which is a copy will never be as beautiful as the original.

Another step is for the prospective creator to understand how the creator went about making what they made. The researching prospective creator must go beyond experiencing what the audience experiences. This is a much more indirect way of studying the work of inspiration and often involves discussion of less-specific processes such as general attitudes and states of mind that are used while creating. These subjects can be hard to find commentaries on, especially because the final product is usually all that is meant to be perceived. Then again, when creative people develop a formula it is often notated in one way or another, usually in some kind of encrypted language that can be deciphered by cross referencing multiple works. How the formula is expressed by the creator can be expressed any way the prospective creator wants, so long as when it is applied the similar outcome is achieved. When the formula is not so mysterious the prospective creator can find it easier to assimilate. Assimilating other creators formulas can be make it seem deceptively easy to create something beautiful so when developing a formula it is important to take on many forms of analysis that all work together as a whole.

Yet another way for a prospective creator to develop formulas for beauty is to experiment. Testing out formulas or principals can be a complex process and sometimes deceptive because assessing how affective the formula is can lead to a whole world of other complex questions like: ‘Is the work causing the audience to have an experience the creator wants it to?’ and ‘Is the work causing the creator to have the experience they want it to?’. The former is difficult to answer because one can never really know what the audience is thinking and the latter is difficult because the creator has been so entrenched in the process of making the work that any non-analytical perception of it may be difficult. The process of creating rules out any chance a creator has of seeing the beauty they make because if beauty is incomprehensible and the person creating it must understand it to make it there is no way it can be beautiful to them. This situation requires the adoption of a generalized process of trial and error. The feedback from the audience and the creators own experience must be used in a strictly non-literal way. Using the feedback as a guide to steer clear of lager failures can work well in conjunction with other procedures of analysis for forming a formula.

A creative person cannot ever fully know how their work is perceived. Nor can they perceive it like an audience member. Furthermore a creative person cannot fully know how their work functions in the society it exists in. Neither can they create something beautiful for the sake of bringing themselves or anyone else an experience that is anything other than a feeling provoked by beauty. A beautiful thing can function in society with all levels of significance. Someone can sing another person a song once whilst another person can sing a song thousands of times to millions of people and yet both are beautiful songs. Something is not beautiful unless someone perceives it to be beautiful. This does not mean that something is more beautiful if more people perceive it to be. What matters is the profundity of the experience. A profound experience of beauty will not only cause an intense feeling but cause a reaction. The feeling itself is just emotion and the reaction itself is inspiration.

One might also realize what they find ugly and move away from that in order to approach beauty. If beauty is a study of the extreme and extremes always come with a polar opposite, one should be aware of what they don’t want their work to be. This is why art criticism plays an important role in art making. Anti-ugly attitudes can work on every level including aesthetically, conceptually, procedurally and in terms of the experimental approach.

I think perhaps I need to adopt some of the discussed processes in order to create a beautiful essay with a beautiful structure and an at least a kind of beautiful summery. At least I can still make fun of myself.

1 comment:

  1. Nothing is more true that the fact that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
    Be careful with definitions and formula jono. They are not beautiful to creativity... they are often the antitheses of it. A definition will crush the most fragile thing before it even has a chance to be beautiful.
    More than anything i kind of think patience is the key, and openness. Beauty will grow with time and be found only in the places you always forget to look. xoxox