Part 1: The Sublime



Listen, I know that the word SUBLIME is not to be used lightly. In fact, most artists shy away from describing their work (or any work) as sublime, afraid of the grandiose and egocentric tags they might attach themselves to. This is because the sublime has a crazy long and loaded history in philosophy and art, and its definition has almost always been tangled up with definitions beauty. Our thinking about the Sublime has struggled and evolved over the centuries from person to person. Here are just a noteworthy few:


The Sublime is an adjective that describes great, elevated, or lofty thought or language, particularly in the context of rhetoric. (First century Greece. Longinus, On The Sublime.)


The Sublime is different from the beautiful. The Beautiful is what is well-formed and aesthetically pleasing, whereas the Sublime is what has the power to compel and destroy us. It produces shock, awe, and destabilization. (1757, Edmund Burke, A philosophical Enquiry into the Origins of Our Ideas on the Sublime and Beautiful.)


Whereas judgment allows one to determine whether something is beautiful or sublime, genius allows one to produce what is beautiful or sublime. The Sublime reveals a reality that is indeterminite, undecidable, and unrepresentable. (1790, Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgment)


We are trapped in a continual "moral struggle between notions of beauty and the desire for sublimity". Artists often deny that art is concerned with beauty. If we now live in a time without a mythos of the sublime and when we refuse to exalt pure relations or live in the abstract, how then can we create sublime art? (1948, Barnett Newman, The Sublime is Now)


These are extremely short summaries of a notion that has taken up epic loads of human brainpower. For now, I will not go into detail about every philosophical and artistic declaration on the sublime. I am also not particularly concerned with disputing any of their validity. Instead, I am interested in a new kind of Sublime that I see arising today and which will develop into the future. Enter THE DIGITAL SUBLIME. 


ps. here are some interesting definitions that I have amassed in my Google search for answers to 'What is the Sublime?'