At some time during the process of organising an event I’ll usually go through a, ‘Why am I doing this moment?’. The Hub Westminster art installation was no exception.
Why to put on an exhibition. Is it just a sense of showing off; or sharing something that we think has value? What’s the value in it for me?
Joop Doorman. Of Erasmus University, Rotterdam, says, ‘the most special part of human beings is the ability to create values. Values don’t fall out of the sky. They aren’t given to us. We don’t find then in nature. We create them ourselves.’
My own belief in the value of aesthetics is that they are functional. This belief, or theory, developed years ago when I lived in various areas around Prague, in the Czech Republic. I noticed that the differences in how I felt about life were somewhat affected by where I was staying. Walking along a beautiful, rambling, cobblestone street in the Old Town, like something Hollywood would create to make a Brothers Grimm tale, sitting in a cafe set in a stunning Baroque building, put more of a smile on my face than when I stayed with friends in the concrete housing blocks built be the communists. The function displayed by the aesthetics was the effect they had on my mood and subsequently my perception of the world.
Little did I know that contemplation on this subjective is nothing new. Immanuel Kant in his book, Observation on the feeling of the beautiful and the sublime (1764) explores the idea of the effects of aesthetics on our emotions, and consequently on our rationalisation of the world around us.
This coupled with the value of sharing, we are, of course, social creatures, has given me the beginnings of insight into why we put on events.
David Erdal’s PhD Thesis on Counter-Dominance culture and egalitarianism(), in which he proposes that the ‘evolved’ human trait of sharing in hunter gather societies reduced risk and promoted well-being, and puts forward the idea that sharing is, or has become, pleasurable, not just pragmatic. Whichever it is, this value of sharing may, at least in part, explain why I went to all the trouble of putting on this event.
Conversely, the showing off theory has its supporters too. Hillard Kaplan and Kim Hill (1985) argued that good hunters, consequently bringing more to share, obtained more mating opportunities. I’ll leave it to the reader to draw their own conclusions.
But could this mean that by sharing something that we consider valuable with others means that in some way we hope to be more important to our society? I can live with that.
KANT, Immanuel. 2011. Observation on the Feeling of the Beautiful and the Sublime (1764). Cambridge: University Press
ERDAL, David Edward. 2000. The Psychology of Sharing. An Evolutionary Approach. Available at: https://research-repository.st-andrews.ac.uk/handle/10023/2656
KAPLAN, Hillard and HILL, Kim. 1985. Hunting Ability and Reproductive Success Among Male Ache Foragers. Department of anthropology, University of Utah.