To speak of the Will to Art is to interpret the world as having an underlying tendency toward artistic and aesthetic flourishing, even though the outcome of this evolutionary process, due to its indeterminate nature, is unknowable in advance.
To fulfill the vision that sets the practice of sustainability in motion—the vision of life coordinating with life in ways that ensure the flourishing of life—ethics and aesthetics must be reintegrated.
It is a mistaken aesthetic that dictates how people see and judge the land around them, that tells us what looks beautiful and productive and “American” – that is, efficient, high-tech, and gleaming with the promise of the future.
The purpose of this scoping paper, however, is neither to review the existing literature nor offer another ecological critique of growth, but to extend and deepen the understanding of degrowth by examining the concept and the movement from a perspective that has yet to receive any sustained attention—namely, aesthetics. More about raising questions than offering answers, my aim is to open up the dialogue not close it down, which is to acknowledge that large theoretical territories are traversed without being able to map them all in the detail they deserve. Consider this, then, an invitation to discuss.
I want to ask: what are the arts of uncivilisation? What happens outside the gallery and the multiplex, what are the barbarian images that might liberate our vision, that bring us home?
In 1992, while living in Japan, I embarked on a project to locate and define the kind of beauty that I felt most deeply attracted to. By "beauty" I meant that complex of exciting, pleasurable sensations ostensibly emanating from things—objects, environments, and even ideas—that makes us feel more alive and connected to the world; that urgent feeling we equate with "the good," "the right," and "the true."