is an exploration of environmental aesthetics as it applies to the domestic
realm. I consider Kevin Melchionne’s argument that through notions of taste,
grace, and performance, everyday domestic chores can become heightened artistic
practices. I argue that this does not go far enough in overcoming the
traditional view of art as aesthetically superior to popular or everyday
artefacts and practices; rather, it encourages the limitations of traditional
aesthetics values within the domestic setting. Through examples, including
Pauliina Rautio’s study on laundry, I consider the possibility that domestic
practices are made up of actions that are not performed with a viewer in mind
but are completed out of necessity or desire. Synthesizing Arnold Berleant’s engagement
and Richard Shusterman’s soma-aesthetics, I argue that, in addition to sensory
engagement, imagination and memory play a crucial role in our experience of
environmental aesthetics, domestic engagement, everyday aesthetics
Making the bed in the morning,
tossing the sheets up into the air and letting the air waft through them: we have seen this image countless times in
commercials and films. It attempts to show us that making our beds can be a
beautiful experience, replayed in slow motion with the light softly filtering
through the window.
you might remember making dinner at one time, noticing how pleasing the
consistent motion of chopping carrots can be, their slight give and dense
crunch under the blade. The warmth of a heated pan and the sizzle of sautéing
onions, or the refreshing spurt of cold water from the tap, which slowly starts
to bubble and rumble on the stove.
Perhaps you recall the scene from
Disney’s Cinderella in which the
young protagonist sings while thoughtfully scrubbing the floor. Bubbles float
into the air, reflecting her image before bursting with soapiness onto the
floor. Cleaning is made all the better by the lilting song she delights in, and
the calm moment to herself, blurring the lines between cleaning and art. The
spell is only broken by the fat cat Lucifer, who maliciously tramps over the
newly-cleaned floor with muddied paws.
moans of “I don’t want to clean up” and “I can’t be bothered to make dinner/do
the laundry/take out the rubbish” might be more familiar. Yet each of the
previous examples betrays a certain aestheticization of their everydayness, a
certain sensory attention that attempts to override the displeasing qualities
of domestic drudgery.
paper is an exploration into the sensual qualities of domestic life, focussing
on how environmental aesthetics and a posture of aesthetic engagement can
contribute to a richer experience of domestic practices and spaces. The
aesthetic here is not only the one through which we make a multitude of daily
from what to wear, what to buy, how to arrange our coffee tables, but also the
small pleasure afforded by the simple awareness
and presence of mind during our everyday lives. Neither is it simply the lofty
feelings enjoyed when we witness a beautiful painting or sculpture. It is in
part an effort to restore the meaning of ‘aesthetic’ to its original
connotation: to perceive or sense. This could be as simple as noticing the
tactile pleasure of running water while doing the dishes or as complex as
associating the smell of a particular soap with a grandparent and therefore
taking pleasure in its use.
critiquing an art-based approach to aesthetics, I hope to demonstrate that, in
order to consider sensual and imaginative qualities of domestic activities, one
must adopt a model based on perception
itself rather than on the objects
perceived. This approach, therefore, might be akin to a Tibetan Shamatha (literally,
‘peacefully abiding’) meditation
practice whereby one is taught simply to be in one’s body, noticing one’s
breath and the sense data received in the moment.
It is a practice of attentiveness and of cultivating inquisitiveness. Yet in
domestic aesthetics there must also be the possibility for contemplation of sense data, insofar as so much of what individuals
find pleasing is composed of past experiences, memories, and nostalgia, ideas
often informed by cultural production and context. This kind of exploration by
necessity synthesises numerous approaches in current aesthetic theory: Saito’s
approach to the everyday, Arnold Berleant’s model of aesthetic engagement, and
Kevin Melchionne’s concern with the possibility for cultivating an everyday
domestic aesthetic, among others. Further, there is an obvious difficulty in
restricting this exploration to the aesthetic.
Its catchment extends as far as the therapeutic and self-help, touching
the borders between cultural studies, gender studies, and home economics.
Recognizing this, I will explore it within the limitations of current aesthetic
theory, citing examples from other disciplines only where necessary.
Sections 2 and 3, I will explore the possibilities and limitations provided by
Melchionne’s approach to domestic aesthetics, arguing that more attention to
the experience of the practitioner is required in order to expose the
prevalence of traditional aesthetics in the domestic space. I consider the
alternatives presented by Berleant and Richard Shusterman, and argue that an
approach that synthesises various methods in aesthetics is necessary if we are
to account for the physical body, memory, and imagination.
