Thinking aloud about this word aura, which has been mentioned by Jonathan in reference to Walter Benjamin’s writings concerning Art:
Some etymology: https://www.etymonline.com/word/aura
air, ambience (orambiance), aroma, atmosphere, climate, flavor, halo, karma, mood, nimbus, note, odor, patina, smell, temper, vibration (s)
aureole (oraureola), mystique, romance; genius loci; feel, feeling, sensation, sense, spirit; attribute, character, characteristic, image, mark, notion, peculiarity, picture, property, trait; color, illusion, overtone, semblance, suggestion, tone
reflecting on this word – I remember some posts ago: Unable to Put into Words
I think I now can now try to put it into words. The thing inexpressible in words is the feeling of fully witnessing, as in actually feeling part of it, within it, encompassed by it. The instant is both unrepeatable and ageless, in that it is constantly changing, can never be pinned down exactly, so can never actually end. This is perhaps an example of that which is termed beautiful, I realise a sunset is also something of a cliche but at least it has common appeal.
In other words, witnessing the scene brings about a feeling of complete presence, a clarity of one’s existence.
Relating this back to Walter Benjamin’s writing; is this not exactly what an artwork should aim for? – to put its viewer into an equivalent realm; the artwork (imbued with all that it is, by its maker) acting as a radiant source of an inner light that indicates to the viewer, as if in a personification, I am here, and hence you are here too, and we are on the same terms. Words are not needed in such moments, as they are made of the stuff of common ground. When it happens, in front of an artwork, a moment is created in which all parties involved are in a communion made possible by and evidenced through the quality of the authenticity being confronted, a palpable universal ‘truth’ being somehow, an emergent property of the whole scenario. Authenticity, along with aura was also something Walter Benjamin wrote about.
I have mentioned in posts already that painting makes me feel this extra aliveness in the doing of it, and for me, it is possible for an equivalent energy to emanate from the work through the witnessing of it in its realised shape and state. I have felt that energy from certain works myself, for example, I feel it in front of VanGogh’s Sunflowers at the National Gallery.
Whitman’s Song of Myself makes me feel the same way that painting does – as if anything were possible through it, through me, that I have just in myself the potential to recreate the whole world, make a universe. Whitman uses the first person I, to speak of the potential that lies in everything and everyone – it is called the Whitmanian I.
We are all atoms and everything arises out of material essence; the ultimate commonality.
Notes to self:
earlier post used the same header image
atmosphere, climate – Continent of Unfolding Horizons chosen for The New Weathers: