aesthetics

Aesthetics

The two screens facing me side by side at the sports bar are showing hockey and figure skating, respectively, in parallel. Both, obviously, feature ice skating and scoring points. But other than that, they couldn’t be more different sports.

In fact, I’d question the calling of figure skating a sport. There’s an appealing aesthetic to both movements I see on both screens, but only one of them is actually being scored on the beauty of the movements as well as the difficulty of the execution of same.

Costume differences aside (sexist, if you look at both the male and female requirements of such in figure skating), the hockey is aesthetically pleasing because of the concision and focus of the moves involved. Also if you happen to enjoy watching combative arts—the fights involved in hockey have a particular aesthetic appeal. But the points scored in hockey (and dings on the teams) have everything to do with getting the puck in the opposing team’s net. The spareness and quickness and speed and difficulty level of the moves in hockey that are so pleasing to the eye are all focused on this. (Well I mean maybe the fights aren’t that focused on that one goal, but. You get my point.)

The figure skaters also get points, though they’re competing solo. A big part of how they score points is on their difficulty level and array of big trick moves of various kinds, whether they execute them correctly, land on their feet not their asses out of them, etc. But another good sized chunk of how they score points is how beautifully they skate.

What does that mean, though? It’s not only technical prowess—the judges are looking for certain requirements done technically correctly, sure, but doing them *well*? That’s a whole ‘nother monster.

Many people, when interrogating me on my current profession, ask how I can grade all these kids on their artistic works, when they’re still learning and young and isn’t it all subjective anyway.

It is subjective, art. But I still give grades to my students.

Part of this is basic: do they have their lines memorized, did they write to the assignment requirements, did they spell shit correctly, etc. but that’s all the easy part. That’s all technique. That’s getting the puck in the net. I also grade them on how good they are, though.

Of course I take all kinds of things into account when doing so: how old are they, how much experience do they have, etc. I mean, two 18 year olds attempting to perform scenes from 1775 restoration comedy The Rivals aren’t going to cut it to the same level as highly trained 30-somethings in a professional troupe. But.

There’s still an aesthetic standard I hold the 18 year olds to, and it isn’t any different than what the 30something professionals are doing. But I have to give the 18 year olds a grade. And I really am grading them on how good the art is they’ve presented.

Postmodernists and hippy tribalists will call this unfair. Who am I, they whine, who is any one (especially white) person to dictate what art is “good?” For that matter, what is “art,” anyway, man?

I recently wrote a rant (called “Actually, Don’t“) wherein I ranted about this type of thing. I know you’re never supposed to read the comments but I did on a friend’s reshare. What I wrote rubbed a lot of people wrong, and they called me pedantic, an asshole, and how can you judge real art, man?

Thing is, you can. Thing is, you should. We should. Who gets to? Qualified people. People who know what goes into an art, and can judge based on many factors, including (but not limited to) their own (erstwhile or current) prowess in same.

Beauty is a formula: Technique plus passion. Have the one alone, you only get a certain number of points, but not a perfect 10. Have only the other, you can’t even execute your art—can’t even get it done.

Anyway, both screens are pretty.