Bella senz’aura

Nelle società commerciali la bellezza a volte diventa una vera e propria ossessione, tutti sembrano ricercarla con una tenacia che non ha confronto. Lo sostiene in punta di fatto la brillante Virginia Postrel nel suo libro “The Substance of Style”.

Il mondo non è mai stato tanto ricco, possiamo comprare di tutto e quando si tratta di scegliere, sempre più spesso, è il lato estetico della merce  a fare la differenza…

… “Aesthetics, or styling, has become an accepted unique selling point—on a global basis,” explains the head of the division’s global aesthetics program. Functionality still matters, of course. But competition has pushed quality so high and prices so low that many manufacturers can no longer distinguish themselves with price and performance, as traditionally defined…

Il XXI secolo si preannuncia così come il secolo della bellezza

… The twenty-first century isn’t what the old movies imagined. We citizens of the future don’t wear conformist jumpsuits, live in utilitarian high-rises, or get our food in pills. To the contrary, we are demanding and creating an enticing, stimulating, diverse, and beautiful world…

La merce è anche un trionfo dei sensi, siamo creature tattili che non possono rinunciare al bello per lasciarlo agli esteti…

… We want our vacuum cleaners and mobile phones to sparkle, our bathroom faucets and desk accessories to express our personalities. We expect every strip mall and city block to offer designer coffee, several different cuisines, a copy shop with do-it-yourself graphics workstations, and a nail salon for manicures on demand. We demand trees in our parking lots, peaked roofs and decorative façades on our supermarkets, auto dealerships as swoopy and stylish as the cars they sell. Aesthetics has become too important to be left to the aesthetes…We are by nature—by deep, biological nature—visual, tactile creatures… Our sensory side is as valid a part of our nature as the capacity to speak or reason, and it is essential to both…

Tutto ciò, sia chiaro, non fa del XXI secolo un momento necessariamente più creativo, piuttosto un periodo in cui una fetta più ampia della popolazione si occupa di creatività…

… This trend doesn’t mean that a particular style has triumphed or that we’re necessarily living in a period of unprecedented creativity. It doesn’t mean everyone or everything is now beautiful, or that people agree on some absolute standard of taste. The issue is not what style is used but rather that style is used, consciously and conscientiously, even in areas where function used to stand alone…

L’estetica per molti è come l’ossigeno. Grazie all’estetica noi istituiamo relazioni senza parole, una grande opportunità per la merce di moltiplicare le sue funzioni..

… Aesthetics is the way we communicate through the senses. It is the art of creating reactions without words, through the look and feel of people, places, and things…

I significati dell’oggetto estetico sono subliminali…

… Aesthetics conjures meaning in a subliminal, associational way, as our direct sensory experience reminds us of something that is absent, a memory or an idea…

I significati sprigionati dall’ oggetto estetico dipendono da un ben preciso contesto culturale…

… Aesthetic effects begin with universal reactions, but these effects always operate in a personal and cultural context…

Oggi siamo più sensibili che mai alla superficie (superficiali)…

… Psychologists tell us that human beings perceive changes in sensory inputs—movement, new visual elements, louder or softer sounds, novel smells—more than sustained levels…

Quello che molti chiamano superfluo, e che in effetti non appartiene ai canonici bisogni primari, è in realtà parte integrante della nostra natura…

… Theorist Ellen Dissanayake defines art as “making special,” a behavior designed to be “sensorily and emotionally gratifying and more than strictly necessary.”…

È in gioco la nostra identità

… Good Design is not about the perfect thing anymore, but about helping a lot of different people build their own personal identities…

L’emozione ha soppiantato la funzionalità…

… “form follows emotion” has supplanted “form follows function”…

Estetica, piacere e significato procedono in modo congiunto…

… Aesthetics offers pleasure, and it signals meaning. It allows personal expression and social communication. It does not provide consensus, coherence, or truth…

Le gerarchie saltano e il gusto personale spadroneggia…

… The once-rigid aesthetic hierarchy has broken down. Individuals do not simply imitate their social betters or seek to differentiate themselves from those below them. Personal taste, not an elite imprimatur, is what matters…

Personalizzazione e merce “su misura” spuntano ovunque…

… The French interiors magazine Maison Française touts customization as the “reaction to the homogenization of styles and tastes…

La globalizzazione mischia ulteriormente gli stili aumentando il  caos…

… Some of these subcultural styles begin with an ethnic base—Indian mehndi (temporary henna tattoos), African-American hip-hop styles, New England WASP preppy clothing, Chinese feng shui, the vivid colors of Mexico and the Caribbean, the pervasively influential lines of Japanese art and interiors…

L’estetica è anche un modo di raggrupparsi attorno a dei valori

… Others indicate value-related, voluntary associations, “differences with depth,” in the words of cultural anthropologist Grant McCracken… goths, punks, and skaters…

Il nostro è un mondo pluralista dove convivono estetiche differenti e, quindi, valori differenti…

… Value-laden aesthetics, such as punk or goth, spill over into mainstream culture as people outside their subcultures adopt purely aesthetic elements, usually in a less-extreme form… Ours is a pluralist age, in which styles coexist to please the individuals who choose them…

