Bridgetymology: Aesthetic

bridgetymology – aesthetic

IF YOU HAVEN’T HEARD AN INFLUENCER TALK ABOUT WHAT IS OR ISN’T THEIR AESTHETIC, YOU MIGHT JUST BE LIVING UNDER A ROCK. I EVEN HEAR PEOPLE SAY THAT A PIECE OF FURNITURE OR PAIR OF SHOES ARE “SO MY AESTHETIC!” ALL THE TIME.

IN TODAY’S EPISODE, ASHA IS BREAKING DOWN THE WORD AESTHETIC!

meaning of ‘aesthetic’ today

BEFORE WE BREAK THIS WORD DOWN TO ITS ORIGINAL MEANING, I THINK IT’S SAFE TO SAY THAT IN OUR CURRENT VERNACULAR, PEOPLE USE AESTHETIC TO REFER TO THEIR CHOSEN “LOOK”- THINGS THAT THEY LIKE, ESPECIALLY THINGS THAT THEY LIKE THAT ALL FIT TOGETHER AS PART OF A GENERAL VIBE OR PATTERN.

I’D ALSO GO SO FAR AS TO SAY THAT WHEN PEOPLE CHOOSE AN “AESTHETIC” TODAY, IT USUALLY IS SOMETHING THAT THEY ARE PUBLIC ABOUT. FOR EXAMPLE, SOMEONE MIGHT HAVE CREATED AN AESTHETIC FOR THEIR INSTAGRAM FEED– FOLLOWING A SET OF PARAMETERS TO KEEP THINGS ON BRAND. THE RESULT IS THAT THEIR AESTHETIC COMES ACROSS TO OTHERS AS RECOGNIZABLY THEIRS.

roots of the word aesthetic

FROM THE ROOTS OF THE WORD, AESTHETICS REFERS TO THE WAY OUR SENSES ‘TAKE SOMETHING IN’. PER MERRIAM WEBSTER, THE MOST COMMON MEANING OF AESTHETIC IS “OF OR RELATING TO THE BEAUTIFUL” OR ALSO “PLEASING IN APPEARANCE, ATTRACTIVE.” FOR A DEFINITION THOUGH, THIS SEEMS A LITTLE RELATIVE, RIGHT? WHAT IS BEAUTY? I’M SURE YOU’VE HEARD THE PHRASE, “BEAUTY IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER”.

IN FACT, THE QUESTION OF WHAT IS BEAUTIFUL IS ACTUALLY AT THE CORE OF AN ENTIRE BRANCH OF PHILOSOPHY, CALLED AESTHETICS. PHYSICAL BEAUTY WAS ONCE THE ONLY CRITERION FOR JUDGING THE QUALITY OF ART. TODAY, ARTWORK IS JUDGED BY A DIFFERENT SET OF CRITERIA AND INSTEAD OF BEING CALLED “BEAUTIFUL,” A GOOD WORK OF ART IS CALLED “SUCCESSFUL.”

3 aesthetic theories

DETERMINING ART’S SUCCESSFULNESS RATHER THAN ITS BEAUTY, AESTHETICS SEEKS TO EVALUATE THE VALUE OF A PIECE OF ART MORE OBJECTIVELY. THERE ARE THREE COMMONLY USED AESTHETIC THEORIES OF ART CRITICISM; IMITATIONALISM, FORMALISM, AND EMOTIONALISM.

3.1 imitationalism

SOME PEOPLE FEEL THAT AN ARTWORK SHOULD IMITATE LIFE, THAT IT SHOULD LOOK LIFELIKE BEFORE IT CAN BE CONSIDERED SUCCESSFUL. THIS AESTHETIC THEORY, CALLED ‘IMITATIONALISM’, FOCUSES ON REALISTIC REPRESENTATION. IMITATIONALISM THUS FOCUSES ON THE LITERAL QUALITIES OF A PIECE OF ART.

3.2 formalism

OTHER CRITICS THINK THAT COMPOSITION IS THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR IN A WORK OF ART. THIS AESTHETIC THEORY, CALLED ‘FORMALISM’, PLACES EMPHASIS ON THE DESIGN QUALITIES, AND THE ARRANGEMENT OF THE ELEMENTS OF ART USING THE PRINCIPLES OF ART. FORMALISM THUS FOCUSES ON THE DESIGN QUALITIES OF ART.

3.3 emotionalism

A THIRD CATEGORY OF AESTHETIC CRITICS CLAIM THAT NO OBJECT CAN BE CONSIDERED ART IF IT FAILS TO AROUSE AN EMOTIONAL RESPONSE IN THE VIEWER– THE FEELINGS AND MOODS THAT ARISE UPON VIEWING/EXPERIENCING A PIECE OF ART. EMOTIONALISM THUS FOCUSES ON THE EXPRESSIVE QUALITIES OF ART.

conclusion

NOW, LET’S GET BACK TO THE WORD AS WE USE IT TODAY. WHEN WE FIRST BEGAN, WE NOTED THAT AESTHETICS FELT LIKE A SET OF BRAND GUIDELINES WE CHOOSE TO DISPLAY TO THE WORLD. BUT EXAMINING THE ROOT MEANING OF THE WORD REVEALS THAT AESTHETIC REFERS TO THE CREATION OF SOMETHING OTHERS WILL PERCEIVE, BUT ALSO THE WAY IN WHICH WE PERCEIVE SOMETHING OURSELVES. WHAT I FOUND INTERESTING ABOUT THIS BREAKDOWN IS THAT WHILE WE DON’T ALWAYS REALIZE IT, WE APPLY SOME LEVEL OF JUDGMENT TO ALMOST EVERYTHING WE SET OUR EYES (OR EARS, OR HANDS, OR TONGUES… YOU GET THE POINT) ON. WHAT WE PRIORITIZE AS IMPORTANT (I.E. THE LITERAL, THE DESIGN OR THE EXPRESSIVE QUALITIES OF A THING) DETERMINES HOW OUR SENSES RECEIVE IT.

IN THE SAME WAY, THIS IDEA CAN BE TIED TO THE WORK OF AN AESTHETICIAN, A PERSON LICENSED TO PERFORM “BEAUTIFICATION” SERVICES SUCH AS SKIN AND NAIL CARE. IF WE REMEMBER THAT AESTHETIC COMES FROM PERCEPTION BY THE SENSES, WE CAN BE REMINDED THAT THERE IS NO ONE DEFINITION OF BEAUTY. WE CAN APPROACH AESTHETICIAN SERVICES WITH A HEALTHIER PERSPECTIVE– RATHER THAN TRYING TO MATCH SOME EXTERNAL IDEAL OF BEAUTY, FOLLOWING OUR OWN GUIDELINES FOR WHAT MAKES US INTERNALLY FEEL GREAT.

NEXT TIME YOU HEAR SOMEONE REFER TO THEIR AESTHETIC WITH RESPECT TO THEIR INSTA FEED OR FASHION SENSE, MAYBE YOU’LL REMEMBER THAT THE WORD HAS DEEPLY PHILOSOPHICAL ORIGINS ABOUT HOW WE UNDERSTAND AND JUDGE WHAT OUR SENSES TAKE IN!

Want to know more?

We would love for you to join our community! enter your information below and we will keep you posted on relevant events and updates.