In my previous post I discussed whether aesthetic sustainability could be described as complexity, i.e. as an expression that keeps challenging what you expect when perceiving the world – and that drags you out of your comfort zone.

The thought of a comfort zone breaking aesthetic experiences may seem odd. Most people would say that an aesthetic experience is a pleasing experience connected to sensuous delight and caused by harmonic expressions.
But, as briefly discussed in my post on the sublime and the complex expression, pleasure can also arise when you are confronted with complexity, destruction, chaotic structures, and unexpected compositions. A different kind of pleasure, that is. A comfort zone breaking and mind expanding kind of pleasure. A pleasure-kind that is much like the feeling you get when you all of a sudden take a huge step in a difficult learning process. Or when you do something – even though it frightens the hell out of you and makes you feel insecure – and manage (perhaps even brilliantly).

The aesthetic experience that is connected to complexity and unexpected combinations shakes up our expectations. Some objects can not be immediately understood; they challenge our need to conceptualize, to generalize, to organize… And our imagination is shocked by the encounter; we are forced to strain our minds.
But why do we need the challenge, the shock? How can this be considered pleasurable? Aesthetic?

According to french philosopher Jean-Francois Lyotard (1924-1998) the importance of sublime aesthetic experiences consists of the fact that something happens. When shocked by unusual combinations, asymmetrical compositions or chaotic structures we are pulled out of our daily routines and away from our dominating expectations. And we are all of a sudden very present and very alert. The sublime something is happing before our eyes, and we are fighting to grasp it.
In the encounter with an object that forces us to experience the world with a “beginners mind” (i.e. we have never seen anything like this before), we are momentarily thrown off course and pulled out of our comfort zone. But we will move on after the experience with a widened horizon.

The comfort zone breaking aesthetic experience is a human need. Without challenges we stagnate.

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