Aesthetic dimension is everywhere and anywhere. With a deep relationship with art throughout history, the definition of aesthetics has evolved continually with no brakes. Similarly, art used to be separated from society and limited to the high class people, but today it is made available to all. As autonomous as both terms may seem, they are not static. The aesthetic dimension answers how art is legitimatized but there are no definite answers.
The politics behind aesthetic dimension is always changing. With the rise of capitalism in our daily lifestyle, we are faced with a diminishing categorical social life. Most modern production of culture is no longer done through traditional means as reflected in our historical memories but is churned out in man-made machines. While mass production provides a common subjection to different cultures, it shatters folk culture by demystifying the history of techniques behind the creation of a culture. In the past, the aesthetic dimension behind most art revolves around history and social classes. The habitus we live in and the norms we internalized, with the recollection of history lessons, we learn to experience our own culture with a particular lens. For example, upon eating the Chinese New Year snacks, we view them with a historical story behind the goodies. Yet for now, it has evolved to the politics of pleasure where we just seek to find the best tasting CNY goodies as opposed to learning about their historical background. Moreover, to appreciate art was a skill bestowed to the higher class. Ancient paintings were owned by those who appreciate and can afford it particularly the noble people. With the growing universal literacy and availability, the appetite for arts has grown bigger and there is a wider appreciation of art. Thus it can be seen that the politics of aesthetic dimension moved from historical one to perhaps pleasurable one.
The aesthetic dimension uncovers what gets constituted as arts. The legitimacy of the sense distribution seeks to provide a coherent social order in society yet it is not stable. Politics are often shown in arts and the aesthetic dimension helps to recognize the emotions and shed light on morality issues. For example, gender inequality can be detected in the common advertisement in US during the 1960s. Sex objects and female abuses were key topics which led to a political response in the feminist’s movement. Rightfully so, the aesthetic dimension is supported by a common sensibility of human emotions like sadness and hurt. These emotions are largely universal because they are innate humane feelings. Thus it can be said that aesthetic dimension identifies the problem yet it is able to pave way for a political response. Furthermore, this has created a de-territorial of art, where the sphere of experience and the reproduction of art are mixed. This has undermined the autonomy of art which was once separated from life. This de-territorial of art is set upon by social institutions and norms such as our collective experience. Thus in all, the aesthetics dimension showcases how art is legitimized.
The aesthetic dimension provides an explanation of a collective experience. This is of particular interest in the world today due to the rise of the Internet. The ever-expanding online realm created the conditions for mystical alliances between different people all over the globe. People are glued in forums due to similar interests and common empathy which has become the dominant ethos. In the past, religion services such as bible worship have led to the creation of a collective formation between Christians who is based on emotions rather than rational thoughts. Today, empathy and sympathy are what draws people regarding political and social issues. One example could be the slacktivism prevalent in most societies. With a click of the mouse and words from keyboards, anyone can be an activist sitting on his chair behind a computer. Yet what draws the common pool of slacktivists is the common identification of feelings. For example, the yellow umbrella movement in Hong kong was brought to international attentions with people all over the world slamming the government and the inequality of rights of the citizens. Art then becomes a mode of social communication rather than its past role as representation of a collective experience. The aesthetics dimension plays a vital role in that change.
In all, it is clear that art is beyond reason today. In the age of modernism, the aesthetics dimension is an important concept to understand yet a tricky one because it is always changing. If you don’t believe, just ask art.