"The Story" (Also known as "Trip To The Beach") Artist Christine Alfery
Art and Aesthetics
One of the definitions of aesthetics distributed on a video by the J. Paul Getty Museum was the “ah ha” moment. In the video, there was a classroom instructor who had distributed his teaching materials for the day, which included a glass of water and a small amount of color. The students were instructed to drop the color in the water and not to speak. The camera zoomed around to the faces of the students as the color hit the water, the aww was visible on their faces, the fascination held their interest for a long time. After a couple of minutes, the instructor stated that moment was the aesthetic moment in the arts.
The aesthetic moment is about immediate pleasure and stimulation with the focus being on personal satisfaction, it is a focus on the self. It is fleeting and not permanent. The aesthetic moment can never rest, it is always in motion and the self, the soul, the self tries to recall that pleasurable moment and sometimes fails to do so and struggle and suffering occur. So the aesthetic in actuality also causes pain, struggle and suffering, because the self is constantly searching for that pleasure, that aesthetic moment of joy, love. The aesthetic moment is only found in the moment, so one needs to repeat over and over the attempt to have that pleasurable moment but that never happens because the aesthetic moment is fleeting and not permanent, the aesthetic makes no commitments. Many artists return to their drawing boards just to have that aesthetic moment repeated, and many of those same artists attest that it is often meet with failure. As an artist, I have never been able to repeat what I have done, if I do the aesthetic moment for the most part was not there.
This constant motion – the repetition is searching for a commitment from the aesthetic moment and this search for a commitment changes the nature of aesthetics, it becomes political, ethical linking the values of freedom associated with the aesthetic moment to the political, the ethical. It can never be found because it is no longer about the self and the values that are good for the self the soul, but the values that are wonderful for the self, the soul are not necessarily those that are good for the collective and collective values.
Many envy the artist and the artists constant quest for the pleasurable, the wonderful, bliss and they in turn argue for this bliss to maintain the arts as we move forward in time but because the aesthetic is not permanent, and the calls for an aesthetic commitment cannot sustain the concept of art and moves the need for values to enter the art arena.
The question becomes can the values of self, of pleasure, of wonder extend to the collective notion of art. Presently if we look at the arts, and postmodern funk they seem to be in where everything is relative and nothing is concrete I would have to argue they cannot. Art can never be anything, if it is everything to everyone. I would argue they are not because there is no commitment with aesthetics, they are fleeting. An ethical person moves away from this fleeting bliss, for the art for art’s sake, art for the pleasure of the self, and commits to sets of abstract ethical principles, something that is done for the sake of it is right to do, and wrong not to do. The ethical person needs to be weary of the power struggles that exist within these ethics and not loose site of the self’s aesthetics and authenticity. This happens when politics enters the values arena and binaries become part of the discussion. Suddenly the notion of the values of aesthetics that drive the notion of art is lost, the struggle is how to maintain aesthetics and the self or the soul gain the commitment of freedom, and pleasure that exists in the concept of aesthetics when working with the concept of art through the collective.
I argue for and objective set of values to define the arts, one that a collective can recognize and agree to along with the subjective set of fleeting aesthetics that pleasures only the self. Art cannot sustain itself only through aesthetics.