Posts Tagged ‘Aesthetics’

Posted: November 20, 2012 by Wildcat in Uncategorized
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Are these animals too ‘ugly’ to be saved?

People are used to being asked to help save photogenic pandas, but are there animals whose strange appearance hinders conservation? Creatures that achieve world fame for being under threat – the panda, the mountain gorilla, the tiger – tend to be conventionally aesthetically pleasing, even cute. But the scientists who study the planet’s rarest beasts say that many of the most precious and threatened creatures have physical characteristics that, although perhaps not adorable in the most orthodox sense, make them truly unique. A project run by the Zoological Society for London (Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered) is trying to raise awareness of these less appreciated creatures. “I love all the species on the Edge list,” says Carly Waterman, director of Edge. “But I think some do need a little extra help to get them a place in hearts of the general public.” Here are a few of the less doe-eyed and fluffy and more spiky, scaly, big-nosed and slimy animals that might be conservation icons. (via BBC News – Are these animals too ‘ugly’ to be saved?)

Ted Hiebert
In Praise of Nonsense: Aesthetics, Uncertainty, and Postmodern Identity
Montreal: McGill Queens University Press, 2012.

David Cecchetto

From the late 17th to the mid-18th Century in Europe, scientists and citizens alike believed that an element called phlogiston was contained within flammable substances. [1] This theory explained a number of diverse observations, including the presence of flames (taken to be the emerging phlogiston), the powdery nature of ash (because a solid object would crumble when it lost its phlogiston), and processes like smelting (which would work by transferring phlogiston). In short, phlogiston theory postulated what we might now call a “negative oxygen,” where understanding combustion as a gain of oxygen (as we now commonly do) is logically equivalent to understanding it as a loss of phlogiston, such that “any chemical reaction that involves the transfer of oxygen [could] equally be viewed as a transfer of phlogiston in the opposite direction.” [2] The catch — which ultimately obsolesced the theory — is that chemists realized that for phlogiston to exist it would need to have a negative mass, which is physically impossible.

But what if we weren’t quite satisfied with physical impossibility as grounds for dismissal? That is, what if we took this physical impossibility not as a cue to look to another explanation, but rather as a method of sustaining and focusing the imaginative possibility that underwrites impossibility, as well as the impossibility that underwrites possibility itself? In short, what if we recalibrated the humanist injunction to mean away from the goal of understanding what is possible and towards the goal of imagining new impossibilities? Instead of debunking phlogiston in the name of what is already known, we might instead come to bear on the precise ways in which knowledge is always simultaneously a form of not-knowing. Moreover, we might take seriously the possibility that it is this negative knowledge — these delusions — that “maintain the integrity of the question[s]” we ask in and through our daily lives. [3]

Posted: July 4, 2012 by Wildcat in Uncategorized
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When Nietzsche says, as he frequently does, that “the truth is terrible” he has in mind three kinds of terrible truths: (1) the terrible “existential” truths about the human situation (the inevitability of death and suffering); (2) the terrible “moral” truth that “life is essentially something amoral”; and (3) the terrible “epistemic” truth that most of what we think we know about the world around us is illusory. These terrible truths raise Schopenhauer’s question: why continue living at all? nietzsche’s answer, from early in his career to the very end, is that only viewed in terms of aesthetic values can life itself be “justified” (where “justification” really means restoring an affective attachment to life). Something can have aesthetic value even if it has no epistemic value—indeed, Nietzsche takes it to be a hallmark of art that “the lie hallows itself” and “the willl to deception has good conscience on its side.” Similarly, something can have aesthetic value even when it lacks moral value, something well-exemplified, he thinks, by the Homeric sagas. But how could the fact that life exemplifies aesthetic value restore our attachment to life in the face of the terrible existential truths about our situation? I suggest that there are two keys to understanding Nietzsche’s answer: first, his assimilation of aesthetic pleasure to a kind of sublimated sexual pleasure; and second, his psychological thesis, central to the Genealogy, that powerful affects neutralize pain, and thus can “seduce” the sufferer back to life. Finally, life can only supply the requisite kind of aesthetic pleasure if it features what I call the “spectacle of genius,” the spectacle represented by the likes of Beethoven, Goethe, and Napoleon. Since such geniuses are not possible in a culture dominated by “morality” (in Nietzsche’s pejorative sense), the critique of morality is essential to the restoration of an affective attachment to life, since only by defeating morality will the spectacle of genius continue to be possible.

