chapter  4
7 Pages

Aesthetics

Melancholy’s presence within the early development of aesthetic conventions was largely as a footnote, rather than a clearly de ned species. Arguably, however, there is an aesthetics of melancholy which might take its place alongside the Picturesque, the Sublime and the Beautiful. De ning an aesthetics of melancholy requires an identi able complex of features, and perhaps the rst instinct is to think of this as a distinctive appearance. Aesthetics in the arts has been commonly elided with ideals of ‘beauty’, and most often resides in the domain of appearance, the realm of the visual. Martin Jay and David Michael Levin have written extensively on ocularcentrism, and the ongoing intersection of ideas of knowledge with those of sight (Jay, 1994; Levin, 1988). While the dominance of the eye can be traced back to the Greeks, it was primarily through developments such as perspective and the picturesque, and the rise of viewing-based practices such as museums, zoos and tourism, that sight became elevated to the position of the pre-eminent sense. In the design professions, the shorthand of aestheticsas-appearance is yoked to the need to solve design problems. For landscape architecture this often means that aesthetics is the visual foil to the challenges of utility, and embedded in the profession’s history is an attention to aspects such as mitigation of infrastructure (e.g. screening a power station) and visual impact assessments.