Section 4, I will explore the domestic pleasures afforded through a sense of
accomplishment, through engagement with surface qualities, and through
awareness of tactile, aural, visual, and olfactory sensations in the moment,
and how all these are shaped and enhanced through imaginative capacities such
as memory and nostalgia. By examining Pauliina Rautio’s case study of laundry,
I argue that the process of completing the wash offers aesthetic possibilities
through a number of avenues a) by engagement with socially-determined qualities,
such as cleanliness; b) by physical engagement with pleasing tactile and
olfactory sensations; and c) by imaginative play between memory or ideals and
real-time engagement with an activity. The corollary of this exploration is
that the aesthetic value of domestic practices must be assessed on the basis of
how they are experienced rather than simply on how they constitute artistic
2. Glass Houses
inspiration from Philip Johnson’s Glass
House in Connecticut, Kevin Melchionne’s “Living in Glass Houses:
Domesticity, Interior Decoration and Environmental Aesthetics” considers the
tension between composition and comfort, the notion of the inhabitant as a
curator of her or his space, and the relationship between domesticity and
grace. Noting that Johnson’s house represents the absolute extreme of domestic
order, Melchionne discusses the inherent problem with such living arrangements,
that is, the house subordinates all goals, particularly liveability, to its
artistic vision. This is not solely due to the house’s rigid order and
composition but also due to its glass walls, which “render the occupant
perpetually self-conscious of being watched;he sparseness of the furnishings
and the extreme orderliness of the house, where even table-top bric-a-brac are
discreetly marked with indications of their correct location, mean that one can
never truly feel at home.”
In this way, the house undermines the Western association of houses with
shelter, privacy, and tranquillity.
It appears to embody Tim Ingold’s notion of ”the building perspective,” wherein
composition precedes dwelling in the
meaningful creation of a space.
Yet Melchionne believes that the Glass
House can illuminate the ways in
which domestic practices, the everyday things that make up dwelling or inhabiting,
can be an artistic practice.
intensely heightening awareness of itself as a domestic qua artistic space, the
Glass House provides an intensified
version of what any homemaker does.
The acts of living, making, and caretaking are all part of what Melchionne
Johnson sets out a composition or arrangement for his household; to rearrange
or replace an object incorrectly would disrupt this composition. Obviously, the
average homemaker does not inhabit his or her home with such rigidity; any
inhabitant who continually and unconsciously returns objects to their assigned
spots lives in perfect harmony with their composition. As a ‘radical aesthete,’
Johnson’s embodied experience of this order would not be one of frustration and
restriction but rather one of pleasure, indicating that “pleasure resides in
the implication of the body in an aesthetically pleasing scheme, not just an
experience of space as an aesthetically pleasing visual field.”
For the average person, Melchionne notes, such pleasure is derived from the
interaction with his or her own living space.
By including the body in his definition of aesthetic pleasure, Melchionne
emphasizes the importance of total sensory engagement rather than
disinterested, disembodied aesthetics. This is consistent with Berleant’s
recognition that “[t]he spectator has been transformed into an actor, wholly
implicated in the same continuum in which everyone else is involved.”
Not only does this continuity extend between an aesthetically-perceiving body
and the world, but also to all other forms of “action, perception, and
Further dislocating the notions of the relationship between a traditional
art-object and a viewer, Melchionne’s assertion also seems consistent with
Saito’s idea that our aesthetic engagement in daily life is usually not
one-pointed but rather multi-dimensional.
3. Domesticity as Art?
role of the homemaker in maintaining the order of a space – in preventing the
build-up of clutter, so that the order of the composition is not obscured – can
be likened to that of a curator. A composition, therefore, must exist before
tidying can occur.
Melchionne goes on to point out that “the tidy home invites visitors and occupants alike to view it as a work of art.”
Melchionne advocates what Ynhui Park refers to as the world “transfigured into
an artwork,” where art serves as the aesthetic paradigm for the entire world.
Domesticity itself might also be
viewed as an art, and therefore the entire practice of inhabiting as aesthetic. Yet it is not entirely clear
why domesticity, and the home, for that matter,needs to be treated as art in order to be recognized as aesthetic.
