20th Century Design Movement: Mysticism

While thinking of a design movement to report on, I wanted to choose one that reflected the aesthetic intent of my project. I had difficulty narrowing down the aesthetic of my project since it is meant to create a more personal experience than convey a certain aesthetic. However, if I had to decide upon a general area of thought for this project it would be Mysticism…

While mysticism does not have a clearly defined movement, there have been attempts to trace its history: a history which overlaps upon many influences and cultural periods. Perhaps that is most accurate in describing my own project which draws upon my interests in philosophy, theology, metaphysics, as well as diverse art forms. I believe that mysticism, in its manifestation, becomes an individual movement culminating from many gathered styles. However, I will do my best in explaining mysticism through a more historical context while introducing several artists that have inspired me and who embody the mystic experience…

It seems that theologian Martin Luther’s critique of radical reformers established a specific distinction between the spiritual and the secular. Much of the mystical traditions which followed cultures up to this point seem to of been neutralized, but also, prepared for modern reentry. After all, would it be wrong to say mysticism is at the root of most major religious movements? For the sake of this blog post, I will sum the definition of mysticism down to “a direct experience and acquisition of a certain state of being or understanding”. In my project, this direct experience would be understanding the state of time with new perspective. Hopefully, this design intent finds its way to create an artful environment in which thought can be directed to a  central beauty alive in all things, even something as abstract as time and its construction in our society. Mysticism involves itself in the unification of all things–again, within the context of my hourglass, I hope to converge the independence of past and future into a wholly suspended moment.

In terms of artists who I believe embody the idea of mysticism, here are a few which have inspired me…

John Coltrane: one of the jazz greats. Also, well-known for his spiritual beliefs and pursuit of transcendence through music.

Mati Klarwein: a painter with an incredible bio. Although born into a Jewish family, he later adopted a Muslim name which speaks deeply into his search for unity. Known for album art commissioned by Miles Davis and Santana.

Henry David Thoreau: the well-known American writer. Wrote about the unification of nature and the human spirit. Regarded as a mystic in many respects and one of the early influences of mysticism in American literature.

As for a progress update, there is not much to report on. I am still contemplating various ideas for my hourglass including some which involve electronic concepts. I plan on speaking with Tim May this week to discuss the possibility of these idea.

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2 Comments. Leave new

  • Elizabeth Whitman
    May 4, 2016 4:21 pm

    Interesting! I like that you connected to mysticism to not only design, but music and literature as well. As these are all influenced by different movements throughout history. The idea of transcendence through music is something that I think connects many of the greats across all genres.

  • Jason Mcgrath
    May 1, 2016 9:54 pm

    The electric hourglass certainly has a mystical quality to it. I find the juxtaposed timeless time keeping equipment against the little laser sphere very much open to individual interpretation, an inward journey in search of meaning. The context and the execution of the piece appear contemplative, so in terms a mystical aesthetic i can see how it ties together. I think the hourglass c=would have also looked great in the dark room where maybe the sphere would shimmer a bit more. As for potential improvements, you could easily swap out different light sources or laser diffusion if the current iteration left some dynamism to be desire. The final result with the dark stain was a nice finishing touch to the craftsmanship.


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