Existential aesthetics deals with the aesthetic experience in the creation of a work of art and in its contemplation. But it is also a specifically human characteristic, a crucial component of many other situations, especially new situations that arise in life.
The existential aesthetic was considered by Oteiza as the culmination of the process of forming aesthetic sensibility in art.
He defined the work of the artist as that of a researcher in his laboratory. The task of the investigation would not be so much to produce works of art, but to experiment with its diverse possibilities or variants, forming families or experimental series.
But the ultimate goal of art, in that interaction between visual material and emotional state, would be to reconstruct itself as human, while the artist constructed his artistic work. Therefore, the ultimate goal of any responsible artist would be to acquire the experience of facing the new, through an instinctive and free, imaginative behavior, loaded with meaning: of hope. And prepare to give others that experience, share it, socialize it.
He applied himself to that principle. He worked for years in what he called his “chalk laboratory” on small format sculptures (chalk, wire and tin cuts); and when his research culminated with the vacating of space, he abandoned sculpture to offer himself in projects of aesthetic education from childhood.
When I say that he applied himself to that principle, I mean that he applied it to his own life. A style of vital performance, fast, safe and instinctive.
But Oteiza had to pay a high price for his disposition towards others. After spending half his life on the edge of misery, supported by a few friends, he received international recognition and with it, fame as a sculptor. Then he believed that the time had come to fulfill his dream of sharing what he had learned with others. And he found that no one was interested in his ideas, beyond listening to him fascinated for a while.
His spontaneity was a spectacle for others. But any show lasts a while and then all return to their usual occupations. It was the 60s-70s. The revolution was done in the spring, but thinking about the summer.
For such a lack of response he was never prepared. He endured in his youth the lack of means for himself, but could not bear the lack of means to reach others. He died at 95 years of age without managing to overcome that disappointment.
Pragnanz, the foundation of existential aesthetics
Find the invisible under the obvious: that is pragnanz. It is not an objective quality nor is it subjective. It is both at the same time. Result of the existing connection between an object and the subject that interacts with it. From the side of the object is something that exists in it but remains invisible or is a possibility that has not yet been realized. From the side of the subject (whether artist or observer) is the sensitivity to perceive what is hidden under the obvious. Children are born with that sensitivity. J. M. Barrie, creator of Peter Pan, said: “children are born knowing how to fly”. Artists are the ones who do not lose that capacity when they grow up and develop it by creating works of art.
Beyond art, in real life, pragnanz is found in all areas of life. For example, stereotypes (on horseback of words) simplify situations, reducing them to a few common and easily recognizable features. But in real life we must face unique unrepeatable situations. Connections that occur only once. The pragnanz of a situation is what allows us to discover its unique character, in its multiple connections with its environment, with other real or possible situations and with myself.
Such connections occur, especially in the course of time. That is why they are invisible, because they have not yet happened and may not happen; or maybe yes. That is why it is important to perceive those aspects for which each situation is pregnant from the future.
The other connotation of pragnanz (pregnancy) refers to the subject’s commitment to the situation in which he finds himself. The artist is impregnated – he is pringy – in the situation, like a painter is pringa paint, while impregnating the canvas with paint. Commit, get involved, impregnate, pringarse, are synonymous. It is the way in which the subject is related in a situation characterized by its pregnancy.
The image that best symbolizes the idea of existential aesthetics and its pragnanz, advocated by Oteiza, is what he expressed in his representation of the apostles of Arantzazu: that we are shown open in the channel and emptied to give ourselves to others.
Go to Sanctuary of Arantzazu
Go to Jorge Oteiza