Thursday, January 24, 2013

How Distant is Art from Life?

One of the criticisms of everyday aesthetics is that everyday life is so distant from art that one cannot have a theory, i.e. aesthetics, which covers both art and life.  A common approach then is to say that the term "aesthetics" should be limited to art.  But how distant is art from life?  It is true that art forms usually involve a frame, and that his is not usually the case in everyday aesthetic experience.  It is also true that we often see art as an occasion to take "time out" from everyday life, and that art should sometimes be experienced as distanced from everyday life.  But art also is about life...this is true even usually for abstract art.  The emotional power of art comes from its associations with life.  We have a dialectic here:  distant from life vs. close to life.  But why not choose both.  I  favor a dual approach to the arts.  One is the traditional approach that involves autonomy.  The other involves contextualizing the work in some way, either in relation to the context of creation or in relation to the context of one's own life.  Both of these approaches, I would argue, are necessary for a full and satisfactory experience of art.  This is what Peggy Brand referred to as "toggling." (Tom Gracyk has advocated a similar approach.)  (See my book for references).

Once art is no longer seen as just detached from everyday life (it is only detached in one of its aspects) then it no longer makes sense to see the aesthetics of everyday life and the aesthetics of art as radically disconnected.  Also, once aesthetics is seen as reaching into every aspect of our lives, it no longer needs to be isolated from the rest of philosophy and demoted to outlier status.  It can take its rightful place as central to philosophical thought.  As Jane Forsey puts it "Everyday Aesthetics, in its attempt to broaden the scope of the aesthetic, can be read as attempting simultaneously to re-enfranchise philosophical aesthetics as an important part of philosophy at large.."  (The Aesthetics of Design, Oxford U. Press, 2013, 199). 

1 comment:

Glenn Russell said...

When aesthetics is separated from everyday life, everyday life becomes an artless disaster. Just think of those developments where we see rows of tawdry, garish homes that look more like oversized doghouses than dwellings fit for what we truly are: sensitive, aesthetic, embodied beings.