My post on aesthetic sustainability finished with the following question: Is aesthetic sustainability only a matter of creating minimalistic, “clean” objects that you never get tired of looking at? Or can an aesthetically sustainable object also be an object that is so complex that you never feel like you are done with it?
This is what I intend to discuss in in this post.
There are a lot of things that we take for granted when perceiving the world; e.g. that tables have cold, smooth surfaces, that trousers have two legs, that a finger ring is round, that a chair has four legs, that a jacket is wearable, that a hat is worn on the head, that you can drink from a cup. And when confronted with objects that challenge those expectations, we are forced to momentarily stop up and consider, what is going on.
In philosophical writings on aesthetics, there is a division between the beautiful and the sublime. The beautiful is connected to the symmetrical, harmonic, well proportioned expression. Beauty causes sensuous delight.
The sublime on the other hand concerns the fact that pleasure can also arise when being confronted with complexity, chaos, darkness, ugliness… Not in a comforting kind of way, but in a “wow, what’s going?!” kind of way. The sublime experience is about breaking the comfort zone, about being challenged.
In a sense you could say that the sublime expression is the ultimate aesthetic sustainability; the complexity makes each encounter with the object an unusual experience. It never becomes uninteresting or indifferent. I feel that way about Meret Oppenheim’s fury cup called Object from 1936 (first image in this post).
The sublime aesthetic experience is a mind expanding experience. Or even an educational one. After the encounter with an object that challenges your expectations, you move on knowing that a jacket, a chair, a table, a pair of trousers can be so much more or different than what you expect.
The sublime expression is not constant in the sense that I discussed in my previous post. It is very individual, what is considered complex and challenging. The sublime expression is connected to comfort zone breaking.