What's Happening to Aesthetics?

Aesthetics has been on my radar this week. I had already planned on watching an online art lecture on the topic, when I took a break from the lecture I saw a gaming YouTuber swim in a pool of candy with the word "aesthetic" in print below. Shortly after that (on the very same day!!) a Twitch streamer I was watching said they needed to update their Instagram because they have to "keep up their aesthetic". Of course, I had to give this some thought!

First to reflect: I guess I had always used the term aesthetic to refer to an artistic sensibility. The commonality (sometimes intentional but mostly not) present in a series of artwork. I don't think I ever equated it with "beauty" instead it was more about favored design elements regardless of whether or not they were pretty or easy to look at. I think I did keep it based on the looks of things more so than meaning. I always considered it an art term and the similar ideas used in a commercial sense I considered branding or style.

I asked my twitch viewers and this was one of the responses: Aesthetics - Intentionally making something beautiful or to make it look as beautiful as possible.

Dictionary.com Definitions:


  1. relating to the philosophy of aesthetics; concerned with notions such as the beautiful and the ugly.

  2. relating to the science of aesthetics; concerned with the study of the mind and emotions in relation to the sense of beauty.

  3. having a sense of the beautiful; characterized by a love of beauty.

  4. relating to, involving, or concerned with pure emotion and sensation as opposed to pure intellectuality.

  5. the philosophical theory or set of principles governing the idea of beauty at a given time and place.

  6. a particular individual’s set of ideas about style and taste, along with its expression

  7. one’s set of principles or worldview as expressed through outward appearance, behavior, or actions

If we take the definitions above then I use the word as defined in number 2 and 4. The online users I saw were using definitions 3 and 6...fair enough!

In the video below they talk about all of those ideas and continue to discuss how experience relates to aesthetics. 

The experience of the object being judged for it's aesthetic value was also the topic of the first lecture I was listening to. In that they said that you can't determine aesthetic value unless you have a sense of emotional distance from the object and only if you're situated so you can see the entire thing.

Experience also came up in the twitch feed where this was shared:  In his work, an artist reveals his naked soul, and in response, so do you.

The video above and the lecture discussed consuming art through technology and photographs. Some claimed you can't experience an object through a filter. Another questioned where the decision making took place in the works production.  It was an interesting point of discussion that had me feeling even more confident in my decision to only share my knit portraits digitally or as prints.

In the end, it's a form of judgement and everyone gets to judge for themselves. Let me know what you think!