E il funzionalismo modernista? Non è morto, semplicemente convive col resto…

… The “return to beauty” classicists confuse today’s aesthetic pluralism, which overthrows modernist ideology, with the banishment of modernist aesthetics. But modernism is not dead…

Una cosa è certa: non dobbiamo più nascondere il piacere per il bello in sè,  almeno per questo risultato dobbiamo dire grazie al postmodernismo…

… the breakdown of modernist ideology means that it’s no longer necessary to hide aesthetic pleasure behind postmodern irony and camp…

Ricordiamoci da dove veniamo: gente come Adolf Loose equiparava l’ornamento a un crimine…

… puritanical doctrines of Adolf Loos—“one crabby Modernist”—whose influential 1908 essay “Ornament and Crime” proclaimed decoration degenerate, the amoral indulgence of children and barbarians…

Apple: l’estetica in primo piano nell’oggetto più funzionale che esista…

… Apple’s iMac turns the personal computer from a utilitarian, putty-colored box into curvy, translucent eye candy—blueberry, strawberry, tangerine, grape…

Altri esempi…

… Few Target customers have heard of Graves, but his playful toaster quickly becomes the chain’s most popular, and most expensive, model…. Volkswagen reinvents the Beetle. Karim Rashid reinvents the trash can… Oxo reinvents the potato peeler. People will pay an extra five bucks… Nordstrom issues shiny holographic credit cards to spice up its brand… PayPal, the online payments service, entices customers with see-through Visa cards in five different colors… Design schools are so full of students they can hardly find faculty to staff the courses….

Anni 90: l’era del design

… Business Week was wrong to declare the 1990s the age of design. “The nineties were clearly the age of distribution, and Wal-Mart coming to the fore,” he says. High-style products like the iMac and Beetle didn’t appear until the very end of the decade. “I see 2000 to 2010 as the decade of design.”…

Scarpe da tennis e chitarre finiscono al museo

… The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art opens an exhibit of sneakers. Guitars are art in Boston; motorcycles are art in New York. Museums in Miami and La Jolla display household objects, from chairs to salad bowls. To the consternation of critics, an exhibit of Armani couture draws swarms of visitors to the Guggenheim in New York…

Moda e stile, considerato il loro portato identitario, prosperano nel conflitto. L’esempio dell’ hip hop…

… The hip-hop movement has nothing to do with rebellion…. As central as fashion is to life here, all it really says is that the person wearing it loves fashion.”…

La casa è diventato un luogo d’elezione per lo “stilista”…

… Real estate agents hire “stagers” to redecorate homes for sale…

Altro luogo dove esprimersi esteticamente: la cucina

… Busy professional couples hire chefs to come in and make dinner, providing not only good food but the textures and smells of home cooking…

La figura del manager, quintessenza dell’efficientismo, è attentissima al look…

… Business executives enlist Hollywood stylists to dress them…

Testimonianza di Zappacosta

… consider the change observed by Pierluigi Zappacosta, a founder of Logitech, the computer peripherals company best known for its mice. Zappacosta has his own place in design history; by hiring Hartmut Esslinger’s design firm, frog, to create Logitech’s product and packaging designs, he injected a playful, distinctive style into the dull world of computer peripherals…

La cura per l’ambiente è un altro indicatore della nostra sensibilità per il bello…

… a better indicator of our aesthetic age than the splashily designed objects on store shelves is the evolution of the environments that surround them, and us…

Bar e design, un’accoppiata prima impensabile. L’esempio di Sturbucks…

… With its carefully conceived mix of colors and textures, aromas and music, Starbucks is more indicative of our era than the iMac. It is to the age of aesthetics what McDonald’s was to the age of convenience or Ford was to the age of mass production…

Tutti sono alla ricerca dell’esperienza straordinaria, del brivido estetico…

… Curmudgeons may grouse about the price of its coffee, but Starbucks isn’t just selling beverages. It’s delivering a multisensory aesthetic experience…

Un caso estremo: il design dei bagni negli hotel di lusso

… Designer bathrooms have become de rigueur in upscale restaurants. Once windowless boxes, new self-storage centers look like antebellum plantation homes or luxury hotels…

Anche la “musica da tappezzeria” è sempre più curata…

… Muzak has dumped its infamous elevator music in favor of recordings by original artists, with programs crafted to produce just the right atmosphere for a customer’s environment…

La composizione delle vetrine è diventata un’arte a sè…

… Trade show booths today emulate theme parks and World’s Fairs, striving to be “immersive environments” rather than mere product displays…

La decorazione d’interni è a livelli mai visti…

… People have always decorated their homes. But the aesthetic quality and variety of home interiors have increased dramatically… In the early 1990s, when Pottery Barn launched its interiors-oriented catalog, American home owners could not buy a wrought-iron curtain rod without hiring an interior designer….

