19 September 2005

John Maeda on experience as beauty

John Maeda, professor at the MIT Media Lab, is on a quest to study simplicity. In life. In design. In communication. It may sound simple, but so often in this world people want to confuse and baffle things — conversations, living spaces, lifestyles, emotions — by being the totally opposite of simple.

I believe that through Gnosticism and its subsequent teaching of myth as a way to understanding and exploring one's life, people can really begin to refine who it is they are… and more importantly, what they want to be. The more focused your intent, as in the occult, the more results you'll garner.

Maeda puts it:
What is beautiful to you?

I was recently interviewed by a German magazine regarding the beautiful objects that I own… I realized that ownership ceases to make things beautiful.

As I look for designed objects in my studio that "signify beauty" I find many examples, yet none of them are entirely beautiful to me. I find beauty in freshness and fragility — two qualities that the modern designed object is not allowed to possess. Once an object is acquired, it eventually becomes stale in your apartment; were an object to be crafted as to break upon the slightest touch, it could not be sold. For these reasons I find my beauty in nature, where every item has a purpose and a life cycle that is perfectly natural.

The moth: On a walk around my home, I saw this beautiful white moth dying on the paved road. The contrast between the whiteness of nature, and the darkness of manmade materials — combined with the two deaths — one of the moth, the other of the ground that lay beneath the pavement. This complex, yet simple moment of the lightness of life to soon vanish into the dark… rendered in a black and white palette represents the kind of beauty that cannot be owned, but only experienced.


Fell said...

Not too commnt on my own post, but I will. I've been cycling lots since I bought a new bike. (My last one was stolen last summer.) Down in the Edmonton River Valley, I felt so fantabulous today: alive, hurting, as I veered along trails no more than a foot across, and not any more than a foot from the cliff's edge. Jeremy had said he'd wiped before and slid down — not pretty, but funny.

I want to explore ways of really expounding the virtues of living one's life as expired by mythology à la Gnosticism. Not as a religious zealot or anything, but the stories can be told in countless ways and manners. It's just so invigorating to live a life full of both objective and subjective pursuits, knowledge and experience.

It reminds me of a quote by William Arthur Ward that I try to constantly keep myself consciously aware of in my everyday activities with others:

It is wiser to lead than to push, to request than to demand, to suggest than to insist, to inspire than to compel, to motivate than to manipulate.

igm said...

I blundered upon your site last week using the 'next blog' button.

I agree with your post, about beauty in the ephemeral, and aspiring to possess that which we cannot.

I'm a former Edmontonian, now residing in Kelowna. I used to live around Whyte Ave. I used to walk across the High Level Bridge when I lived downtown, shown in your jumper post. How cool to find your page and your ideas in the blogosphere, emanating from my birthplace.

Peace out,

Fell said...

Yeah it can be a very small world sometimes, I find. Thanks for dropping a note, I found some very interesting stuff on your blog, too!

Rev. Illuminatus Maximus said...

the kind of beauty that cannot be owned, but only experienced


reminds me of that quote from Bataille's Sacred conspiracy:

"When, a few days ago, I was with André Masson in this kitchen, seated, a glass of wine in my hand, he suddenly talked of his own death and the death of his family, his eyes fixed, suffering, almost screaming that it was necessary for it to become a tender and passionate death, screaming his hatred for a world that weighs down even on death with its employee's paw -- and I was no longer able to doubt that the lot and the infinite tumult of human life were open to those who could no longer exist as empty eye sockets, but as seers swept away by an overwhelming dream they could not own."

beautiful pic btw