Tuesday, 17 November 2009

What is Beauty?

One type of the 'cultural ecosystem services' we get from nature is 'aesthetics'. So I watched the 'What is Beauty?' programme this Saturday past (14 Nov 09 on BBC2) to see how the approach taken by the chap presenting it, Matt Collings, might apply to nature and ecosystems. He set out 10 principles that, for him, define what people find beautiful, and his number one was -- Nature.

His 10 principles, in order, are: 1 Nature; 2 Simplicity; 3 Unity; 4 Transformation; 5 Surroundings (I'd call this context); 6 Animation (vitality, energy, dynamism); 7 Surprise; 8 pattern; 9 Selection; 10 Spontaneity.

Quotes I scribbled down as particularly telling:
"Hunger for beauty is part of what makes us human";
"Nature is good" -- or possibly "Nature is Good"
"Abstract patterns and the realistic world [nature] -- they bounce off each other and feed each other"
"Art offers nature in a pattern or structure"


The first two put aesthetics (and nature) into an ethical frame -- beauty and nature are both intrinsically good things, important aspects of what human life is for

The last two help with something I've found tricky in the 'auto-ethnographic fieldwork' I'm working through -- attending to catalogue and analyse how 'cultural ecosystem services' crop up in what I do in the course of modern urban life. How connected or disconnected are we from nature? Lots of explicit natural imagery -- floral patterns, landscapes, little artifacts. But can abstract, geometrical patterns that -- when you think of it that way -- are reminiscent of some aspect the natural world, be counted as referring to natural aesthetics? Colling says yes, they are.

His final comment was: these principles are his personal set, not the only possible set -- feel free to come up with your own.

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