Art is a distorted form of reality. It is an enhancement. It is distorted through the artist’s—or subject’s—perception of whatever object is stimulating the senses. That work is then distorted through the audience’s perception. The object must be real, because it impacts the subject during an encounter and leaves some kind of trace. Hume’s notion of the impression states that this encounter between subject and object leaves an impression on the artist, bringing the subjective and objective together. This encounter is a distortion and enhancement of reality, because it exposes what is externally real through an internal process. I recently heard a sample from a Simon and Garfunkel song distorted through a vocoder. The person who decided to use this sample had a subjective experience finding the right sound as he the sample through different levels of synthesizers. One of those sounds left a mark, or trace and cased the subject to think ‘this is the sound I want!’ That encounter between producer and sound is what makes art. It is true, spontaneous and quite literally distorted to reflect the reality of the artist’s unique perception of stimuli input from the original song. The term aesthetics comes from the Greek word aisthesis. This term describes the physical effect from receiving sensory input from stimuli to the brain. The result is the encounter between subject and object…the impression made on the subject by the object. Richard Shiff writes in Cézanne and the End of Impressionism that the artist captures the immediacy of the encounter with an object. He discusses impression and style. “Impression evokes a mechanistic account of the production of images by means of light…conceived as rays or particles which leave their marks or traces upon a surface, whether the photographic film’s chemical coating or the eye’s retina.” He calls it a “surface phenomenon.” He continues to say that because this phenomenon is so fresh and undeveloped, its spontaneous occurrence is associated with individuality and style.i This is where art becomes a reflection of reality, rather than a representation of it. The artist is left with the immediate trace of the object, distorted through their perspective and enhanced by their sense of reality.
Humans are conditioned to perceive reality as a grand concept. Heidegger discusses what he calls the “thing-concept,” which describes a thing as a bearer of characteristics. “The thing is the aistheton, that which is perceptible by sensations in the senses belonging to sensibility. Hence the concept later becomes a commonplace according to which a thing is nothing but the unity of a manifold of what is given in the senses.” This thing-concept is what conditions us to use conceptual schemas, such as knowing that Sound of Silence is a specific song by specific artists from a specific time period. The work is classified into a genre, a medium…the subcategories are endless. But when it is striped of its conceptual framework—the removal of its equipmental being—it becomes what Heidegger calls a “thing-being” that exists of what is left over.ii This is the trace left from the encounter between the subject and the object; the sample after its been changed through the vocoder.
The sample is now the work, and the work is a result of the encounter between the objective and subjective. Heidegger argued that this encounter was the origin. “The artist is the origin of the work. The work is the origin of the artist. Neither is without the other.”iii He also spoke of art as a happening of truth at work. The essence or being of a work of art creates an entire world around itself. This work belongs uniquely within the realm that it has opened up.iv This is a distorted reality, a world where a thing can be stripped of its conceptual schema and can exist as itself in its own world. Claude Monet’s painting Stormy Sea in Étretat is not simply an object that we look at,