Is the beauty part of our biological makeup?
I have been exploring the biological basis of beauty or the core principle from which ‘beauty’ manifests. I distinguish art and beauty in the following manner. Art is a mental construct whereas beauty is part of our biological nature just like hunger which is what is the cause for making food.
I began my exploration in 1985 when I joined to study design and I found that we (the non-western world) are being re-colonized through education and especially in terms of our sense of beauty. So I began to explore how to decolonize myself, how beauty is formed and why there is homogenization among the educated whereas the non-literate artisan has been able to retain their cultural or aesthetic rootedness.
I had noticed among non-literate artisans that they produce beautiful things as if it was very natural for them to create beauty. Which looks like whatever they did, just turned out to be beautiful. This seemed like ordering or organizing principle in our biology itself and not an afterthought unlike what we do in modern society. As I was living with non-literate people I noticed that this happens not only while doing ‘craft’ but also in every action they performed. From activities in the kitchen- cutting, kneading, making, etc- and various actions to the way the body is held. The need to keep the kitchen clean and ordered stems from this. There was no thought- how to make things beautiful as beauty is an integral aspect of action or beauty is part and parcel of the Being.
Beauty seems to me is the organizing or ordering principle of life and all life forms are ‘in beauty’. Beauty is also the ethics of living or the aptness of action which achieves the economy of action. Knowing and being are not fragmented. Being knows! This is the integral nature. What I mentioned is common to all cultures that are sense based (non-literate) and also in children irrespective of where they are born.
So I realized that It is modern education that is fragmenting the integral nature of value formation, aesthetic awakening and cognition. I was able to understand this after I stopped reading for a few years and to my surprise, this rewired my cognitive system based on seeing/ experience and not thinking or mind and language based.
The way I am looking at Composition is in the following manner. When a person is composed, beauty is in his center of being. So beauty is that enables him to act in an APT manner. Aptness seems to me the word that needs to be used in this context.
One day I came across the following incident in a village. As they do not use furniture they sit on the floor. Two persons were sitting on the floor and having a conversation. Just then a third person came to join them. Then those two people readjusted their position to accommodate the third person and this total movement was like a re-composition. The first two placed themselves in such a way they are comfortable and so also the third person.
When someone comes to meet them the two of them recompose and settles into the best position possible. And when the third person joins them their body postures are readjusted to accommodate the new need. This continues when more people meet. I would suggest that beauty is that enabled this to happen. This ‘composition’ or natural ordering principle is evident in all aspects of nature- how two leaves, three leaves, etc are in the right place.
When there are fixed furniture human beings adjust to the furniture. Modern ergonomics in the strict sense is to fit the person to furniture whereas natural ergonomics is the way the body responds to find its apt posture.
Preoccupation with the manifested hides the root which is what makes all this happen. For a person who has not been fragmented by modernity what he does is in line with this natural beauty. In fact, I am exploring the integral nature of the aesthetic cognitive structures. I am aware that I have not been able to articulate well.
I have uploaded a paper to my academy page. see link
I have initiated a conference series to address the homogenization of aesthetic sensibilities that are happening all over the world and to relook at ‘aesthetic sense education/ formation. The egocentric and
fragmented aesthetic sensibilities are sweeping all the world, the cultural diversity would soon be eliminated totally if we don’t explore deeply various aspects of the formation of aesthetic sense in humans and the fundamental role of beauty in life.
The second conference was held in Jan 2017 and we hope to deepen the exploration of each conference.
‘Re-imagining Aesthetic Unfolding — From Conditioning to Awakening’
2nd International Conference on Design Pedagogy and Contextual Aesthetics See the link for details thanima.co.in
I have been trying to address this in the foundation programs in design and architectural education as I felt that we are being recolonized and homogenized by learning the western aesthetic sensibilities and fragmented and distorted by learning various notions about art, creativity, etc.
Please see the blogs http://rethinkingfoundation.weebly.com/ where I have been attempting to awaken the sensibilities
I also work with school children to help them to retain their natural ability to see — LEARNING TO SEE- the world around as education invariably numbs their senses and makes them mental! see link
TEXT DISTORTS, DIGITAL DESTROYS, WORLD AWAKENS