The Urban Dictionary guide to Aesthetic Properties

The website Urban Dictionary describes itself as “a veritable cornucopia of streetwise lingo, posted and defined by its readers.” In this post I’ve taken a number of aesthetic properties that are regularly listed in journal articles on aesthetics and fed them into Urban Dictionary to see how well they translate into street talk.

There are some regular terms that may be employed for the purposes of approbation or condemnation. Cool, awesome, stonking and dope are generally terms of praise. Something particularly superlative may be referred to as the sh*t. On the other hand crap, shite, bollocks, and pants generally refer to things at the other end of the scale.

Here are some very rough translations of some familiar aesthetic terms…

Amusing: the object of amusement is typically followed in the online world by lol or roflol.
Angry: mad or pissed (sometimes prefixed by insanely- or crazy-).
Beautiful: often used in relation to physical attractiveness (associated terms include: fit, foxy and hottie). Stunning, amazing, and perfection may be applied more generally.
Bold: ballsy, cocky, shameless.
Boring: lame.
Bouncy: banging (when applied to music though this term can also just be used to refer to something as good).
Comely: cute, gorgeous, stunning, hot.
Cool: chilled.
Dainty: sweet or petite. May be prissy.
Daring: gutsy, ballsy.
Delicate: precious.
Distorted: fuzzy, messed up, twisted.
Elegant: often used in relation to fashion (e.g. sophisticated, stylish, classy).
Garish: tacky, showy, overdone, bling.
Graceful: charming, classy.
Handsome: hottie, stud, buff, fit.
Lifeless: boring, dull, sad, braindead.
Lovely: adorable, delicious, a cutie.
Original: fresh, clever.
Powerful: awesome, amazing, a beast, intense, epic.
Pretty: cute, adorable.
Pure: clean.
Realistic: gritty (“X is a film depicting the gritty realism of life in the New York suburbs”).
Sad: emo.
Sentimental: mushy or sappy may be used to give a negative connotation.
Serene: chilled.
Sluggish: stupid, retarded.
Sombre: dark, depressing, emo.
Sublime: awesome, stunning.
Tragic: awful, terrible, tradge. May be used to refer to a fashion victim.
Trite: common.
Ugly: gross, disgusting (and many other terms that probably shouldn’t be repeated here.)

If you have any further suggestions to be added to the list feel free to write them in the comments section below.

Related articles:
The Structure of Aesthetic Properties
By Rafael De Clercq , Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
(Vol. 3, July 2008)
Philosophy Compass

Cinematic Narration and Inception

If you haven’t seen Inception, the latest movie spectacle written, produced and directed by Christopher Nolan, then find the largest cinema screen that you can, book your ticket, and read this blog entry after you’ve watched it because I’d hate to spoil the plot. If you’re still reading I’ll assume you’ve seen this visual extravaganza that tells the story of a team of individuals who are enlisted to plant an idea in the mind of the heir to a gargantuan business empire. The film tracks the team as they collectively make their way through different layers of the sub-conscious, battling various sub-conscious defense mechanisms, and adapting to radical changes in physical laws amongst other conditions that also helpfully make room for some stunning visual effects.

In Inception the plot is split amongst several layers of the subconscious and the deeper the characters go into the subconscious the quicker the experience of time. For example five minutes of real-time asleep may be experienced in a subconscious state as an hour of elapsed time. In our own cinema experience we are in the theatre for a couple of hours and yet somehow we can track days, months, and even years of narrative time (and in the case of Inception we can even track nested temporal orders). Just how we accomplish this is one question in the philosophy of film. Continue reading “Cinematic Narration and Inception”

The Beauty of Distance in Kant’s aesthetics

I was lucky enough to have recently visited the 17th Biennale of Sydney with this year’s theme THE BEAUTY OF DISTANCE: Songs of Survival in a Precarious Age. One aspect of the theme is the intention to consider the distance between Australia and other major countries in a positive light by comparing it with the notion of distance that has been held central to the experience of beauty in traditional aesthetic theory. This is exemplified by the notion of disinterestedness in Kant’s theory of the beautiful described in The Critique of the Power of Judgment (1790).