Leiter Reports: A Philosophy Blog: “The Truth is Terrible”

Posted: June 23, 2012 by Wildcat in Uncategorized
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At the risk of sounding brusque or curmudgeonly, I have always felt that asking or being asked, “What is art?” has been a bane ever since art school, because the answer is so complex. People often ask that question in order to plumb the shape of culture at a given time, or in order to “know what art is” so they know what to make to be accepted by a community, gallery, etc. Perhaps I am a bit cynical. I find that art is a set of cultural and aesthetic practices that have many categories and cultural functions. It is driven by position, context, history, and community – all of these things. It is a dim mirror for the human condition, and an early indicator of trends in culture. (via What is art in the 21st Century?)

Posted: April 19, 2012 by Wildcat in Uncategorized
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The brain network activated during an intense response to art overlaps with the brain network associated with inward contemplation and self-assessment.A study from researchers at New York University sheds new light on the nature of the aesthetic experience, which appears to integrate sensory and emotional reactions in a manner linked with their personal relevance.We all have strong aesthetic reactions to works of art, even though the images that move us vary across individuals. Moreover, we are moved by particular images for very different reasons. Nonetheless, the ability to be aesthetically moved appears to be universal. – When art touches a nerve, brain lights up

Posted: April 8, 2012 by Wildcat in Uncategorized
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Prosthetics get the personal touch: Synthetic legs have become a medium for self-expression, thanks to customization made possible by sophisticated technology. It’s a bold melding of modern science and fashion statement.


Posted: March 17, 2012 by Wildcat in Uncategorized
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A must watch :

Prosthetics can’t replicate the look and feel of lost limbs, argues industrial designer Scott Summit, but they can carry a lot of personality. At TEDxCambridge, he shows 3D-printed, individually designed prosthetic legs that are unabashedly artificial and completely personal.

The talk features a fantastic quote from Summit that could also apply to us “normal functioning” humans looking ahead to a transhuman future:

If you’re designing for the person—for a real person—you don’t settle for the minimum functional requirements. You see how far beyond that you can go where the rewards really are way out in the fringe of how far past that document you can go. And if you can nail that, you stand to improve the quality of life for somebody for every moment for the rest of their life.

TEDxCambridge – Scott Summit’s beautiful prosthetics (by TEDxTalks)

HT to SentientDevelopments

Posted: March 13, 2012 by Wildcat in Uncategorized
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Neuroaesthetics isn’t, its pioneers say, just an elaborate parlor trick: Hey, look at this nude, or this Henry Moore sculpture, and this circuit over here lights up. Rather, it is fundamental to an understanding of human cognition and motivation. Art isn’t, as Kandel paraphrases a concept from the late philosopher of art Denis Dutton, “a byproduct of evolution, but rather an evolutionary adaptation—an instinctual trait—that helps us survive because it is crucial to our well-being.” The arts encode information, stories, and perspectives that allow us to appraise courses of action and the feelings and motives of others in a palatable, low-risk way. Sometimes instinctively, sometimes more consciously, artists play with perception’s variables in keen acknowledgment of the viewer’s active role, which the art historian Ernst Gombrich poetically called the “beholder’s share.”

Read of the day…

(via Eric Kandel’s Visions – The Chronicle Review – The Chronicle of Higher Education)

Posted: February 6, 2012 by Wildcat in Uncategorized
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“How do robots see the world? How do they gather meaning from our streets, cities, media and from us? This is an experiment in found machine-vision footage, exploring the aesthetics of the robot eye.”

Timo is the New Aesthetic.

Posted: December 6, 2011 by Wildcat in Uncategorized
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Only those things are beautiful which are inspired by madness and written by reason.

Andre Gide, author, Nobel laureate (1869-1951)

Posted: September 5, 2011 by Wildcat in Uncategorized
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How Augmented Reality Is Going Viral in the Art World, From the Omi Sculpture Park to a 9/11 Memorial by ArtInfo


Above: “Unraveled” created by the architect Daniel Libeskind

The aesthetic potential of such applications is obvious, and as a medium for art, AR has been gaining in mainstream appeal as ever more art-lovers adopt the appropriate technology. From public art installations to advertising initiatives, AR is everywhere. Few AR artworks have met with critical acclaim — but that may be changing with the latest generation of virtual art.