Arte e arredamento hanno rinforzato il loro legame…

… Home-improvement shows are booming on television, offering not just do-it-yourself handyman advice but designers’ aesthetic expertise. Seventy million U.S. households get Home & Garden Television, “the CNN of its niche,”…

La vendita degli oggetti d’arte non ha più luoghi deputati, i venditori stessi si accorgono di avere come clienti meno collezionisti e sempre più gente comune alla ricerca di un brivido estetico…

… Many of the featured artists are well-known modern or contemporary names. Eyestorm, which started as a specialized Web site and branched out into stores, offers limited-edition prints by Damien Hirst at $3,000 each, and a photo of Andy Warhol by Dennis Hopper for $500… Crate and Barrel sells framed reproductions of Mark Rothko paintings for $499…. Customers are “buying for aesthetics, not collecting,” says an Eyestorm executive….

Molti hotel offrono vere e proprie esperienze estetiche…

… Starwood Hotels & Resorts has adopted a strategy of “winning by design.” Its upscale W chain gets the most attention, but the big news is in the midmarket….

Lo stesso dicasi per certi aeroporti

… Airport terminals are remodeling with skylights, panoramic views, art galleys, custom carpeting or terrazzo floors, and high-end shops…

Lo stesso dicasi per alcuni centri commerciali

…  Shopping malls, once designed to be functional and convenient, with little attention to atmosphere, are turning to aesthetics to try to hold customers who might otherwise prefer drive-up “lifestyle centers.”… At the Beverly Center, a twenty-year-old mall in Los Angeles, the new central court features a backlit, three-story “shoji screen” with panels in subtle blues and yellows representing the colors of the California…

Poi  c’è la cura per il look personale. Sul lavoro può fare la differenza…

… research group writes that employees’ looks are no longer simply an advantage to their personal careers but “a highly marketable asset for employers.” The importance of “aesthetic skills” has grown along with lifestyle-oriented service businesses…

In certi casi si assumono solo i belli

… A British boutique hotel chain, for instance, hires only attractive employees (with good personalities)…

Ai poveri si offrono servizi per migliorare il proprio aspetto

… StyleWorks, a New York–based nonprofit group, uses volunteer hairstylists, makeup artists, and image consultants to provide “a fresh new look for a fresh new start” to women moving from welfare to work…

Look e politica

… Good hair, by contrast, is a political asset. Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi’s permed “Lion King” mane boosted his popularity and helped reinforce his image as an iconoclastic reformer…

La bellezza è alla portata di tutti: più che il “belloccio” va il “tipo”…

… While only the genetically blessed can be extraordinary beauties, more and more of us qualify as what historian Arthur Marwick calls “personable”—generally good-looking if we care to be…

Perfino fra gli scrittori conta l’aspetto estetico…

.. Those judgments extend to areas where personal appearance was once considered irrelevant, even unseemly, to call attention to. Authors on both sides of the Atlantic are starting to notice, and sometimes complain, that their looks are almost as important as their writing… Acclaimed young novelist Zadie Smith, author of White Teeth, even underwent a publisher-pleasing makeover, changing her hairstyle and getting rid of her glasses…

Una buna notizia: la definizione di persona bella  si è comunque ampliata.

La cura delle unghie è al suo picco…

… The number of nail salons in the United States has nearly doubled in a decade, while the number of manicurists has tripled…

Ma molti investono anche sulla pelle

… The market for skin-care “beauty therapists”…

I tatuaggi sono tornati alla grande e i con i capelli colorati sono molto diffusi.

Il maschio è coinvolto in pieno nella rivoluzione estetica…

… Since the 1980s, we’ve also experienced what cultural critic Jonathan Rauch dubs the “Buff Revolution.” For the first time in centuries, it has become respectable for people in Anglo-American countries to pay attention to men’s bodies….

Sfuma il confine tra medicina e bellezza

… For both men and women, the boundary between health and beauty, medicine and cosmetics, is melting away…

Il dentista come esteta…

… “The dental profession’s traditional domain, centered around the eradication of disease, now finds itself on the threshold of uncharted territory: the enhancement of appearance,”…

I dermatologi sono in prima linea…

… Dermatologists zap age spots with lasers and prevent acne with drugs….

Dietro ciò che chiamiamo materialismo c’è un’istanza espressiva…

… what Grant McCracken calls “the long-standing anthropological conviction that material culture makes culture material, i.e., that the expressions of a lifestyle are more than mere reflections of it;…

L’ortodossia che identificava l’ornamento con superficialità e decadenza è sfidata a pieno titolo…

… challenging the twentieth-century dogmas that declared ornamentation inherently decadent, corrupt, or manipulative, and markets inherently exploitive…

Nei musei finisce di tutto, dalle stoviglie ai sacchetti della spesa… tutto è stile e segno di un’epoca…

… Academic presses publish works on the history and meaning of dress and of dishes. Art museums are beefing up their design and clothes collections, and scholars are analyzing the culture and history of fashion. Books on the evolution of shopping and store environments, pro and con, are increasingly common…

Nel frattempo la scienza vuole andare all’origine del piacere estetico

… Many natural and social scientists, meanwhile, are increasingly interested in the nature of aesthetic universals… researchers want to understand the biological origins of aesthetic pleasure… Their scholarship challenges the received academic wisdom that tastes are as different as languages…

Intanto, le culture si contagiano, il bello pratico si trasferisce da un contesto all’altro e si trasforma, diventa fuggevole e sconcerta i teoreti…

… As a result, aesthetic elements can spread relatively easily from culture to culture…

C’è chi ancora  parla di simmetria e proporzione

… Psychologists have found patterns of symmetry and proportion, consistency and surprise, that cross cultures and age… Even infants, they’ve discovered, distinguish between attractive and unattractive faces…. good-looking people earn more, report economists, and good looks are at least as important economically for men as for women….