Elevating domestic drudgery to the status of art assumes that art is of a
higher aesthetic order than domesticity.
and domesticity need not be treated as part of a hierarchy or degree of
aesthetic quality. Both belong to the category of that which can be considered
Rather, I wish to emphasize the importance of engagement in both cases, while
stressing that neither ought to be considered more or less engaged or
particularly different in mode of
perception or consumption. The way in which they are different is in their genesis and construction. Art, in the
institutional sense, is generally created with the category of art in mind,
while domesticity occurs as a matter of course in daily life. As Yuriko Saito
points out, “While a hierarchy may exist among more or less appreciable objects
of the same kind, there is no
inter-kind hierarchy concerning aesthetic values.”
Park explains that ”the world-artwork transcends any classification of the form
of art and the artistic genre of a particular form of art, and thus comprehends
all possible forms of art and all possible genres of a particular form of art
into a single unnamable [sic] holistic
indicating that the notion of a world-artwork is to be so expansive as to
engulf the very category of art itself, thus making the world-artwork “unnamable” and uncategorizable. In this case, then, domesticity understood as
artistry, while practicable, cannot be measured against a distinctive category of art.
risks in treating the everyday or domesticity as aesthetic only on the basis of artfulness are numerous. Doing so reifies the
belief that art and the aesthetic are continuous or even synonymous. It offers
little criticism of the problems of traditional, art-based aesthetics, such as
a lack of attention to the participant’s embodied experience of a work, the
hegemony of vision over the other senses, and the difficulties of attending to
composition and organic unity in everyday life. And, lastly, it provides a
myriad of cultural stipulations on objects or practices in order to even be
considered artful, let alone aesthetically-rich. Furthermore, as Allen Carlson
notes, it is particularly difficult to fit use-objects, which so many domestic
objects and practices are, into the label of work of art because of their utilitarian quality.
to the art-centred model of aesthetics include functional beauty. A toaster
might be considered aesthetically appreciable based on how well it makes toast, just as a method for cleaning a dirty
bathtub might be considered aesthetic based on how easily it removes grime, the
amount of effort required for good results, and whether the method has any
side-effects such as bad smell, water pollution, or drain clogging. Yet, quite often simple functionality
does not signal aesthetic appeal. Consider, for example, a “threadbare couch,
dingy wallpaper” or “chipped dishes and cups, and cracked driveway,” none of
which exude aesthetic appeal but still function all the same.
Aesthetic appreciation might correlate with objects or practices that do not
suit their goals particularly well, such as when we use decorative egg-beaters
instead of shiny KitchenAid mixers. The egg-beaters may fulfil the goal of
being aesthetically-pleasing and kitsch,
but they certainly do not fulfil the function of beating as well as the
electrical mixer. Similarly, function is not the only link to aesthetic behaviors
or judgments, as we might be motivated by both social and aesthetic reasons to
clean up our appearances, despite the fact that our clothes and bodies function
all the same regardless of stains, stray hairs, or bad breath.
In many cases, recognizing and cultivating a relationship between function and
aesthetics is valuable,
but function cannot be the determining factor for every aesthetic judgment.
it seems prudent to begin where Melchionne noted aesthetic pleasure resides in the
body. Through Berleant’s model of engagement, it is possible to understand
domesticity, and art for that matter, on the basis of total involvement rather
than on object’s status as art or its functionality.
3. Grace and the On-Looker
call for the aesthetic enrichment of domestic labor is followed by his advocacy
of grace. The possibility for grace
resides in the cultivation of good habits, discussed above. “Grace enters into
domestic practice when a homemaker seeks to accentuate or, at least, retain the
spectacular dimension of a space without destroying the equilibrium of labor
and pleasure rooted in habit. In short, the homemaker seeks to inhabit a
beautiful space without becoming a slave to it.”
In this way, a tension between habit and spectacle, and particularly between liveability and
composition, must be maintained. Grace
is specifically located, therefore, between the “fresh eyes of the visitor and
the embodied pleasures of habit accessible only to the occupant.”
One must go about his or her daily tasks with “an economy of effort,” removing the
appearance of drudgery from domestic tasks and elevating them to the level of
well-styled gracefulness. A balance is therefore struck between effort and the appearance of effort, as is required in
the case of successfully entertaining guests.
