Week 8/ EXTRA CREDIT #1/ Patrick Morales

Drop Dead Gorgeous: Beauty and the Aesthetics of Activism
February 24, 2009, 6:00 pm

Artist, curator and writer, Linda Weintraub presented a thought provoking lecture on human perception of beauty.  She began by stating that all societies definitions of beauty are directed by the particular civilizations concept of pleasing and pleasurable aspects.  Her main thesis that ran as a theme for her entire talk was the question: do we think something is beautiful because of its aesthetic value or do we value beauty for some deeper meaning stemmed in cultural values.  By using two categories of artist, headlined by Andy Goldsworthy and Damien Hirst, Weintraub compared a human created beauty that completely separate the natural world from the will of man to a deeper beauty in all of natures processes.
The most personally inspiring group of artist was the truly sustainable artist that highlighted all of nature’s stages.  From the giant pink bunny by Gelatin that “fed” its environment with shelter, warmth and biodegradable mass to the urine watered plants of Jae Rhim Lee and all the other artist in between fascinated me with the depth of the thought that went into their art.  It was the artist ability to create entirely “installed” art that melded into its environment, often times enhancing it but more importantly not disturbing the sacred flow of nature.
I am an advocate for celebrating all of nature’s processes but a conundrum inspired by the talks of decay and rebirth hit my consciousness.  My interest in architecture led me to the question that struck my mind: how do you take an inherently static art like a building and apply the processes of nature to the life cycle of the building?  How can one make a building “grow”, “decay” and foster new growth?  How do we make buildings biological?  I decided to investigate.
I searched on a familiar site that I surf through on my free time, Inhabitat.com.  I first found a house made out of straw. “Constructed by former accountant Carol Atkinson, The Straw Bale Cabin in East Yorkshire is the UK’s first straw-bale holiday home!” (inhabitat.com) The straw provides the insulation to the house and the exterior is eventually covered with plaster on both sides.  Claiming to be fireproof, vermin-proof and airtight the structure represents a first step into the direction of a sustainable building that is not exempt from nature’s laws of decomposition.

UK’s First Straw Bale Holiday Home by Carol Atkinson

I truly enjoyed the lecture because it validated the age-old idea that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  As a closing Weintraub asked the audience if we should reinvent the meaning of beauty, reshape it, cast off all unnecessary aspects to find a newly illuminated definition or conversely should we abandon the word beauty and all its connotations for a “better” word.  I believe that a refinement is in order, a recycling of the word and its meaning if you will.  By simply “throwing” out beauty we aren’t appreciating its history and the reason for the reinvention.  We need a smarter beauty, a sustainable beauty, and a beauty that can be found at every point in this universe.

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