Altri, specie nella musica, segnalano l’importanza dell’alternarsi tra sorpresa e familiarità

… “Musics cross-culturally are very different from one another,” says Denis Dutton, a professor of aesthetics with a particular interest in the relation between biology and art. “But musics depend on sounds, on pitch, on harmonies, on iterations—getting tired of something, being surprised…

Non poteva mancare chi enfatizza il legame tra bellezza e successo riproduttivo

… “Our response to beauty is hard-wired—governed by circuits in the brain shaped by natural selection,” writes psychologist Nancy Etcoff. “We love smooth skin, symmetrical bodies, thick shiny hair, a woman’s curved waist and a man’s sculpted pectorals, because in the course of evolution the people who noticed these signals had more reproductive success…

In poche parole: la società commerciale doveva essere l’epoca dell‘omologazione ed è invece il trionfo della varietà…

… The prophets who forecast a sterile, uniform future were wrong, because they imagined a society shaped by impersonal laws of history and technology, divorced from individuality, pleasure, and imagination…

 

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Puntare sul bello è oggi anche un modo di fare affari

… Earnest Elmo Calkins published an article in The Atlantic Monthly titled “Beauty the New Business Tool.”…

Prima si era molto più prudenti in questo ramo: la migliore sorpresa per il cliente è non sorprenderlo…

“The best surprise is no surprise,” the slogan Holiday Inn adopted in 1975, summed up several decades of economic progress. Americans were more concerned with avoiding below-par experiences than achieving unique or extraordinary ones…. Even in the stylistically exuberant period that Hine dubs the decade of “Populuxe,” from 1954 to 1964, aesthetics was most important for textile-based fashions…

Il bello non è un lusso: non di solo pane vive l’uomo…

… Aesthetics is not a luxury, but a universal human desire. Those anticapitalists who criticize markets for luring consumers into wanting more than their basic needs, and those capitalists who scoff at aesthetics for detracting from serious work, are missing a fundamental fact of human nature…

Ma soprattutto: non esiste uno standard a cui adeguarsi, viviamo in un’estetica fluida

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Ma quanto vale il bello in termini economici? Difficile dirlo…

… it’s hard to measure the value of aesthetics, even in a straightforward business context….

Però delle indicazioni ci sono, prendiamo il caso di Motorola

… Organisms can influence the trajectory of evolution through their active choices… We know that people generally don’t want something that’s otherwise worthless just because it comes in a pretty package and, conversely, that valuable goods and services are worth even more in attractive wrappings… In the early 1990s, Motorola came out with an updated version of its most popular pager. The new version had enhanced features, but what really made it special was the pager’s colorful face… squirt-gun green plastic, which actually cost us nothing, could get us fifteen bucks extra per unit.”… Paying more for green plastic is stupid, and only a dupe would do it. Function, not form, creates legitimate value…

Insomma: il pubblico paga anche per un pezzo di plastica inutile che costa pochissimo.

Per i critici il bello seduce nel senso deteriore del termine, e facilita l’opera agli avidi venditori…

… To such critics, form is dangerously seductive, because it allows the sensory to override the rational. An appealing package can make you believe that Nazis are good, or that colas are distinguishable. The very power of aesthetics makes its value suspect. “In advertising, packaging, product design, and corporate identity, the power of provocative surfaces speaks to the eye’s mind, overshadowing matters of quality or substance,” writes Stuart Ewen…

L’enfasi sulla cosmesi denuncia la falsità del capitalismo. Daniel Bell…

… Sociologist Daniel Bell, in the twentieth-anniversary edition of his influential book The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism, points to the prominence of cosmetic… the pervasive falsehood oiling “the machinery of gratification and instant desire” that is contemporary capitalism. Women’s fashion and fashion photography exemplify for Bell the same falsehood as advertising: “this task of selling illusions, the persuasions of the witches’ craft,”…

Se il capitalismo nasce da una mentalità puritana, mai come oggi la contraddice…

… contradictions that will ultimately bring down capitalism by eroding its Puritan foundation…

Qualcuno ricorderà l’espressione “edonismo reaganiano“…

… “The world of hedonism,” he writes, “is the world of fashion, photography, advertising, television, travel. It is a world of make-believe.”…

Già per Adorno e compagni, tanto per spostarci sul fronte opposto dello spettro politico, l’arte capitalista è essenzialmente arte dell’inganno

… Frankfurt School Marxists Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer put it in an influential 1944 essay. In commercial products at least, such critics see ornament and variety not as goods that we value for their own sakes but as tools for creating false desire. Where the gullible public finds pleasure and meaning, the expert observer perceives deception… “That the difference between the Chrysler range and General Motors products is basically illusory strikes every child with a keen interest in varieties,” declare Adorno and Horkheimer….

