Why we like art

Listening to a 'Science Friday' podcast today, one of the guests spoke about why we like certain things. (he wrote a book) The essence of his theory is that what we like is often based on the context of a thing, rather than the thing in and of itself. I think this idea is something that most people have an intuitive sense of being true and it certainly resonated with my own way of thinking.
Listening to him, I was reminded of something I once wrote about aesthetics. Similar to his idea, but applied specifically to art. Four years ago when I put it in writing, the idea was still kind of new to me and I have since fleshed it out more thoroughly in my mind, however, I don't feel enough motivation right now to write it out, instead I will copy and past the original:

when visiting my brother he made a comment to my sister and I about how we may not even like his art if it was not made by him. i realized it is probably impossible to tell, but even if it is so i don't think it means my like for his art is any less real. isn't that all art is anyway? associations? i know i have numerous times grown to like a certain piece or certain type of art because i grow to associate it with a certain person or idea.
i think we can have conditioned associations: our bodies relating a piece to a certain experience, person or idea and also inherent associations like images that evoke nature or sex, things most people have evolved to be naturally drawn to.
our bodies might see certain shapes, lines or colors and associate them with things it knows might make them feel good or pleasant experiences or people from the past, or conversly if the artist is attempted to create a negative association. so it is my opinion that art is merely creating associations for people allowing others to transcend the world we normally associate with into one more purely based on the emotion trying to be expressed. transcending the body and creating a more pure emotional communication. more pure because it is less confined than words have a tendency to be, which can express an idea but often not the emotion behind the idea.
so an important relationship can exist between art and words. you can explain to someone a concept, then if a piece of art is accurately executed, it can then convey the emotion of that concept. i think this is what is called art.


Vincent said...

I wish I could influence you in the direction of finding the motivation. I think you are definitely on to something!

Vincent said...

Having listened to some of Paul Bloom's podcast - enough to recognise the phenomenon he talks about - I feel that what he is talking about is conditioned herd behaviour, not real aesthetic appreciation.

Sometimes this conditioned behaviour is socially required of course. If your nephew aged 4 shows you his drawing, you strain to appreciate it and detect great talent in the execution; same as when you praise your hostess' cooking.

Perhaps there is a minor truth in what Bloom has to say in that appreciation can often take study and effort. Only by following the herd can I have in some cases an inkling that the effort is worth while.

But I remember being in 1962 locked into the Battisteria opposite the cathedral in Florence for a whole night whilst we made a movie of Michelangelo's work for Coronet Films. I had nothing to do but stare at these statues. I still didn't like them. I've written up the story here

Chris Almond said...

Vincent, I interpreted Paul Blooms ideas much differently than you.
While he used conditioned herd behavior as one example of a larger phenomenon, conditioned herd behavior was not the phenomenon he was speaking of, merely one possible example of the way context influences our appreciation of certain things relies largely upon the context within which we perceive it. At other times in the podcast, and in his books he gives other examples, not related to following the herd.