In this sense, “The aestheticization of domestic process likens it to a
performance.” But this performance, Melchionne argues, is not simply for the
pleasure of the on-looker, but also for the homemaker, who takes pleasure in
While Melchionne affords the homemaker some pleasure in the performance of
domesticity, it is on the basis of grace and artfulness, rather than on the
basis of his or her own everyday experience. Domesticity, here, is artful as a
performance, working only from within the reaches of an art-based model of
But, as Paul Souriau notes in The Aesthetics of Movement, grace often
takes more effort rather than less,
more in order to give the appearance
of ease and effortlessness.
Souriau explains that simply exhibiting vague qualities of ease or
effortlessness do not necessarily amount to gracefulness; rather, gracefulness
is the effect of certain qualities, including “conformity with personal habits,” which may not be
limited to the artful choreography described above.
Finally, Souriau asserts that the actual appearance of gracefulness depends
upon an elegance in movement and an avoidance of ”gauche or embarrassed“ actions,
but that when this elegance is put on or
overtly intended, it is certainly not graceful. “Naturalness is an essential
condition of grace. The most elegant gesture will not please me as much if I
feel it is done with a preoccupation with elegance: it is no longer freedom of
movement, no longer perfect ease.”
One must act within the bounds of one’s own comfort and on one’s own basis,
constructing a balance of behaviors and domestic order that suits oneself.
exists a delicate balance between spontaneity and choreography within our
domestic lives simply because, for many, a taste for aesthetic balance demands
it. This is demonstrated by the often precarious balance between order and
disorder in our organizational regimes, and in the work of negotiating
composition and liveability in a domestic space. Excesses of mess, clumsiness,
orderliness, and perfection are often experienced as too extreme for an
inhabitant. Saito goes as far as to say that “there is something almost inhuman
and repugnant about the sign of order that controls every inch of space or
every moment of our life. The reverse also holds true; that is, an environment
or a life that lacks any order or discernible organization is not appreciable.”
But as she goes on to point out, “Our appreciation of order and mess thus does
not seem to be directed towards those qualities in themselves. It is rather
toward the way in which we negotiate between exerting control over these
inevitable natural processes and accepting them by submitting ourselves to such
In this sense, we seek balance in the surface qualities of our domestic spaces
not solely for the sake of cleanliness and messiness themselves, but rather
because the balance between the two is often more pleasurable.
similar balance, I believe, applies to our domestic routines, insofar as
gracefully choreographing the way we clean the bathroom might seem delightful
if performed for an audience, but often we are simply attempting to get a job
done and cannot be bothered to do it with grace and design. We may instead
attend to the negative aesthetic qualities of some housework, attending to it on its own terms and without the added
stipulation of choreography. Does this mean that the aesthetic value is
diminished? No, because the aesthetic value in the choreographed and ordered
scenario is determined by its visual appeal to onlookers, while the spontaneous
scenario gives itself over to function and need, affording the possibility of
aesthetic attention. It is more valuable to focus on the experience of the
inhabitants themselves, since,
barring dinner parties or houseguests or times when we do put on certain behavior, we rarely go about our household
activities as if for an audience. Imagine subjecting your neighbors to the ins
and outs of your toilet-cleaning regime! For the inhabitant, the entire gamut
of sensory data,, both negative and positive, is experienced not just through
the visual senses but also through the entire body in our movements. By
focussing primarily on the sensory engagement of the inhabitant, it is possible
to generate awareness of the aesthetic possibilities of our domestic routines,
however clumsy or unlikely they might seem.
Shusterman notes that body consciousness and somaesthetic reflection have
traditionally been discouraged by Platonic Western philosophy,
but advocates a renewed awareness of the body as a method for cultivating
enjoyment and combating a growing reliance on outside stimulations.
A balanced approach between reflective awareness of one’s interactions with the
world and unreflective awareness in spontaneous, unchoreographed action
provides a method through which aesthetic awareness within the domestic sphere
might be cultivated. As he notes, a focus on one’s body as foreground
necessarily involves a feeling of one’s environmental background, indicating a
“vision of an essentially situated, relational and symbiotic self.”
Shusterman further affirms that habit and bodily movement do and must respond to a body’s situatedness in an
environment, because these external stimuli contribute to the possibilities and
limitations afforded to the body.
But he underscores the importance of a certain unconsciousness that would leave room for spontaneity, thus
preventing daily life from becoming entirely unwieldy or unmanageable.
