I’ve been travelling lately, so I’ve missed some on-point commentary by my contemporaries. Alexander, who I’ve had on NewPub Talk before, nails it once again:
Within that article is one things that I’ve been trying to hammer for years:
Aesthetics are powerful. Aesthetics have meaning. They aren’t just arbitrary window dressing, as some post-modern critics would have you believe. My YouTube subs often take exception to my heavy weighing of Aesthetics as a category when I review movies and games, but I often feel like I give them too little weight.
Good aesthetic presentation can save a sub-par story or gaming experience. A great story can be sunk by poor aesthetic presentation. It is absolutely necessary to value the manner of presentation when considering art. Just as important to their appeal is what they mean – in fact, meaning and attractiveness cannot be divorced one from the other.
Aesthetics occur in all forms of media; I’ll focus on visual for the moment because this is a blog, not a video. Let’s take an image from Alexander’s blog for an example:
Arnold is a good-looking dude – he was Mr Olympia seven times, after all, but what do his looks actually mean?
The masculine form is about power – power to destroy, power to protect. Muscles contribute to this. So do guns, swords, and armor. Arnold has all of that going in the picture. It’s expressing something that has real meaning for the culture, it’s not just abstract imagery. This is why the 80s were the height of masculine aesthetics, from He-man to Rambo. Here’s the same expression:
This is by a Japanese Artist – Kentaro Miura – but the different aesthetics point to the same meaning. The masculine hero is worth beholding because his form is one with his meaning. Guts (the main character of Miura’s Berserk) is a relentless destroyer, stopping at nothing, heedless of his own limitations, but at the same time that berserk anger is used to protect those he loves.
The feminine aesthetic, by contrast, is about nourishment and comfort, not power. My friend Jesse White gets this contrast, which is why his art is so appealing aesthetically:
It’s no accident that Jesse is an 80’s kid. Turning to music:
The 90s sucked not because the music was bad, but because the music as well as the visuals were aesthetically abhorrent.
We went from this:
Fit, masculine men singing about slaying kings and turning women into pleasure slaves are replaced by skinny (or pudgy) boys wailing about their feelings. Virtuosic musicians are replaced by waifish amateurs who can barely navigate their instrument and don’t even try to sing well. Competency is part of masculinity and so that was something else that had to go when putting forth the new grunge aesthetic.
Manowar is a caricature, but so is Nirvana, each in their own way. You have to understand that.
It’s because their visual aesthetics point so strongly to the aesthetics of their music, and also the meaning each is trying to communicate.
That’s enough for today. I’ll have more on Aesthetics in the future. Until then, know that I fight for aesthetics as an artist, making art. You can pre-order my new book on artistic productivity now for just 2.99 and refine your process to increase your output.