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Beauty in the Impermanent

Steph Troeth
January 24, 2013

Beauty in the Impermanent

As designers, makers and creators, we often think in terms of form and function—but what about time? We tend to build and design as if time didn't exist, as if everything were made of plastic that is to last for thousands of years. Could we perhaps learn from an ancient aesthetic movement that began in medieval Asia, and embrace impermanence in our digital world?

Steph Troeth

January 24, 2013

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  1. “ ” — Tyrion Lannister I have a tender spot

    in my heart for cripples and bastards and broken things.
  2. “ ” — “Wabi Sabi: The Japanese Art of Impermanence”,

    Andrew Juniper. Everything in the universe is in flux, coming from or returning to nothing.
  3. “ ” — Excerpted from: “Zen Culture”, Thomas Hoover. Sabi

    grew out of the Heian admiration for lovely things on the verge of extinction. By [then] this curious attitude was extended to things already old, and so entered the idea of sabi, a term denoting objects agreeably mellowed with age. © Stephanie Troeth. All rights reserved.
  4. — “Zen Culture”, Thomas Hoover. “ ” Sabi also brought

    melancholy overtones of loneliness, of age left behind by time. © Stephanie Troeth. All rights reserved.
  5. © Stephanie Troeth. All rights reserved. “New objects are assertive

    and striving for attention; old, worn objects have the quiet, peaceful air that exudes tranquility, dignity, and character. ” The fact that rich objects are old does not make them less rich. Sabi can still encompass snobbery. — “Zen Culture”, Thomas Hoover.
  6. © Stephanie Troeth. All rights reserved. “ ” In a

    sense, wabi is the glorification of artificial poverty, artificial because there must be the element of forced restraint and in genuine poverty there is nothing to restrain. — “Zen Culture”, Thomas Hoover.
  7. “ ” — The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics Source: Simple

    English Wikipedia The entropy of an isolated system not in equilibrium will tend to increase over time, approaching a maximum value at equilibrium.
  8. “ ” “Can you believe it?” Richard demands of no

    one in particular, loud enough that faces bent over microscopes rise to look at him. — “The World Without Us”, Alan Weisman
  9. “ ” Representations of people and technology begin to break

    down, to come apart not at the seams, but at the pixels. — James Bridle on The New Aesthetic http://www.riglondon.com/blog/2011/05/06/the-new-aesthetic/
  10. “ ” The frisson of shock or wonder one experienced

    at seeing an aspect of the New Aesthetic out in the wild comes because that is the only time it will be noticed; afterwards it will pass unobserved. — “The machine gaze”, Will Wiles http://www.aeonmagazine.com/world-views/will-wiles-technology-new-aesthetic/
  11. We already have digital decay: things become less findable, content

    becomes less relevant, and design looks “old”. Hat tip: Olivier Thereaux © Stephanie Troeth. All rights reserved.
  12. We have a sense of being out of date, but

    not “agreeably mellowed with age”. Or at least, not yet. © Stephanie Troeth. All rights reserved.
  13. Hadrian’s Wall, ~ 1890 years old. Only things that are

    allowed to age can last forever. © Stephanie Troeth. All rights reserved.
  14. Thank you. Olivier Thereaux, for many hours of enriching debates,

    photo-walks, film digitising, for being my witness. Dan Rubin, for photo-geekery and chaperoning me to Hadrian’s Wall. James Bridle & Aaron Straup Cope for allowing me to use their images and for spontaneous chats on aesthetics, new or not. Special thanks to: Interested in the Photo Book? http://is.gd/impermanent