Deliberate attention to one’s actions, while increasing the possibility for
graceful action, requires increased effort in order to break habitual body
patterns and maintain fixed attention.
as Berleant notes, “Deliberate attention to perceptual qualities is a central
mark of the aesthetic … .The physical senses play an active part, not as
passive channels for receiving data from external stimuli but as an integrated
This deliberate attention or engagement advocated by Berleant amounts to an
awareness of engagement as it happens. This emphasis on continuity between body
and environment is crucial in order to overcome the tyranny of performing for
others, thus affording the participant with a greater awareness of his or her own
body, activity, and environment. Through a renewed attention to our engagement,
it is possible to cultivate more aesthetic possibility. Furthermore, it would
theoretically reactivate the senses
branded as passive, like smell, taste, and touch.
The entirety of the human sensorium
is engaged in this domestic exchange and gives rise not solely to the
apprehension of sensation but also to an understanding and experience of place
and situatedness. The olfactory, gustatory, and haptic senses contribute to
experience, as do more somatic sensations of the muscles and bones. The
synaesthesia of these forms of perception amounts to an environmental
perception that engages the entirety of the sensorium. So, Berleant writes, “We
become part of environment through interpenetration of body and place.”
Surface qualities and immediate
sense data, however, are “unavoidably superficial”
if taken alone as the single characteristic of environmental perception, for
social, physiological, and psychological factors also shape and determine our
experience. “Human perception blends memories, beliefs, and associations, and
this range of meanings deepens experience.”
It is necessary, therefore, to consider the ways in which imagination and
memory play a role in our cultivation of a domestic aesthetic.
4. On Laundry
Rautio’s recent study of beauty in everyday life indicates that hanging
laundry, for one member of her study, engages not solely the bodily senses in
an interaction with the environment but also the imagination and memory in
appreciating that interaction. 
Laundry-hanging remains a routine practice with qualities of repetition, meaning-making, and aesthetic
practice of hanging laundry, while still common throughout Europe, has grown
into relative obscurity in much of urban and suburban North America,yet the
aesthetic possibilities of the practice are multi-fold. As Saito notes:
hanging is an activity that we literally engage in. It is instructive that many writings in
praise of this activity point out that it is a delightful experience both for
aesthetic creativity and contemplation.
Many claim that there is an “art” to laundry hanging, such as creating
an order by hanging similar kind of things or items of the same color together
or by hanging objects in order of size.
Furthermore, the reward of skillful laundry hanging is also aesthetic:
the properly hung clothes retain their shape and carefully stretching clothes
before hanging minimizes wrinkles.
Finally, the fresh smell of sun-soaked clothes and linens cannot be
duplicated by scented laundry detergent or softener.
supporters of laundry-hanging now appeal to our sensory and imaginative
faculties through color, smell, and memory is telling.
Rautio’s lengthy exploration of laundry, the author introduces a woman’s
letters documenting beauty in her everyday life. Laura’s letters are
disproportionately weighted to the subject of laundry, among other things, and
convey the moments of serenity, sensory or imaginative delight, and at-oneness
resulting from the act of hanging laundry on the line. The laundry line, for
Laura, marks a physical space of belonging and a place that serves as a
constant in an ever-changing world. In particular, it is through the routine of
doing the laundry that Laura marks the seasons:
The moment that you can
start taking laundry outside to dry, [sic] marks the beginning of spring and
makes a concrete change on the level of daily chores. It is however not a set
date when it happens but depends on a number of seasonal weather factors. There
is solemnity in the concrete affirmation of spring approaching. There is also
solemnity in the ease with which the changes in the season are noticed. Such an
ease tells of being in tune with one’s environment.
finds herself immersed in an environment with seasons, a multitude of haptic
and olfactory data, and plentiful memorial and imaginative associations. Rautio
goes on to explain that, for Laura, laundry does not simply seem to be
aesthetically constituted of tactile qualities, but rather is largely evocative
of her aesthetic imagination. Emily Brady refers to this as the perceptual
qualities of an object and the imaginative capacities of a percipient coming
“together to direct appreciation.”
The idea that emotions are tied to the practice and space of the laundry line illustrates
Dewey’s notion that “emotions are attached to events and objects in their
movement. They are not, save in pathological instances, private.”
Laura marks a contemplative ceremony
in laundry-hanging, noting the sensory pleasure gained in just noticing her
environment and bodily interactions with it.
