Art and Self-Definition

Art is the subjective modification of the empirical world in a media format, typically inspired, as most personal creations are, by a person’s subjective experience in the world. Humans are constantly creating their own proprietary — though interconnected — worlds through a process of information gathering through their senses —> processing such information through thought —> creating a mental framework for action. Art pushes such modification into the physical realm, perhaps even manifesting in forms humans use in a utilitarian manner to make sense of the world, such as language or pictorial representation. Thus, perceptions are channeled into a form of mental representation, even informing the concept of such things as are perceived, like Plato’s idea of Forms. In turn these representations can be imposed upon a format in its physical manifestation, be it a painter’s canvas, a singer’s voice, a story in a magazine…

The social nature of humans means that artistic creations are never beyond the grasp of cultural influence. Influences include the social environment and proceeding artworks both of format and of style, but there exist less obvious cues as well. According to Jung, influenced by Plato, the most significant of the individual functions deriving “directly from the unconscious predisposition [is] . . . creative fantasy” (Jung CW 9.1, 78, PDF here). In such fantasies lie archetypes, universal patterns and images finding their source in the collective unconscious. Because of fantasy, “primordial images” can be manifested, thus being possibly translated and cemented into archetypes, or unconscious ideas carrying more significance in their form than content. The archetypes can then be a type of a priori cultural influence further affecting an individual’s fantasies, and thus a positive feedback loop is formed. Art is the material product of fantasy.

Both the action of artistic creation an the impact created by the final product can affect the individual’s processing of their world. Art, regardless of the mode, style, or format, allows the individual’s subjective perspective to be transposed on a medium of sorts, sometimes aiding the content creators themselves and their works’ witnesses to process the emotional or intellectual depth the work inspires.  Facilitating a modification of what is known in favor of what is imagined and then transposed on some sort of physical space, art thus not only denies the ubiquity of empirical existence in our own appreciation of life, but also denies the self via distortion of its faculties. Nietzsche believed, as he wrote in The Gay Science (see related post here), that such creative impact, even if merely the results of a layman mimicking artistic techniques in the styling of his own life, can elevate a person beyond the nausea he feels in his existence due to the overwhelming nature of reality. This elevation can be accomplished through such a distortion into an aesthetic phenomenon. If that’s the potential of the aesthetic process, then what, then, would be the mechanisms of aesthetic phenomenology?



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