Beauty is everywhere, if gaze is free

Beauty is everywhere, if gaze is free - Architecture/Design/Art
By Aldo Colonetti

To be conscious that the possibility of grasping the aesthetic dimension of things depends on us and not only on the work we look at. What allows us to see Art is the freedom we retain in our approach to the world. Without the free relationship between the person and the “thing,” design, fashion, architecture and art could not exist.

ADA is an acronym conceived by Henraux president Paolo Carli, it stands for “Art Design Architecture,” or the recognising of the primogeniture of the aesthetic dimension over all other values brought to bear by the design disciplines.
Estetica dovunque (Aesthetics everywhere) is the title of the first volume of the complete works of Gillo Dorfles, released by Bompiani in 2022, edited by the writer with an introduction by Massimo Cacciari. In particular, Cacciari points out that: “The importance of his thought is now something firmly acquired at the international level: aestheticism cannot limit itself to a ‘general theory,’ but must measure itself against the concreteness of the artistic product and test itself in its ability to judge not according to abstract meters of values, but in its making, in its construction.”

Some disciplines involve calculations and rules to be memorised, or knowledge and cognitive paths, such as “the science of beauty,” where the rules are to be learned, as we go along with our own experience and subjectivity. Art can go beyond empirical fact to derive a significance that is attuned to each of us.
In other words, a scientist may be able to explain the origin of a rainbow in detail, but certainly not the memories that arise in us from one because they are tied to our subjectivity and freedom.
Art and freedom represent the first condition for making an aesthetic judgment, that is: in front of a sculpture by Michelangelo we are not born “taught”, but we can grasp completeness in even a single particularity, through an intuition that links a particular memory and a specific sensation to a certain form that seems to come from a far. But then, if we lift our gaze to Monte Altissimo where our artist went in search of the best marble, we better understand what it means to give form to an idea through, certainly, a certain sensibility that would never have found its “concreteness” if he had not found the right materials and tools to complete the work.
Art everywhere and in every place implies an awareness that it is up to us – and not only to the artwork – to grasp the aesthetic aspect of things, at all times and in every experien
ce, even the seemingly most minor in relation to a sacred and museum-like image of art.

The German philosopher Immanuel Kant, who founded modern aesthetics as part of philosophy in the second half of the 18th century, wrote in his seminal work Critique of Judgement (1790) that: “I would also attribute to painting in a broad sense, the decoration of rooms with tapestries, and every beautiful piece of furniture, which serves only to the eye; likewise the art of dressing with taste, rings and snuff-boxes. For a flower-bed of different kinds of flowers, a room with many ornaments, including ladies’ clothing, constitute a kind of painting, which, like paintings proper, are there to keep the imagination in a free play with ideas and to occupy the Aesthetic Judgement without any determined purpose.”
It is a freedom that underlies all art and design activity, even when the political and economic conditions appear to be decisive as well as the materials and tools needed to complete a work. The idea remains valid that it is not enough to “produce well” an object, paying attention only to its determining specifics (“functionality” to obtain a product capable of maintaining all those symbolic and aesthetic values that make it unique over time). The aesthetic experience of things is different from the practical functionalities of a specific tool. It must be able to put into action a series of symbolic, ritual and mythical effects, which are not depleted and therefore not consumed in everyday practices of a repetitive nature. If there is no free relationship between the person and the “thing,” in a kind of endless and timeless dialogue, design, fashion, architecture and – of course – art could not exist.
Design makes us rediscover the pleasure of “functional beauty,” just as fashion is capable of reinventing military boots or backpacks by showing them from another point of view-namely, their aesthetic and symbolic dimensions – within a rituality that can revive in a different and completely original way – a “mundane,” everyday object.

It is enough to think of Elio Fiorucci’s aesthetic revolution and the communication of his products carried out – together with the great photographer Oliviero Toscani – in the 1970s and 1980s: bringing the street and its anonymous behaviours, the materials and forms that came from other technological and productive fields, such as plastic, into fashion. It is no coincidence that Fiorucci collaborated with Montedison as the chemical behemoth had sensed that the search for new materials could develop from a completely original new look at the world in comparison to the traditional attitudes of specialists.
As Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus – the world’s most important design school unsurprisingly closed by the Nazis – wrote: “Specialists are people who repeat the same mistakes over and over again.”
At the centre of this pedagogical and design experience was art alongside some of the protagonists of the most advanced artistic research of those years such as Paul Klee, Piet Mondrian, and Vassilij Kandinsky.
From the Bauhaus to the present day, design has made us discover the pleasure of “functional beauty,” just as Marcel Duchamp made us rediscover the mysterious meaning of even the simplest and most anonymous things, for example, a bicycle wheel, an old typewriter, or the toilet. These are objects where there is always an aesthetic and symbolic value that goes beyond the simple and banal functionality of the product.

Duchamp performs an action that any of us could have done: he chooses an object with which everyone has an instrumental and utilitarian relationship, shifts it out of context, and declares it a work of art. He forces us to look at the object with a different gaze and a different mental mechanism, partially setting aside its utility and thinking of it as an object in itself.
Imagine, just as an example, how many possible Duchamps we might have if we thought of the large geometric volumes of different marbles – positioned in Henraux’s large forecourt – not as materials for architecture, design or sculpture, but as works that have aesthetic value in themselves, not only potentially, but in their own right.
It is as if to say that each of us is an artist and it is enough to set in motion a new and freer relationship with things. Then it is thought that draws reality: Fare è pensare (Making is thinking)1.

Art, in essence, coincides with our propensity toward freedom untethered from the things of the world; it is a cognitive path, and therefore not at all an academic one which is restricted only to those who know the history of art. The great German philosopher Hegel made this clear in that extraordinary “novel” which is one of the most important works for understanding the world, namely The Phenomenology of Spirit (1807).
Art, for Hegel, like religion and philosophy, stands as a cognitive attitude toward the world under the sign of freedom; namely, attempting to go beyond the finite, even a simple piece of marble, to grasp the infinite, the aesthetic and symbolic dimension that resides in the gaze of a new way of seeing and knowing the world, transcending appearance.
Then a pipe is not only a pipe but also a reflection of the relationship between drawing and reality as Magritte taught us; a sculpture by Michelangelo is not only a sculpture as it takes us back to the nature from which it comes, to the tools with which the artist tries to give concrete form to an idea of beauty. But again, a corkscrew is not just a tool but a story of a person, as in the case of Alessandro Mendini and his Anna G. corkscrew.
Finally, architecture is not just a container, a shelter from natural weather or a defence from the enemy but is self-representative as an absolute and autonomous work.
Might this be asserted? Certainly, only in the case of being in front of a project such as that of the architect-designer Mies van der Rohe and the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin, wich – since 1968 – has been facing us, hospitable but austere, self-sufficient in terms of aesthetics, able to accommodate any artistic expression and, at the same time, absolutely perfect and autonomous in its composition and materials.

It is as if it were a thinking and autonomous object and not merely a product of man.
Therein lies the ultimate meaning of any work of man, yet it all depends on being able to think freely about the things of the world. Art and freedom lie at the heart of the contemporaneous project.

Marmo 11, pag 72

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