In addition to engaging with the immediate sensory environment, she marks her
experience of beauty with imaginative or nostalgic contemplation. This
indicates that she experiences this aesthetic engagement through contemplative distance and serenity, but not through total
disinterestedness. She takes her memories, emotions, and thoughts with her. In her being open to her
surroundings, to the ways objects might appear, feel, smell, or sound delightful
and invite memories, aesthetic possibilities arise. It is because of this
openness and awareness that we might see aesthetically-valuable experience
emerging from the integration of sense data with an imaginative sense or
consciousness. She enacts Brady’s notion that “imagination encourages a variety
of possible perceptual perspectives…[and] perception also supports the
activity of imagination by providing the choreography of our imaginings.”
The possibility for aesthetic pleasure, in this case, resides in the perceiver.
Thomas Leddy, in his work on surface
qualities of aesthetic objects and environments, argues that everyday aesthetic
judgments are constituted by the properties of neat, messy, clean/unclean,
ordered/disordered; the list goes on.
The aesthetic engagement with everyday tasks, such as laundry, takes place on
the basis of these judgments; we wash our clothes because they are dirty, and
having clean clothes is generally more pleasing. Laundry takes on aesthetic
significance in its movement from one surface aesthetic pole to another: from
dirty to clean, and again, in the cycle of wear, from clean to dirty.
as Rautio points out, this is only one of
the ways in which laundry garners aesthetic attention. Laura’s interest in hanging
laundry, which is only a fraction of the entire process of doing laundry, rests
in the wider scope of how the activity reminds her of her environment,
generates a sense of ease and belonging (her children playing, her laundry hanging
on the line) and evokes an almost nostalgic sense of domestic life and
homemaking for her family. As her letters describe these moments, it emerges
that this sense of aesthetic pleasure or satisfaction is developed specifically
from certain plays of color and light, texture, and arrangement of the laundry
items. She takes pleasure in arranging her children’s clothes according to
their moods, enjoys matching the clothes pegs to the items, and notices the
surrounding colors of the yard across which her laundry line spans. In this
sense, she is aesthetically engaged with surface qualities, tactile features,
visual arrangements, and her own memories. Each of these enters into an
imaginative play in the sense that Richard Kearney describes the aesthetic as
originating in the play of imagination.
is through imaginative play that an activity completed numerous times becomes
something new and pleasurable for Laura; it is fluid and is perceived
differently each time. “Laura seems to feel her new solitude through dwelling
extensively on colors, scents, and sounds. And in doing so, all that surrounds
her routine task seems to unfold as if new. She notices her yard in a new way
through a single color. The things she picks up as if new are plain have been
there all along.”
It is in this posture of engagement, completely kinaesthetically and
imaginatively, that Laura’s simple routine of hanging laundry takes on
significance apart from other tasks.
“Building Dwelling Thinking,” Heidegger writes that dwelling “remains for man’s
everyday experience that which is from the outset ‘habitual’.”
Here, we have seen that the cultivation of a domestic aesthetic takes its root
in the notion that the way in which we dwell arises out of habit. In our
habitual patterns of dwelling, from cooking to cleaning to resting, we draw
together activities, people, ideas, and places. We make a house into a home.
an exploration of current perspectives in environmental aesthetics, I argued
that a domestic aesthetic must take
into account the experience of the dweller rather than solely the detached experience
of a guest or viewer. In this way, one might take an approach to aesthetics
that acknowledges the myriad of sense data available through a number of
household activities. It undercuts the need for an art-based aesthetic within
the domestic sphere. By removing the significance of the traditional audience
or viewer and emphasizing the experience of the participant, one is able to
overcome the difficulties presented by an art-led hierarchy of aesthetics. By
emphasizing aesthetic engagement, one is able to shift the focus from the
object of aesthetic judgment to the practice of engagement and the participant,
forming a continuity between body and environment.
with a place and activity stimulates memories, associations, and our sense of
timing. The colors, temperatures, and physical settings of laundry, for Laura,
help her develop a sense of place, season, and emotion. In many ways, her
emotional state is related to the practice of laundry-hanging, in that certain
physical aspects of the practice stimulated memories or thoughts, which in turn
instilled a feeling of peace, belonging, and contentment in Laura. Our
imaginative associations spring from the more foundational experience of
tactile, visual, and olfactory sensations. For example, it is through the
practice of hand-washing our clothes that we are connected not solely with the
sensory stimulation of water, soap, and cloth, but also with our shared
imaginings of washer-women throughout history, the domestic ideals presented by
past ages, and our own personal ideals of domesticity. These ideals are
themselves expressed in and through our cultural imaginings of them in everyday
life and cultural production.
