Art And Creation (Part 8): The Quality Of An Aesthetic Experience In Time

This is part of a blog series where I share some thoughts on “art and creation”. I have prepared various blogs inspired by a range of sources from Kabbalah to Artificial Intelligence. Do not expect to find definitive answers. The aim here is to raise questions and offer entertaining thoughts.

Photo by Jeffrey Czum on Pexels.com

Is there a connection between the duration of the creative process (part 7) and its quality?

I don’t doubt that the frenzy of creativity can completely overwhelm someone in a matter of seconds and then disappear. Also someone might engage in a creative act for hours and gain no satisfaction at all.

However, I think that the answer to the question should be positive, yes there is a connection between the duration of the creative process and its quality. Why? I believe that the creative experience and the artistic appreciation need time.

Think of your favourite moment in a song. This moment can be anything, from the climax of a guitar solo to the punchline in a rap song. Sure, this is a moment of overwhelming emotion. It is certainly the highlight of the song. You might want to hear it over and over again. However, would it have the same effect on you if it was out of the context of the song? Or better even; would you like the song if it was just this moment, just the few seconds that you consider the most emotionally powerful and overwhelming? My guess is that this wouldn’t be enough. For the moment to be impactful, it needs to be in a context of other moments. It needs the build-up, the contrast, the pause, the repetition.

What I am trying to say is that every experience is part of a greater experience and every greater experience is part of our living experience which is a continuous journey from birth to death. Every moment makes sense only as part of a greater context.

The Life Of The Artwork

Every artwork has a life of its own. This begins in the early stages of making. I would argue it exists from as early as the first idea of creation comes into the creator’s mind and ends as soon as the artwork is no longer experienced by people. There is no art if no one is experiencing it.

The Life Of An Aesthetic Experience

The Creation of the World and the Expulsion from Paradise, Giovanni di Paolo, 1445, The Met

The audience comes from the outside to experience the artwork only for a certain period that is only a fragment of the artwork’s full life. Within this period, the artwork ought to establish a context within which the audience will be immersed. In a few words, the artwork has to build a world.

Now what happens is that the moment we enter this new reality, we are signing ourselves for an aesthetic experience. Just as humans have a life of their own, artworks have theirs. And just as artworks have their lives, aesthetic experiences have their own too. An aesthetic experience begins from the moment the artwork is experienced by a subject and ends the moment it stops interacting with that subject on an intellectual or emotional level. This means that an artwork can provoke aesthetic experiences even after its death.

This is the case with ephemeral art, like fireworks. I might see fireworks today but recreate the moment and all its emotional intensity by memory for days. Each time I relive the moment, I am experiencing anew an aesthetic experience.

Structure of Aesthetic Experience

Photo by Todd Trapani on Pexels.com

This aesthetic experience has structure. As we already said, it has a beginning and an end. It also has whatever lies in between these two points; the main body of the experience.

The structure is pre-determined partly by the artwork, partly by the psychosynthesis and prior experience of the subject, and partly by the general context (natural, socio-political).

The experience takes place in time and can have different fluctuations. Some times it has multiple ups and downs, others it is completely flat, and others it has a single spike of excitement and that’s it.

I believe that today many people incorrectly identify an aesthetic experience with its climax. For example, people will talk about the Parthenon frieze, the splatter in Tarantino’s films or the scene where Darth Vader says “Luke I am your father” in Star Wars Episode V as the defining moments of their experiencing of these artworks.

Is this a problem? Not exactly. It is important to understand that none of these moments are aesthetic on their own. They are what they are only because they are part of a greater whole. There can be no climax if the climax is all that exists. The Parthenon frieze is what it is because it is on the top of the Parthenon. Splatter is a violent moment following a successful build-up or sudden break in Tarantino’s films. The Darth Vader scene, is just funny.

The Duration Of An Aesthetic Experience

Due to the dependence of our senses on time, we need more time to experience things properly. There is no objective measure here but we can safely assume that three seconds is not enough time to experience a musical composition and trigger an aesthetic experience. Why?

I think that it is because within this limited period, our minds cannot process anything else other than the beginning and the end of the aesthetic experience. Within three seconds, there is no room for the main body of the experience. There is in fact barely enough time to tell the beginning apart from the ending.

This means that a longer aesthetic experience can be qualitatively superior to a shorter one in this instance. I can easily see an installation artist trying to debate this idea. Let’s say that this artist then creates an installation piece designed to be seen for only a fragment of the second. Perhaps a sudden lighting in a room. Then the artist would falsely argue that, “here I have made an artwork that can last for a fragment of a second and people enjoyed it” (well, someone always does).

However, the artist will not have realised that the true artwork was not just the sudden light. The experience had began the moment the audience entered the room and stared at the wall in silence. The climax of the experience was the light, but its end, did not come until after a few seconds the audience had realised that the show was over and had to immerse themselves in introspection trying to find meaning in this. So even in this case, the pleasant element for the audience was not the sudden light in itself, but the light within its context; the light as an interesting unexpected variance in an otherwise uninteresting setting. The true experience was the context.

I think that experiencing art and creation takes time. I do not think that there is a golden ratio, but, overall, up to a certain point, the experience becomes more pleasant and well-balanced the longer it lasts. This goes for creating art and experiencing it.

9 thoughts on “Art And Creation (Part 8): The Quality Of An Aesthetic Experience In Time

  1. Antoni, good musings. I like the casual way you discuss the time engaging with art. Its a bit like musicality, some are gifted and know about timing to make the most out of the experience. A related thing is how much an artist spends creating, a momentary sketch vs months or years project. Why more time on one work and not the other?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Its a bit like musicality” Yes, I agree with you

      About your question, this is something I will have to look into cause it’s a really interesting topic. What do you think as an artist yourself?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Happy New Year! Negative feelings like snark or rage don’t interest me, though i might feel them. I did a snarky piece, “Ode to Duchamp” an ink drawing of a fire hydrant (that dogs love to piss on) but it was only a 5-minute sketch. It was amusing and a good drawing and I was okay with the idea because it was only A tiny fraction of time. In contrast I worked seven years on “God Releasing Stars Into the Universe” and “Synergy” both about 98×72” , their themes about giving and receiving energy from the universe. Profound feelings and thoughts. No painting is too difficult or time consuming if it worthy. But that is not common to artists many will do the opposite and spent more time on their rage or angst.

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  2. Very interesting point about duration. I suppose the experience of an artwork can be more easily defined in time than other aesthetic experiences. Loved your photos too!

    Liked by 1 person

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