Ma Francoforte e Adorno sono la solita miniera di ipotesi inverificabili…

… The claim is unfalsifiable, since the more we try to proclaim the real value we attach to look and feel, the more we demonstrate just how duped we are…

La polemica sulle presentazioni in Powerpoint

… Scott McNealy of Sun Microsystems, who declared PowerPoint presentations wasteful because they consume more computer memory than handwritten slides…

Nei critici della società commerciale due idee si uniscono in matrimonio: 1) piramide di Maslov (esiste una gradualità dei bisogni) 2) puritanesimo (il lusso è spreco)…

… This reasoning combines the oversimplified Maslovian idea, “aesthetics is a luxury,” with a puritanical conviction that luxury is waste…

Lo squallore estetico delle Chiese Evangeliche è proverbiale…

… A conservative minister worries that evangelical churches, in their efforts to attract and hold members, have sacrificed the substance of preaching and prayer for mere spectacle… There is a sensory feast but a famine of hearing…

Una mentalità del genere è incompatibile con il bello…

… This critique reflects the widespread fear that surface and substance cannot coexist, that artifice inevitably detracts from truth…

Spostiamoci sul cinema: per molti critici austeri l’effetto speciale è di per sè  incompatibile con la ricerca estetica…

… One sign of the “age of falsification,” writes a critic, is “the blockbuster movie in which story line and plausibility are sacrificed to digital effects and Dolby Sound.”…

Persino il semplice trucco della persona mette a repentaglio la nostra identità…

… Even worse, we fear, the aesthetic imperative is disguising who we really are. From Loos to Bell, and for centuries before them, critics of ornament have aimed some of their sharpest attacks at bodily decoration…

Il culto dell’ “acqua e sapone”  ha le medesime radici…

… In the seventeenth century, writers and preachers warned against women’s makeup, which “takes the pencill out of God’s hand,” defying nature and divine will. “What a contempt of God is this, to preferre the worke of thine owne finger to the worke of God?” exclaimed one writer condemning cosmetics….

La battaglia per i diritti della bruttezza è da sempre una prerogativa del femminismo radicale

… In The Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf advocates “civil rights for women that will entitle a woman to say that she’d rather look like herself than some ‘beautiful’ young stranger.” Wolf praises the “female identity” affirmed by women who refuse to alter their appearance with makeup, hair dye, or cosmetic surgery: “a woman’s determination to show her loyalty—in the face of a beauty myth as powerful as myths about white supremacy—to her age, her shape, her self, her life.” Except those born with exceptional natural beauty, authenticity and aesthetics are, in this vision, inevitably at odds. Remaining true to oneself means eschewing artifice…

Ma il nostro istinto ci dice altro: il bello è importante ed è giusto ricercarlo, non dobbiamo sentirci in colpa quando lo facciamo…

… Viscerally, if not intellectually, we’re convinced that style does matter, that look and feel add something important to our lives. We ignore the preachers and behave as if aesthetics does have real value. We cherish streamlined artifacts, unconcerned that they do not really move through space. We find spiritual uplift in pageantry and music. We prefer PowerPoint typefaces and color to plain, handwritten transparencies. We define our real selves as the ones wearing makeup and high heels…

Ma lo stile è anche un segnale importante: “se non sai vestirti, allora…”…

… English professor who advises aspiring humanities scholars on their appearance and manners. Still, she warns that the wrong clothes can be catastrophic: “If you don’t know how to dress, then what else don’t you know? Do you know how to advise students or grade papers? The clothes are part of the judgment of the mind.”…

Hillary Rodham Clinton scoprì ben presto quanto contava la sua pettinatura per le persone comuni…

… “The most important thing that I have to say today is that hair matters,” she said. “This is a life lesson my family did not teach me, Wellesley and Yale failed to instill in me: the importance of your hair. Your hair will send very important messages to those around you… Beneath the humor is a sense of betrayal. Why are you so obsessed with my hair? Why won’t you take me seriously? It wasn’t supposed to be this way, not for ambitious public women. Hair is just surface stuff…. The joke simultaneously expresses three contradictory beliefs: that appearance matters and should be given due attention (the unironic reading); that appearance shouldn’t matter (the ironic reading); and that appearance matters for its own aesthetic pleasures rather than for any message it sends (“what hopes and dreams you have for your hair”)….

Anche quando l’importanza del bello è riconosciuta, come in questo caso, non è mai riconosciuta in quanto tale: per molti la bellezza e lo stile non sono altro che segnali dello status. Il caso di Robert Frank è esemplare…

… What is the substance of surface?   When they aren’t denouncing surfaces as lies and illusion, cultural critics typically have one explanation for why we devote time, attention, and, most of all, money to aesthetics: It’s all about status… When they aren’t denouncing surfaces as lies and illusion, cultural critics typically have one explanation for why we devote time, attention, and, most of all, money to aesthetics: It’s all about status… In Luxury Fever, a self-described “book about waste,” economist Robert Frank treats the aesthetic ratchet effect as entirely status-driven. We want ever-more appealing things because our neighbors have them

È solo un altro modo per degradare il bisogno estetico. Ricerca del bello = spreco di risorse.

