Aesthetic experience, emotion and imagination.
From time to time we encounter fantastic experiences that stun us into amazement, excitement and wonderment, irresistibly enchanting our minds. On the other hand, we also have horrific experiences that drag us into confusion, anxiety and dread, persistently haunting us with obsessive delusions. These moments might take place in any phase of life either in the real world or fictional space: in front of a landscape, in front of a painting, in one scene from a film, on a page of a book, in a piece of music, in a face of a person, in a mathematical formula, in a chemical reaction, in a philosophical theory, in an event in history, or, just simply, in the sunshine in the sky, in the murmuring sound of birds and trees. The dazzling sensations that we receive from certain events, either fantastic or horrific, real or fictional, are aesthetic. They give us the feeling of the marvelous and the awe, though they are not necessarily connected to the idea of beauty: aesthetic experience is an emotional reaction to the world that we are living in.
My research and writing practice revolve around this mysterious sensation of aesthetic experience and its potential power to be exercised over the human psyche and thus society. This power, which overwhelms us and suspends us in a flickering moment of estrangement from the world that we know, activates our imagination – the ability to imagine something that goes beyond the capacity of our thinking and perception. When we catch our breath at a beautiful landscape, at a mysterious ecosystem of bacteria, at a great masterpiece, at a horrific view of warfare, we throw a thoughtful and curious gaze at the phenomena taking place on the other side of the world, which our individual minds would never be able to perceive or think in themselves.
The human is capable of thinking beyond the limit of the self, beyond the constraints of who we are and where we belong, eventually reaching out to other people, creatures, communities, societies, entities and all the unknown events in the world. Aesthetic experience is the moment when we expand the limit of our capacity, when we experience our environment as the multiple layers of the relation among various entities and phenomena, introducing us to the complexity of the world that we are living in. It is a highly intellectual, emotional and critical methodology to understand other people, cultures, communities and creatures that do not belong to one's own, setting off the empathetic engagement with the world in transience.
How can we recognise the world beyond our cultural, perceptual and cognitive constraints? How do we manage to imagine and give credibility to the world that transcends our intelligibility, without reducing its complexity into representational jargon?
For this questioning, I think, write and translate ideas, arts and beyond.
Text © 2015 Michiko Oki
Illustration © 2015 Pablo Padilla Jargstorf