Friday, December 12, 2014

NANAIMO ARTS & CULTURE (4) by Dan Appell


 

EXPOSURE
a personal view of arts and culture in Nanaimo

This week I want to introduce a discussion about aesthetics. It’s the elephant in the room, and requires a basic understanding if we are going to continue our journey through the maze of art and culture in Nanaimo.

Aesthetics is the study of how we assign value to something. In this respect the discussion of aesthetics is well within the realm of economics. In fact it is the core of economic discussion. Adam Smith (The Wealth of Nations) truncated this discussion by defining two types of value; real value and market value. Real value was determined by the amount of human labour went into a product, and market value was determined by how much that product could be sold for. Thus a forest, untouched by human effort, had no real value until it was logged, and those logs had no market value until they where sold. From then on, the study of economics has become fairly stultified, while the study of aesthetics has undergone a series of revolutions, but confined only to examining the value of human experience.

This is not a small thing, and when we note that our economic model could not assign a value to a forest, but an aesthetic model can, we are forced to acknowledge the profound weakness of our economic model.

So let’s continue to discuss aesthetics within the general query of how do we assign value to experience. Experience can be cumulative, in which case we are probably discussing the value of wisdom. Experience can be sequential episodes such as a walk through a forest. Or it can be a specific event such as view from one particular location. Because we can experience man made objects and other endeavours that involve human effort, Adam Smith’s views are well within our purview. And art, architecture, and design can be discussed in a much deeper, much more meaningful way when we understand that it’s not the object or event that that has the most value, rather it is the experience of that object or event that really matters. It is from this point of view that I would like to proceed through the maze of art and culture in Nanaimo, and my hope is that as we progress we can better appreciate the bounty of this place and its people.



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1 comment:

  1. ". . . when we note that our economic model could not assign a value to a forest, but an aesthetic model can, we are forced to acknowledge the profound weakness of our economic model." Well said Dan!

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