Nel mondo di Frank il piacere estetico non esiste, come in fondo non esiste la prosperità: una volta soddisfatti i bisogni primari tutto il resto è spreco, inganno, o strumento per altri fini…

… in Frank’s world, finding out that our neighbors are enjoying some new luxury functions only as a competitive spur, not as information about what’s possible. We aren’t happy for the neighbors. We don’t want to share the same pleasures… Larger, better appointed homes are not, in this view, an enjoyable effect of prosperity but the outcome of a race…

Per Frank il nostro interesse per la bellezza è falso

… The argument depends on the conviction that we do not want those expensive shoes or large homes because of any intrinsic qualities. Frank assumes that we do not value the luxuries themselves—the soft leather of the shoes, the smooth granite countertop, the sculptural lines of the car, the drape and fit of the jacket—but just want to stand out, or at least not look bad, compared to other people. He also imagines only rivalry, not identification… Not surprisingly, he sees aesthetic competition as almost entirely wasteful…

Chi pensa come Frank arriva ad una conclusione obbligatoria: tutti in divisa e staremo meglio.

Per Frank e compagnia conta solo prezzo e utilità

… Frank thinks it’s just a matter of status-oriented one-upmanship, focused almost entirely on how much things cost…

La sovietizzazione delle forme esistenti è l’esito naturale di chi pensa in questo paradigma. Basta un esperimento mentale per scoprire che è così…

… What if every product came in a plain black-and-white box—but one company invested in graphics and color? What if everyone wore drab Mao suits—but one person dressed with color, tailoring, and flair? People would, of course, be drawn to the aesthetic deviant, even though that nonconformity might well offend the reigning status hierarchy. This thought experiment suggests something at work besides status and one-upmanship…

L’alternativa consiste nell’attribuire un valore intrinseco al piacere estetico…

… Sensory pleasure works to commercial and personal advantage because aesthetics has intrinsic value… Sensory pleasure works to commercial and personal advantage because aesthetics has intrinsic value…. If you show up for an interview in a custom-tailored suit only to find your prospective boss wearing khakis and a polo shirt, the mismatch in aesthetic identities will cancel out any imagined status gains… Status competition is part of human life, of course. But cultural analysts like Frank are so determined to see status as the only possible value, and money as the only source of status, that they often ignore the very evidence they cite….

Naturalmente le conclusioni ciniche di Frank cozzano con le dichiarazioni dei protagonisti, ma fa niente. Il caso delle stufe di lusso

… Frank writes that “the status symbol of the 1990s has been the restaurant stove.”…To bolster his argument, he quotes a woman who owns a $7,000 stove, despite rarely cooking at home… Does she say she wanted to stand out from the crowd? No, she describes the stove as a work of art… work of art… quotation demonstrates the opposite of what Frank maintains…

Altri autori seguono altre strade pur di non dare dignità al piacere per il bello: noi ci circonderemmo di oggetti belli per sentirci ricchi

… Even analysts who do not view luxury goods as waste do not necessarily credit the goods’ intrinsic sensory appeal. In Living It Up, a mostly sympathetic analysis of what he calls “opuluxe,” James Twitchell examines the spread of luxury goods, which he describes as “objects as rich in meaning as they are low in utility.”… Anyone can buy into the signs of wealth, so “making it” is no longer a matter of joining a socially exclusive club…

Per questi autori contano solo funzione e significato del bello, il bello in sè non esiste…

… The status critique does not actually say luxury is meaningless… The status critique sees only two possible sources of value: function and meaning; and it reduces meaning to a single idea: “I’m better than you.” It denies the existence or importance of aesthetic pleasure and the many meanings and associations that can flow from that pleasure…

La moda diventa un demone, anzi, la dimostrazione incarnata delle  teorie sul trionfo della vanità…

… If surfaces are “trivial stuff,” surfaces that change for no good reason are even less worthy. Hence, those who see aesthetics as “illusion” and “make-believe” are particularly vitriolic toward fashion….

Se i telefoni non sono ancora tutti grigi è perchè sotto c’è una frode…

… “Typewriters and telephones came out in a wide range of colors in 1956, presumably to make owners dissatisfied with their plain old black models,” sniffed the influential social critic Vance Packard in his 1957 book The Hidden Persuaders. Nearly a half century later, many people still imagine that the world works the way Packard portrayed it…

Il concetto è quello di obsolescenza calcolata

… Today an engineer similarly condemns the latest iMac for using behind-the-curve chips and mocks buyers who’ve “been seduced by the case plastic”…

Ma forse la moda esiste perchè il piacere per il bello è reale e varia nel tempo.

