An aesthetic experience is an altered state of consciousness. This perceptual experience, in which you are shaken in, which you are de-centered, actually transforms the neural chemistry of the brain. If aesthetic experience is an altered state of consciousness, what are the chief characteristics of this altered state of bliss? What does it take perceptual to experience a work or an object of beauty? What is the neurology of that blessed-out perception of an object of beauty?
I particularly love aesthetic experiences because they seem too archetypal, eyes the world they seem to turn any object into something that stands for all of its class, a landscape looks like a landscape painting, a work of art hanging in the walls of the museum is simultaneously separated from all context. It comes into the light and be seen for the first time. It forces contemplation. It forces a response and perhaps, it is this response that is the aesthetic experience that we’re after.
In a sense, we’re asking what the triggers are, what are the precursors that can stage these cognitive transformations? We will pay money for art. What they’re paying money for is a particular state of consciousness. This is, you could say that, the consumption of art is part of the altered states economy as Jamie Wheel and Steven Collard talked about. It’s a wonderful subject of inquiry.
I think, for any of us, who enjoy the experience that has been described by some as OPA today, where you’re outside yourself and beside yourself and essentially, becoming one with the aesthetic work. It’s almost like the normal boundaries between self and other dissipate. There is this cosmic union with the beloved object and that is artistic consummation. The Greeks called ecstasy’s and I think for this reason, should seek out to have more aesthetic experiences in our lives and continues to demystify this wondrous state of consciousness, known as aesthetic arrest.