Encountering beauty

I have been exploring the biological basis of beauty or the core principle from which beauty' manifests. I distinguish art and beauty as, art is mental construct whereas beauty is part of our biological nature just like hunger.

I began my exploration in 1985 when I joined to study design and I found that we are being recolonized through education and especially in terms of our sense of beauty. So, I began to explore how to decolonize myself, how beauty is formed and why there is homogenization among the educated whereas the non-literate artisan has been able to retain their cultural or aesthetic rootedness.

I noticed non-literate artisans produced beautiful things as if it was in their nature to create beauty. This seemed like an ordering principle in their biology itself and not an afterthought like what we do in modern society. This happened not only while doing 'craft' but also in every action they performed. There was no thought- how to make things beautiful as beauty is an integral aspect of action or beauty is part and parcel of the Being.

Beauty is also the ethics of living or the aptness of action. Knowing and being are not fragmented. Being knows! This is the integral nature.

So, I realized that the modern education is fragmenting the integral nature of value formation, aesthetic awakening and cognition. I was able to understand this after I stopped reading for few years. To my surprise, this rewired my cognitive system which was based on reading and thinking to seeing/ experiencing.

What led me to this exploration was the realization that when teaching beauty is institutionalized, one tends to apply the rules of beauty mechanically leading to mechanization and colonization of one’s aesthetic sensibility as opposed to this being a natural process. The homogenization of the world is the result of teaching of western aesthetic sensibilities all over the world. My life with rural tribal artisan gave me an opportunity to explore how contextually rooted aesthetic sense develops, retaining diversity and that too without any conscious teaching. As a designer working to ‘save’ the traditional artisans, I was supposed to teach them new designs but my conscience wouldn’t allow me to teach and instead I became the student. By creating an environment of deep respect, the artisans were able to produce the most original and beautiful products.

As one can see, the sense of beauty is one the most misunderstood aspect of modernity, the role of which has never been explored deeply. What is the function of beauty in life? Isn’t it an integral aspect of being?