Del resto la moda è imprevedibile anche per i protagonisti stessi, se presi individualmente…

… The fashion process is not mechanical but contingent; which changes will fit the moment depends on a host of unarticulated desires and unnoticed influences, making shifts hard to predict. A fashion writer refers to “fashion’s X-factor, the unknown quantity that makes an item seem hot to a consumer…

I fallimenti di chi vorrebbe imporre una moda, poi, sono innumerevoli…

… The sales racks are full of aesthetic experiments that failed to capture the public imagination, and every such item is an argument against the notion that authorities can dictate style…

La moda, del resto, esisteva anche 800 anni fa, e riguarda anche beni non commerciabili come i nomi di persona

… We find fashion patterns in goods for which there is no commercial market. Historian Anne Hollander notes that fashion in clothing has existed for eight hundred years, centuries longer than the apparel business. “The shifty character of what looks right is not new, and was never a thing deliberately created to impose male will on females, or capitalist will on the population, or designers’ will on public taste,” she writes. “Long before the days of industrialized fashion, stylistic motion in Western dress was enjoying a profound emotional importance, giving a dynamically poetic visual cast to people’s lives, and making Western fashion hugely compelling all over the world.” Pleasure, not manipulation, drives changes in look and feel… Sociologist Stanley Lieberson has studied how tastes in children’s names change over time. Nobody runs ads to convince parents to choose Emily or Joshua for their newborns. No magazine editors authoritatively dictate that “Ryan is the new Michael.” But names still shift according to fashion. Name choices, like clothing choices, are influenced by the desire to be different but not too different…

Forse è il caso di approfondire come si sceglie un nome di persona per il proprio figlio appena nato…

… Contrary to common assumptions about how fashion works, Lieberson finds that names don’t trickle down in a simple way from high-income, well-educated parents to lower-income, less-educated parents. Newly popular names tend to catch on with everyone at about the same time. External influences, such as the names of celebrities or fictional characters, do play a role in what’s popular. But cause and effect are complicated. Fictional characters don’t just publicize possible names; their creators, like new parents, select those names from the current milieu… And whether a famous name spreads partly depends on internal, purely aesthetic factors…. Harrison Ford, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Wesley Snipes are all action stars, but their stardom hasn’t translated into millions of little Harrisons, Arnolds, or Wesleys—in part because their names just don’t sound all that appealing… Whether for names or clothes, fashion reflects the primacy of individual taste over inherited custom. The freer people feel to choose names they like, rather than, say, names of relatives or saints, the more rapidly baby names go through fashion cycles. As Hollander observes, “Fashion has its own manifest virtue, not unconnected with the virtues of individual freedom and uncensored imagination that still underlie democratic ideals.”…

Molto istruttivo: la bellezza pura sembrerebbe avere un ruolo primario.

Ma per alcuni critici la bellezza non può mutare: solo ciò che si presenta come statico è autentico…

… This dynamic perturbs critics. Static, customary forms, they suggest, are more authentic. Thus Daniel Bell worries about the rise of syncretism, “the jumbling of styles in modern art… Ewen, again equating style with illusion, writes that “modern style speaks to a world where change is the rule of the day, where one’s place in the social order is a matter of perception, the product of diligently assembled illusions.”… The old “symbols of perpetuity” were in fact products of a traditional, fairly static social order….

Chi vede le cose in questo modo trascura il dinamismo che una ricerca implica

… This analysis scorns the search for individual satisfaction and self-definition…

Si badi bene che la differenza non è tra relativismo e oggettivismo ma tra ricerca del bello (che puó essere concepito come oggettivo) e possesso del bello. Dinamismo e oggettivismo possono convivere.

Ma chi si concentra su una visione del bello come possesso, come valore eterno che non muta nei tempi? Ovviamente chi crede di possederlo. Facciamo il caso della famiglia di alto lignaggio

… These goods demonstrated inherited social position; only a family that had maintained wealth and rank over generations would possess homes, portraits, furnishings, or silverware with the patina of age. You could show off your grandfather’s portrait or your great-grandmother’s silver only if your family was in fact one of long-standing status…

L’aura è essenziale per chi crede nella bellezza immutabile e ben identificata…

… Surface patina demonstrated social substance. As anthropologist Grant McCracken notes, “The patina of an object allows it to serve as the medium for a vitally important status message…

La società commerciale, pur non impedendo ai tradizionalisti di seguire la loro strada, guarda anche alla persona qualsiasi, dà una chance a tutti…

… ephemeral nineteenth-century merchandise that Ewen condemns spread new aesthetic pleasures to people of limited means…

Del resto l’ossessione per la moda è quasi sempre esagerata in funzione di una condanna…

… Such critics exaggerated both year-to-year fashion shifts and the response of consumers; as we know from survey data, families with moderate incomes did not own large or frequently changing wardrobes…

Se in passato il fenomeno era meno appariscente lo dobbiamo alla povertà di mezzi per soddisfare certi desideri. Il caso di Cenerentola è sintomatico…

… We do not know, of course, that traditional peasant women experienced no such pangs. Folktales like “Cinderella” suggest that they did…