Finnish film and photography artist Salla Tykkä explores the relationship between the colour white and beauty in two films presented at the biennale: Victoria which shows the life cycle of a giant water lily and Airs Above the Ground which records the training of magnificent Lipizzaner stallions. Her investigation is inspired by the aesthetic theory of Victorian artist John Ruskin. Continue reading “The Beauty of Distance in Kant’s aesthetics”

Beckett: Seeing Red on Stage

The major winner at the Tony Awards this year was Red, a biographical play about abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko, with six wins including the award for best play. The action surrounds Rothko’s commission for paintings to be hung in the Four Seasons restaurant in New York. While Rothko did complete the paintings he ultimately refused to hand over the works after taking exception to how pretentious the restaurant was. He returned the commission money, derided the restaurant, and the paintings are instead on display in various other galleries. Recently the Four Seasons got in contact with the Red production team and requested for some of the paintings created during the show’s performances to be displayed in the restaurant. The request was denied to the bewilderment of the restaurant. A spokesperson from representatives of the Rothko estate thought it would be quite bizarre when “an almost-completed-but-fake painting is hung in the place where the artist decided he was not going to let the real painting hang.”

Another artist whose wishes have been respected from beyond the grave, though with much greater determination, is playwright Samuel Beckett. Continue reading “Beckett: Seeing Red on Stage”

Shaun Greenhalgh: Master Forger

In January and February of this year the Victoria and Albert Museum ran the Metropolitan Police Service’s Investigation of Fakes and Forgeries exhibition that showcased around 100 forged paintings and sculptures. The most infamous works on the display were those of Shaun Greenhalgh who is currently serving a four year eight month prison sentence for forging works over a 17 year period from 1989 to 2006. Among the many works that Greenhalgh created and sold was a small alabaster statue named the Armana Princess which was sold for £440,000 to the Bolton Museum. The museum believed the statue to be an authentic Egyptian art piece from the reign of Akhenaten (ca. 1352-1336 BC). Another prominent fake is The Faun (pictured above) which was attributed to Gauguin and purchased by the Art Institute of Chicago from a private dealer who also believed the piece to be authentic. Continue reading “Shaun Greenhalgh: Master Forger”

Defining Beauty: Dürer and Hume

“Defining Beauty: Albrecht Dürer at the Morgan” is a new exhibition currently being held at The Morgan Library and Museum. On display are drawings, prints and illustrated books which showcase the development of Dürer’s artistic style. Works include the engravings Adam and Eve (1504) and Melencolia I (1514) as well as a copy of Dürer’s “Four Books on Human Proportion” (1532-1534).

Dürer thought that he had attained artistic perfection with a number of his works. In a letter to a patron for whom Dürer had created a woodcut he says “Please let it be as it is. No one could improve it because it was done artistically and with care. Those who see it and who understand such matters will tell you so.” Dürer obviously considered himself to be a fine judge of the beautiful even though he could not explain what it was in particular that made an artwork beautiful. In another quote he says “What beauty is, I know not, though it adheres to many things.”

Two centuries later the philosopher David Hume was similarly interested in judgments of beauty. In his 1757 essay “Of the Standard of Taste” Hume investigates whether objective judgments of taste are possible and also how these judgments might be justified. Continue reading “Defining Beauty: Dürer and Hume”

‘Best Worst Movie’: So Bad it’s Good?

“Best Worst Movie” is a new documentary about one of the worst movies ever made: Troll 2. This particular 1990 movie has achieved cult status due in large part to the qualities that cause it to rate as one of the worst films ever produced. The movie review website Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 0% freshness rating (a rating that indicates terrible reviews across the board).

In a recent New York Times article documentary director Michael Paul Stephenson, who was 10 years old when he starred in Troll 2, claims that the cult following of the movie shows that despite the bad reviews the film is valued. Stephenson acknowledges that as a movie it was a complete failure “The acting – we were horrible. The directing, the writing, special effects. But it did not fail to leave an impression.” He also acknowledges that the movie doesn’t live up to its narrative or aesthetic goals. Nevertheless “Twenty years later you have hundreds of kids coming to a theatre to have a shared communal experience. How many films, really, would kill for something like that?”

The director of Troll 2, Claudio Fragasso has a different view of the quality of the movie. Fragasso claims that “In Italy you need to die before people can really admit that your movie was good. In America people can change their mind and then appreciate the movie.”

So how do we make sense of these differing interpretations of the movie? Continue reading “‘Best Worst Movie’: So Bad it’s Good?”

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