(Bevier J., 2008)
Beauty, the first thing that comes to my mind is our bodies. All your friends and strangers and how they look. Whether we find them beautiful and therefore most likely attractive or not. We also have a lot of body image and “beauty” in the media, however more and more of that is adjusted and idealized and made ” perfect” in a way that we no longer think of beauty as something that we can obtain. Men and women alike are experiencing whats called a normative discontent. We criticize and not find ourselves good enough and not “normal” to such an extent that it’s now normal to think that we aren’t good or beautiful enough; “feeling negatively about one’s appearance is thought to be the “norm” rather than the exception” (Barnes et al, 2011).
Studies have shown that even children aged 9 years old(20%) and up to 40% of 14 year old girls are uncomfortable with their weight most of which are within normal weight range for their age.
But beauty is not only regarding people. It can regard to anything. Media products on the tv, internet and anywhere in between, are made to look beautiful and attractive for the public to consume them. Whether that’s other tv programmes, more websites to go to, clothes to buy or animals to look at and share with your friends. The world is full of uselessly beautiful things that are made to attract us.
Visiting the Royal Academy of Arts I’ve seen the Ai Weiwei exhibition which consistent of all kinds of his works as well as commentary from the artist himself as well as his fellow artists. Ai Weiwei mentioned the phrase “aesthetically pleasing but useless” quite often through out the exhibition, starting with his “furniture” series. I found that quite fascinating because people often strive for meaning and regard aesthetically pleasing art as less of an art to some degree. Yet beauty and aesthetics are everywhere, we cannot run away from it. One other piece that really intrigued me was the room full of showcases with things such as bones, jade handcuffs and make up and cosmetic containers made of precious materials. One thing that interested me the most were two sex toys made out of jade (which in some parts of china is a material considered more valuable than gold). This basically made them useless because they were too beautiful to use. They sat in their showcase. Beautiful but useless.
Which leads me to a question. What is beauty? Whats identified as beautiful or aesthetically pleasing? Is it the same for everyone?
In the animal kingdom, symmetry is a sign of health and genetic resistance to diseases. It signals health and offspring survival. It’s the obvious choice to pick a mate thats symmetrical and therefore in that animals’ eyes, beautiful(although it is not known whether the animal sees the beauty in the symmetry). However, humans aren’t necessarily like that. Our perception of beauty is slightly different. Not to mention nature is full of asymmetry weaved into all the symmetry which we perceive as beautiful. Some studies show that even from birth we look at some features that might make us beautiful, more than the symmetry of the face. This was concluded in two ways; one showing the correlation between babies’ likeness of a face and its symmetry as well as peoples rating of peoples attractiveness based on just half their face which meant that only certain features were required.
This lead me to look at simpler examples of symmetry and beauty, both in nature, art and architecture. Personally I love taking pictures of symmetrical building or in a symmetrical way. It gives me this weird satisfaction of things being balanced and looking “perfect”. On the other hand, lack of symmetry or what some may call “perfection” is often seen in those areas without it directly translating into lack of beauty. Japanese aesthetics is an aesthetics of imperfection, insufficiency, incompleteness, asymmetry, and irregularity, not to mention perishability, suggestiveness, and simplicity(Wicks R. 2005). They include the art of wabi sabi which is the art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in earthiness(Lawrence R. G., 2001). I liked the idea of making beautiful things by using existing products in a similar way that wabi sabi does. Except instead of “fixing” them I wanted to experiment with destroying them and by doing so, creating a new, abstract piece that might show a different view of beauty.
I started by taking three pictures; a technology advert which portraits its product as god like, defying gravity and perfect in every way(iPhone 6s, Apple); a glamour shot from “Vanity Fair” cover of Caitlyn Jenner and my own picture of a sunset in a park in Madrid which I thought is a type of a natural beauty that fits with my idea.
i have used Georg Fischers experiments to distort the images. For these three images I used the “Triangulation” tool which converts the image into triangles.
I changed the different variables to progressively achieve more intense results over 20 or so changes. Then combined the results in Photoshop to create a gif from the least distorted to the most and the other way round, back to the original image.
I believe my project could show a different side of beauty and distort the view of people of the media they consume. It can also show that weird and distorted can also be considered beautiful.
While researching this I stumbled upon a project by Alec Radford which was a video generated by Stylize, an open source code that translates video or images into a mix of triangles of his own making. Stylize is a regressor based image stylisation which is a machine learning algorithm. This way the output is always different which I find fascinating.
I would like to learn and use his code to create a video of my own, most likely of already made commercial content to give an unfamiliar beauty to familiar object and media artefacts.
I found a project by Roger Johansson called Genetic Programming: Evolution of Mona Lisa where the coder uses a program he created to use a string of DNA for polygon rendering and then manages to “recreate” a part of the famous Leonardo DaVinci painting using only 50 polygons.
An example of how it works can be found here.
Diedrichs P., (2013) ‘Is your daughter’s perception of beauty distorted by the media?’ (Online) Available from: http://selfesteem.dove.co.uk/Articles/Written/Is_your_daughters_perception_of_beauty_distorted_by_the_media.aspx [28 June 2014]
Tantleff-Dunn S. , Barnes R. D., Larose J. G. (2011) ‘It’s Not Just a “Woman Thing:” The Current State of Normative Discontent’. Eating Disorders: The Journal of Treatment & Prevention 19., (5) Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3760219/
Serdar K. L.,(2011) ‘Female Body Image and the Mass Media: Perspectives on How Women Internalize the Ideal Beauty Standard’. Myriad(Online) Available from: http://www.westminstercollege.edu/myriad/index.cfm?parent=…&detail=4475&content=4795 [October 2011]
Zaidel D. W., Cohem J. A., (2004) ‘THE FACE, BEAUTY, AND SYMMETRY:
PERCEIVING ASYMMETRY IN BEAUTIFUL FACES’ Intern. J. Neuroscience 115, (8) Available from: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download;jsessionid=A708942F8B4BBEEDA011647C4E039D55?doi=10.1.1.514.2818&rep=rep1&type=pdf
Zaidel D. W., Hessamian M.,(2010) ‘Asymmetry and Symmetry in the Beauty of Human Faces’. Symmetry 2 Avaliable from: http://dwz.psych.ucla.edu/ZaidelHessamianSymmetryJournal.pdf
Beck A. J. (2013) (Online) Available from: http://alexjohnbeck.com/project/bothsidesof_versions/ (online, 2013)
Wicks R. (2005) ‘The idealization of contingency in traditional Japanese aesthetics’. Journal of Aesthetic Education 39., (3)
Lawrence R. G., (2001) ‘Wabi-Sabi: The Art Of Imperfection’ Natural Home
September-October 2001 Avaliable from: http://www.utne.com/mind-and-body/wabi-sabi.aspx
To look at: