Are We Aestheticians?

The most popular and used concept of the word “aesthetics” can be summed up in one single expression: beauty. But most importantly, the philosophical perception of beauty, as something that is pleasing to watch or feel. When we find that something is beautiful or ugly, we are making aesthetic judgments, and some become aestheticians.

Beyond its connotation of the beauty of things, it is of interest as a philosophical, artistic, intellectual and psychological movement that supports the use of properties that are pleasing to the senses beyond the messages of political and social support in artistic expressions. This brings us to what is known as “aestheticism” or “aesthetic movement”, a cultural expression and revolution that took off at the end of the 19th century, in which the desire was the expression of art for art’s sake.

Much more than an artistic movement, aestheticism involves everything from music and literature to interior design and fashion. Rejecting the traditional didactic obligations of Victorian art and focusing on self-expression, the aesthetic movement helped set the stage for the global modern art of the 20th century as an expression of the feeling of the modern society.

How to Recognize an Aesthetic Work of Art?

  1. Valuing the “felt and emotional” human labor force in the creation of art.
  2. Instead of expressing a “message”, it seeks to explore color, shape, composition, and beauty.
  3. It is known for its faint colors, geometric designs and simplified linear shapes.
  4. Art as a part of the daily life. As a lifestyle.

Aestheticians Generation

Although aestheticism emerged more than 150 years ago, it’s still active and it is very powerful. The Millennial generation, young people between 18 and 35 years old, are the population that is experiencing most changes, the same ones that have passed from diskettes to smartphones in just a few years and have been adapting to those changes in their daily lives with an incredible aesthetic base as their main motivation.

“Something beautiful because of its beauty.”

As expected, the subjective perception of beauty has also been changing. No aesthetic has ever been able to define exactly what art is and what can be considered beautiful; it has always been linked to a matter of perspective and personal taste. A very clear example is the choice of a favorite color. A color does not change its shape or presentation just because a certain number of people like it or not. It’s still the same color. And overall, a person is not more or less intelligent, sane or competent because he prefers blue over red, for example.

However, it has been determined that there are some common factors that humans can perceive as attractive: images of health, simplicity, and symmetry. It is therefore said that there is a strong subjective reality at the moment of appreciating art but at the same time there are some basic factors that must be objective.

You can be educated aesthetically, learn to observe and eventually acquire that refined sense of beauty that other people have by nature. It’s all about learning to appreciate. Here is an audiovisual material presented by the writer and philosopher Hank Green on the appreciation of aesthetics, in which he certainly explains it a dynamic and fun way:

Right here we would like to mention a very interesting social phenomenon: modern society. Or rather in the words of the sociologist, philosopher, and essayist Zygmunt Bauman: “liquid modernity”. In this topic of aesthetic, modernism is summed up in the slogan of making life itself a work of art.

A set of ideals and principles based on the aesthetics of things, to be applied to all areas of life, including personal appearance, architecture, interior decoration, art, design and even the philosophy of life. Its main characteristics are simplicity, clean lines, geometric shapes and the careful and subtle use of colors. We can say that today’s young market is made up of a psychological and social state that has built a cult of beauty itself from every point of view.

The Millennial Generation (those born between the 1980s and 2000) is ruled by the urgent need to differentiate itself with a marked personal taste, as long as it has a social and cultural approval. It seeks to be unique and different but socially acceptable.

“It’s not a lifestyle; it’s the style of your life.”

Aestheticians Obsession

With this obsession on living life beautifully, ranging from art to the fashion industry, it would sooner or later also involve the physical appearance of aestheticians. Certainly, we live in an era where the appearance of the body is very important and if it does not follow the canons of beauty approved by society it can cause frustration and dissatisfaction with oneself.

There is a whole system that revolves around the temporary and easily attainable beauty of individuals. Clothing, makeup, cosmetics and other products brands make you “look good”. Popularity, personal satisfaction, acceptance and a better working life are considered an “investment in the future”. Taking care of one’s appearance is then considered a way to improve one’s quality of life.

The problem appears when, during the search for perfection and beauty, the temporary satisfaction that these methods provide is not enough, therefore the search for permanent or apparently long-term solutions begins: surgery, for example. When after one or two plastic treatments, frustration persists, it seems that eliminating the defect has not been enough and attention is focused on another flaw, and another one, and another one… Until the number of touch-ups is lost and professional advice no longer matters.

Since the beginnings of the aesthetic movement, its intrinsic superficiality has been the subject of constant criticism. And, as an artist, there is still a lot to debate on the topic especially among a generation that seems to be immersed on the trend without even realizing it. Perhaps the perfect words for aestheticism came from Nietzsche “it is only as an aesthetic phenomenon that existence and the world are eternally justified.”

About Mahuampy Ruiz

Mahuampy Ruiz lives in Venezuela and juggles her life between being a theatre actress and producer, and a psychology student at the Central University of Venezuela, one of the first universities in the country. She's always been drawn to dramatic arts, literature, languages, and philosophy. She enjoys reading articles that encourage critical thinking by choosing polemic topics for debate, which she also enjoys writing.

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