Understanding Aesthetics (Part 2)

Aesthetics is the study of beauty. Is it only the study of the object you are looking at? Or is it also the study of you, who is looking at the object and feeling the beauty of it?

Sigmund Freud being a neurologist & a psychologist emphasized much of his study on understanding the human unconscious (and conscious) amongst many other aspects of human nature. I observed that it is very important for him to understand the artist in order to understand the art he or she produced. When I say understand the artist, I meant; understand the psyche of the artist, the events or personal experiences the artist experienced which eventually got expressed as a form of art.

Freud dwells into deeper levels of human psyche especially related to our sexuality and psychological life. He calls “the central sector of this unconscious as ‘Id’ (‘it’ in Latin) where logic and morality are absent and only conflicting impulses stand side by side in a chaotic amalgam”. It is my understanding that we are born with a natural reproductive drive, aggressive nature and violent thought process and as we grow in age and social rules around, we tend to develop an unconscious intelligence to suppress anti-social or immoral thoughts and behave in a more socially acceptable manner.

Freud states that it is that unstable, disturbing and unconscious desires which take shape of a more acceptable subtle form of disguised art. He used a process called ‘Psychoanalysis’ to interpret art and observed that “artistic production functions like dream production and artworks are interpretable through the same methods that psychoanalysis uses to interpret dreams”Since the artwork displays these objectionable qualities in a subtle manner, the viewer would derive a sense of satisfaction and feel a subliminal liberation.

I thought that it will be interesting to do a psychoanalytical study of Freud and his theories to better understand why Freud even went in this direction and what are his unconscious desires and motives to develop these theories. (Really? Can’t believe I just said that!)

Freud’s interpretation of Da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’ and William Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ gave me a completely different perspective of how can we look at an artist’s output though a psychological point of view. This reminded me of Der Blaue Reiter’s founding member Franz Marc’s take on world from a horse’s eyes. I think Franz Marc’s philosophy was in-line with Freud’s thinking that dreams get expressed as paintings (art).

Freud considered the aesthetic appearance of art is only a disguise to the real unconscious objectionable intentions of the artist and the artist uses this as a bait to attract the viewer to actually devour the central essence which is artistically expressing dreamlike psychological issues. At a broader level, entities with a mass reach like the media honchos, advertising and marketing companies, political parties, religious fundamentalists, and showbiz etc., have gained real expertise in the techniques of disguise to render immoral contents socially acceptable. May be there are certain artists who apply this strategy but generalizing that all art carries the same motif would be naive. (My sincere apologies to all the hardcore fans of Sigmund Freud)