More here

Posted: April 20, 2011 by Wildcat in Uncategorized
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Aesthetic matters are fundamental for the harmonious development of both society and the individual.

Friedrich Schiller

In March 2008 Paola Antonelli curated MoMA’s critically acclaimed exhibit, “Design and the Elastic Mind.” The show, which Seed had the honor of helping to catalyze, explored the myriad ways in which design has become an essential tool for visualizing, understanding, and manipulating the natural world, from the micro to the macro. In our desire to see that conversation evolve, to follow the ideas that emerge from it, and to showcase their application around the world, Seed introduces here a new column by Paola Antonelli on design and science.

Several groups, ranging from economists and bioengineers to Christian creationists, have claimed the word “design” as their own. They might have an etymological right to do so, but they also contribute to the ambiguity surrounding one of the most important and least studied fields of human applied creativity, the process of making things for other people. From chairs to interfaces, from food-delivery trucks to conceptual scenarios on the impact of nanotechnology — design takes into account people’s needs and concerns, helping them live better within the broad context of the world; it maximizes the available means to achieve the most satisfying outcome, and produces culture in the process.


The myriad points of intersection between design and science include Oded Ezer's "Typosperma," cloned sperm with typographic information implanted into their DNA. Courtesy: Oded Ezer.

That’s the ideal design process: a unique model of thought and action perfectly suited to times of great challenge and great opportunity. In an ideal world, social responsibility would be a prerequisite for design, and designers would vow to produce beautiful, useful, positive, responsible, functional, and economical things and concepts that are meaningful additions to — or sometimes subtractions from — the world we live in. Indeed, design deserves such thoughtful consideration. Designers stand between revolutions and everyday life. They’re able to grasp momentous changes in technology, science, and society and convert those changes into objects and ideas that people can understand. Examples abound, from the intimate and local — like the Target ClearRx on page 45 — to the immediately global, such as the first interface designs for the internet or the nutrition facts labeling standards, to name just two.

Design today has to deal with a timely set of priorities and responsibilities: a concern for the environment, an evolved sense of responsibility toward other human beings, new technical advancements in manufacturing and distribution, new ideas about what constitutes privacy and ownership of things and spaces, the immateriality of new forms of design, the interactivity that many objects allow, and the resurgence of local cultures in response to the global market, to name just a few. Yet all design goes back to the same economy of goals and means, an economy that is also an ecology, and which could become the basis for a strong theory. Design is looking for a unified theory — or maybe just for a theory tout court — for, in spite of its permanence and inevitability, it is still a rather unexplored region of human creativity.

The first obstacle is one of designation. The act of making things has forever existed, but it was not always called design. Until very recently —  and, one could argue, even today — design has been paired with more established disciplines, from fine arts and architecture to engineering, or cabinetmaking, even illustration, in order to align it with more traditional categories. But design’s field of action, whose breadth is wonderfully articulated by the Italian motto dal cucchiaio alla città (from the spoon to the city), also embraces websites, interfaces, and other sometimes-impalpable visual and functional constructs. It is confusing to detect what all of these different outcomes have in common. “Design” as a noun is stretched in so many directions, the only way to grasp its meaning is by abstracting it to its most conceptual skeleton, its basic construct. Science can teach design how to find its own core. The points of contact between science and design are countless. My Seed colleagues and my team at the museum had a chance to count dozens over a year of monthly salons at MoMA, in which we gathered an intimate audience of designers and scientists and invited them to speak on themes such as beauty, scale, truth, visualization, information, and process. Out of all of these topics, collaborations were built, and the mere exposure to each other’s thought processes was an eyeopener to many. This gratifying series underscored the making of “Design and the Elastic Mind.”

"GROW," a hybrid energy-delivery device with "leaves" made of flexible photovoltaic panels designed by Samuel Cabot Cochran and Benjamin Wheeler Howes (left); and Deborah Adler and Klaus Rosburg's Target ClearRx prescription system (right). Courtesy: Samuel Cabot Cochran and Benjamin Wheeler Howes (left) and Deborah Adler and Klaus Rosburg (right).