La moda è anche e soprattutto un modo per esprimere la nostra interiorità…

… How we deal with fashion’s flux suggests something about our inner life. Can we enjoy its pleasures, using them to create an aesthetic identity that reflects who we are, including what we enjoy?…

Ma noi continuiamo a bollare tutto questo come superficialità (la Sara in questo senso è una povera vittima)…

… From well-intended mothers to scathing social commentators, authorities tell us that surfaces are “meaningless.” That might be true if they meant that the value of aesthetics lies in its own pleasures, not in what it says about something else. But that’s not at all what they intend. Authorities call aesthetics “meaningless” to suggest that it is worthless and unimportant, that it doesn’t matter…

Accettare l’esistenza del “bello per il bello” manderebbe a posto molte tessere del puzzle…

… The challenge is to learn to accept that aesthetic pleasure is an autonomous good, not the highest or the best but one of many plural, sometimes conflicting, and frequently unconnected sources of value…

Ma bello e buono vanno insieme? Abbiamo mille evidenze che non sempre è così…

… A bad person can be beautiful or create beautiful things. A good person can be ugly or make bad art. Goodness does not create or equal beauty. The problem with Leni Riefenstahl’s films is not that they’re aesthetically powerful—that achievement is, considered in isolation, valuable…  Beauty is not a moral defense, merely an autonomous value…

Esempio famoso…

Riefenstahl’s artistic achievements, and her images, are permanently polluted by the cause she served… Aesthetics is not a psychological superweapon…

C’è persino chi ha fatto notare la bellezza dell’attentato alle due torri

…  When terrorists slammed two passenger jets into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, Michael Bierut had his own moment of Nazis-to-Pepsi self-doubt. He was in London and returned home to Manhattan a few days after the attack. “As a designer,” he wrote me, “I am still reeling from the images of 9/11.” The act had been horrifying, but the images it created could not have been better designed…

Se tra i due valori c’è un legame è molto tenue, meglio non affidargli funzioni che non potrebbe svolgere…

… If an event so awful could look so vivid, even beautiful in a purely formal sense, how could we trust aesthetic pleasure?…

Altre volte accade il contrario: ci sono pubblicità meravigliose di prodotti insignificanti…

… The attack, wrote Bierut, “makes me think about all the times I’ve worked on purposeless assignments and put meaningless content into beautiful packages… Bierut had forgotten the meaning and value of his work, falling into the puritanical mind-set that denies the value of aesthetic pleasure and seeks always to link it with evil….

Anche qui: basterebbe svincolare il bello dal buono e molti conti tornerebbero.

Come se non bastasse, totalitarismo e bello sembrano avere un rapporto privilegiato…

… “One of the signatures of any repressive regime,” he wrote the following day, “is their need to control not just meaningful differences—the voices of dissent, for instance—but ostensibly ‘meaningless’ ones as well, like dress. It will take some time for people to realize that creating the difference between Coke and Pepsi is not just an empty pastime but one of many signs of life in a free society.” The Afghan women who risked the Taliban’s prisons to paint their faces and style their hair in underground beauty shops, and who celebrated the liberation of Kabul by coloring their nails with once-forbidden polish, would agree…

 

****

Siamo creature sociali e il nostro aspetto ci serve per comunicare la nostra identità in un contesto culturale…

… or the many South Asian immigrants in this high-tech suburb, the clothes convey an added meaning: I am one of us, not one of them. Human beings are not only visual, tactile creatures. We are also social, cognitive … We use form to communicate, and we infer meaning from familiar aesthetic elements.

Il piacere estetico ha un ancoraggio biologico ma il significato culturale che esprime no…

… aesthetic pleasure generally operates within a range of responses set by biological universals. Meaning has no such anchor… To a Christian in the late Middle Ages, blue was the color of the Virgin Mary… Nowadays, the sight of Gothic revival buildings suggests higher education, with no particular reference to medieval ideals… Something similar is happening with the revival and spread of dreadlocks…

Con il nostro look ci distinguiamo, ci diamo un’identità…

… Identity is the meaning of surface. Before we say anything with words, we declare ourselves through look and feel: Here I am. I’m like this. I’m not like that. I associate with these others. I don’t associate with those… Here I am. I’m like this. I’m not like that. I associate with these others. I don’t…

La scelta estetica soddisfa sia un’esigenza sociale che una personale: identificarsi e realizzarsi sono tutt’uno…

… Aesthetic identity is both personal and social, an expression both of who we are and with whom we want, or expect, to be grouped… you’ll tend to attract the like-minded while alienating those who disagree… The job of graphic design “is to make something that distinguishes itself when you see it in context,” says Stephen Doyle… A graphic identity, says Doyle, “is like a personality…

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In quest’epoca, dove per la prima volta a tutti è concessa l’esperienza del bello, l’intolleranza estetica è cresciuta. Lo vediamo nei piani regolatori trasformati in liste di divieti che riguardano forme e colori “poco rispettosi” delle facciate delle case. La soluzione: rimpicciolire l’area regolamentata in modo da avere più varietà. Ma soprattutto una considerazione: è proprio questa accresciuta sensibilità che dovrebbe rassicurarci sui potenziali danni estetici.

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