Aesthetics and Space

On beauty and the way we dismiss space being unimportant.

Disclaimer: as a reminder, please don’t take this seriously, especially the idea for a theory of beauty.

The importance of space has been well recognized in almost all arts and crafts throughout history. From the first cave paintings to the contemporary abstract arts, space has permeated into every single creative venue.

The sense of aesthetics it has given, both to the Eastern and Western audience, is not uninfluenced by the notion that the absence of something, is not really absence at all, but a vital component and the discovery of a missing puzzle to the whole thing.

For example, we cannot talk about a relationship between objects, unless they are residing in space. The two need each other to be what they are. And so in the same way, you cannot create anything, whether it is art, music, architecture, clothes or other crafts without being aware of space.

In fact, anything that requires even a hint of creativity, must include the importance of space. And nowhere is this more explicit than the landscapes of Eastern paintings,where the subject, say, a fisherman sitting at a lovely cottage by a lake, is the most indistinguishable feature in the entire image. Whereas in the West, he would be the most obvious feature painted.

This is not saying, that the human being is inferior to nature, but rather emphasizing space, and is doing so for a reason. The reason is that we tend to neglect to very large extents space from our conscious attention. So, by drawing a definite emphasis on the “diffused” areas in the landscape, we become more aware of our own relationship to it.

Same way that in music, the sound of a given note, is not really entirely made of sound, but the relationship between an interval and the tone. It is fluctuating between silence and sound.

We do not seem to notice very much in our present cultures, this relevance of the absence of a thingness, as being the underlying or relevant thing to our experiences. After all, we are taught early in our childhoods the process of subtle elimination, where we point to something and ask what it is. And the parent will quickly tell us to ignore it, and so it becomes unimportant or not noteworthy.

And so we select, and simultaneously ignore input from our conscious attention, creating a sense of seeing only the “things”, but not their backgrounds, or space. This has two consequences, one is known as ignorance, and the other, fear.

Because ignoring space or the unimportant things for a long time has the side-effect of them surprising us in unexpected situations and ways. And this creates fear because of the feeling of alienation, a term I’m directly taking from my work, which denotes the sense of “otherness” towards everything external to our immediate sensory-experiential field.

This is my reasoning then, for there being a sense of terror whenever you get a person who undergoes a rapid change in their perception from the “thingness of experience”, to the “absence of experience.” In other words, they become frightened too much of the unexamined domain of life, where everything that they ignored in the long run, comes back, to use a crude expression, bite them in the ass.

When it comes to aesthetics or even life in general, if we neglect the relevance of space, we are unbeknownst to ourselves shutting out a vast portion of reality to our conscious attention, and thereby we create distinctions which do not seem to have an obvious connection. And this results in not being able to come to terms with certain disparities of life, such as the “us versus them” mentality.

Another example of aesthetics and space influencing our behaviour is of course the concept of beauty. What do we mean by something being beautiful? Well, in my view, there are three properties of beauty: intensity, curve-length and modality.

Intensity means the potency of the given object when it makes an impression on us. The object in this context is further influenced by at least two factors: attachment and experiences. Attachment is how much emotional investment we have on the object in question, and experiences mean the memories, both shared or individual to the observer.

Curve-length refers to the geometric properties of the object, both in terms of contrast and color. Contrast means the relative lightness or darkness of the object, its lines, countours and shapes, and color is the visible wave-length on the spectrum of light.

Modality is a more difficult term to pin down. It refers to states of consciousness, sometimes called emotions but not limited to the term. Anxiety, sadness, joy, anger, are all modalities. Even psychosis is a modality. The closest term would be a “frequency” or a “field” of the mind, in which we experience a given object.

Now, putting these three properties together constitutes the “sense of beauty”, depending on the case and the individual as a whole. There is no single objective sense of beauty, but that subjectivity arises out of this space-ignorance thinking. Why is that so?

First of all, it is very difficult to ignore the things we are attached to. Secondly, certain bright colors are bound to be punctive out of the field of awareness to an extent, creating the effect of grabbing our attention. And the modality that we are in at the time we experience the objects of beauty, gives an even further potency of them.

So we are very much led by the objects we sense and experience. Even if we ignore them, that conscious ignoring takes an effort. We have to decide first to ignore them. And as long as we do, we are stuck at a very specific method of dealing with information. And that method has space as its substratum. Because you cannot separate it from its corresponding objects.

It is always the space, which joins anything together, in a sense. And that I think, could just hold the key to unlocking the secrets of the universe, and even ourselves.