Design is culture, and so is science. Both science and design — forward motors, providers of perspective, guardians of beauty and truth in all of their shades and manifestations — are essential to progress. And a public awareness of science and design is a necessary tool to empower the positive collective feedback that we trust will help set the right substrate for creativity and innovation.

This column will focus on innovation and consider objects as gateways to information and services; as means rather than mere commodities. It will take into account the way they are designed and built; the economy of means evident in their production, distribution, and use; the way they address complexity by celebrating simplicity; the respect and honesty they display in their use of materials; the way they address their entire life cycle. It will explore institutions that foster design’s thirst for interdisciplinarity and teamwork and look at examples of enlightened entrepreneurship.

A new pack of designers, entrepreneurs, anthropologists, and consultants are working worldwide to bring beauty and common sense not only to the design practice, but also to policymaking, management, and, very simply, to life. As an increasing consciousness of the finite nature of our resources discourages the overproduction of things, designers are turning to immaterial applications of their skills, ranging from interfaces to services. They do not oversimplify the complexity of the design process with prefab recipes, nor do they discount the importance of beauty and delight. Their projects are all informed by their circumstances and are uplifting, even when they tackle topics like prison life, aging, or obesity; they do not simply work, they give people a sense of hope and strength.

Designers find themselves today at the center of an extraordinary wave of cross-pollination. Because of their role as intermediaries between research and production, they often act as the primary interpreters in interdisciplinary teams, called upon not only to conceive objects, but also to devise scenarios and strategies. To cope with this responsibility, designers need to set the foundations for a theory of design and become astute generalists. At that point, they will be in a unique position to become the repositories of contemporary culture’s need for analysis and synthesis, society’s new pragmatic intellectuals. As scientists increasingly embrace this role of the designer, and also recognize in designers like-minded innovative thinking, science will become design’s most precious ally. — Paola Antonelli is senior curator of design and architecture at MoMA.

Seed: Core Principles.

The Shape of Music

Posted: July 14, 2008 by Spaceweaver in Art, Mathematics, Mind, Science
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A fascinating article exploring the mathematical foundations of music. What came to my mind while reading it, is that our aesthetic pleasure from listening to music, arises from the fact that music allows us to explore and navigate higher dimensional spaces, while our immediate perception is confined to 3 dimensional space. Music if so is experienced as a kind of very profound freedom.
clipped from

Roughly 2,500 years ago, Pythagoras observed that objects, such as the anvils he purportedly studied, produced harmonious sounds while vibrating at frequencies in simple whole-number ratios.
More complex ratios gave rise to more dissonant sounds, which indicated that human beings were unconsciously sensitive to mathematical relationships inherent in nature.
For a thousand years, Western musicians have endeavored to satisfy two fundamental constraints in their compositions. The first is that melodies should, in general, move by short distances. The second is that music should use chords that are audibly similar.
Together these constraints ensure a two-dimensional coherence in Western music analogous to that of a woven cloth. Not just any sequence of chords we imagine can generate a collection of short-distance melodies. We might therefore ask, how do we combine harmony and melody to make music? In other words, what makes music sound good?
The shapes of the space of chords we have described also reveal deep connections between a wide range of musical genres. It turns out that superficially different styles–Renaissance music, classical and Romantic music, jazz, rock, and other popular forms–all make remarkably similar use of the geometry of chord space. Traditional techniques for manipulating musical scales turn out to be closely analogous to those used to connect individual chords. And some composers have displayed a profound understanding of the higher-dimensional geometry of musical chords. In fact, one can argue that Romantic composers such as Chopin had an intuitive feel for non-Euclidean higher-dimensional spaces that exceeded the explicit understanding of their mathematical contemporaries.
The mathematician Rachel Hall and I are also exploring some interesting resemblances between music theory and economics. Similar geometrical spaces appear in both disciplines, and questions about how to measure distances between musical chords are very similar to questions about how to measure the distance between economic states. This may seem implausible until one reflects that the geometrical operations we have been discussing are very general. Ultimately, the geometry of music is a branch of the geometry of unordered collections– and unordered collections are basic enough to have applications in a wide range of fields. Pythagoras was correct more than two and a half millennia ago: Music provides one of the clearest examples of a much deeper relation between mathematics and human experience.
Here is an excellent example: