Friday, April 17, 2009

Neuroaesthetics...sorry for the rant :)

So, as I said in class, I'm not crazy about this article:  but that might just be how my brain works :).  I would much rather leave a select few things in life a mystery, and art is one of them.  I like standing in front of a work of art and not being able to pin point what moves me.  To me, art and love and beauty and many other things just have magical qualities...and someone trying to tell me that it's not magic, it actually just has to do with how I'm "wired" makes me feel like a computer.  

So, what makes something beautiful?   I really have a hard time believing that there is something in my brain that tells me to think one work of art is more beautiful than something else.  In my own artwork, I am constantly asking the question, "do people build society or does society build people?"  I think that the way we function, what we want from life, what we avoid, what we seek...all those things have to do with the culture and society in which you are raised, and how you react to what you experience.  

One example that I can think of is Slumdog Millionaire.  America fell in love with that movie...why?  Was it wired in our brains to love that sort of movie, or that sort of story, or the way the story was told?  The music in it?  The photography?  The acting?  Was it just a perfect combination of all of those components that set off something in each of our brains?  The perfect storm to satisfy our "beauty sensors"?  I don't buy it.  I thought it was a beautiful movie, it was a great story and put me in a good mood, and I have to admit that the theme song Jai Ho makes me want to dance.  But what if we looked at the rest of the picture to explain this phenomenon?  I think one of the main themes in the movie is that hope perseveres.  Wasn't 2008 the year of hope?  Hope has been in the air, and we've all been hungry for it.  Isn't it likely that it was just the perfect timing in our society for something like that to show us the "beauty of hope"?  

I think that most things people think are human nature aren't natural at all.  Like marriage or racism or sexism.  Today these do not seem like natural tendancies, but barriers we've broken trough to a more progressive society.  But wouldn't you say there was a time where the majority said that it was un-natural for a woman to work?  To be single?  To love another woman?  Don't you think there were probably scientists that tried to prove that women were naturally wired to be mothers and supporters of their husbands?  That black men were wired differently than white men?   

We perceive all of these things, racism, marriage, sexism, etc. to either fit the norm or not. Finding a scientific explanation that says humans are naturally racist would leave us complacent in our struggles for social justice.  If we are naturally racist, then what's wrong with a little racism, we can't help it, this part of the brain makes us racist!  Too bad if gay people want rights, their brains must be malfunctioning.  A woman president?  I'd rather not risk it, my brain is not wired to accept that.  

As an artist who explores society and identity politics, I think it is very dangerous to EXPLAIN everything.  What if we're wrong?  What damage can be done?  Explaining away beauty...PROVING a perception to be true or false?  Is solving the mystery of beauty worth the risk of a false perception?  

I don't think so.  That is one can of worms I don't want to open.  I am just fine with unexplainable, mysterious, unknown beauty, life is much more interesting when you leave a little bit to chance.  

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