Heidegger’s dwellers, we strive to make connections. We do not necessarily clean the house for the
sake of cleanliness itself, we clean for our
own satisfaction and to make our homes more comforting for ourselves and
others. Likewise, meal preparation is not simply perfunctory, but serves the
goal of sensory pleasure too. We connect our necessary actions to our
pleasurable sensations and to the imaginative associations they conjure up. As
Heidegger’s distinction between building and construction reveals, in dwelling
we do more than just construct our homes. We stay with them, care for them,
turn them into places of meaning and meaning-making; our aesthetic sense of the
home arises in this process.
Jessica J. Lee
Jessica J. Lee is an independent scholar based in London, England.
Published on June 25, 2010
Many thanks to the anonymous reviewers who provided meticulous help,
enthusiasm, and constructive criticism in revising this paper.
 It is this
version of the everyday aesthetic with which Saito is primarily concerned. See
Yuriko Saito, Everyday Aesthetics
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).
 Kevin Melchionne, "Living in Glass Houses: Domesticity,
Interior Decoration and Environmental Aesthetics," Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 56, 2 (Spring 1998),
191-200; ref. on 191-192.
 This association
can be traced from antiquity until roughly the present. See Hannah Arendt, “The Public and Private Realm,” in The Human Condition, 22-78 (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1998).
 Tim Ingold, The
Perception of Environment: Essays in livelihood, dwelling and skill
(London: Routledge, 2000), p. 179. One ought to note that Ingold, too, argues
that the “building perspective” is problematic and undermines the importance of
“the dwelling perspective.”
 Melchionne, “Living in Glass Houses,” 192.
 Ibid., Although, he notes, the
possibility of this on practical levels usually restricts such pleasure to
single persons who both live alone and can afford to maintain an artistic
 Arnold Berleant, Art
and Engagement (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1991), pp. 59-60.
 Saito, Everyday
Aesthetics, p. 123.
 Melchionne, “Living in Glass Houses,” 194-195.
 Ynhui Park, “The Transfiguration of the World into an
Artwork: A Philosophical Foundation of Environmental Aesthetics,” in Real World Design: The Foundtion and
Practice of Environmental Aesthetics, ed. Yrjö Sepänmaa (Lahti: University
of Helsinki, 1995), 13-20; ref. on 13.
 See Katya
Mandoki’s Everyday Aesthetics (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing, 2007) for a more
detailed treatment of the problem of the aesthetic when treated as
synonymous with art.
 Yrjö Sepänmaa, The
Beauty of Environment: A general model for environmental aesthetics
(Helsinki: Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia, 1986), p. 18.
 Saito, Everyday
Aesthetics, p. 129.
 Park, “The Transfiguration of the World into an Artwork,” p.
 Allen Carlson, “On Aesthetically Appreciating Human
Environments,” in The Aesthetics of Human
Environments, ed. Arnold Berleant and Allen Carlson (Peterborough:
Broadview Press, 2007), 47-65; ref. on p. 49.
 Glenn Parsons and Allen Carlson, Functional Beauty (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2008), pp. 91-100.
 Saito, Everyday
Aesthetics, p. 159.
 Saito, Everyday
Aesthetics, p. 160.
 See, for
example, Yuriko Saito, “The Role of Aesthetics
in Civic Environmentalism,” in The
Aesthetics of Human Environments, (Peterborough: Broadview Press, 2007)
 Melchionne, “Living in Glass Houses,” 197.
 Paul Souriau, The
Aesthetics of Movement, trans. Manon Souriau (Amherst: University of
Massachusetts Press, 1983), p. 83.
 Ibid., p. 86. Emphasis mine.
 Saito, Everyday
Aesthetics, p. 173.
Shusterman, “Body Consciousness and Performance:
Somaesthetics East and West,” The Journal
of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 67, no. 2 (Spring 2009), 133-145: ref. on
135. See also, Richard Shusterman, “The Silent, Limping Body of Philosophy:
Somatic Attention Deficit in Merleau-Ponty,” in Body Consciousness: A Philosophy of Mindfulness and Somaesthetics,
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), pp. 49-76, and pp. 4-5 of
 Shusterman, Body
Consciousness, p. 6.
 Arnold Berleant, The
Aesthetics of Environment (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1992), p.
 Yi-Fu Tuan, “Place: An Experiential
Perspective,” Geographical Review 65,
no. 2 (April 1975), 151-165; ref. on 152.
 Berleant, The
Aesthetics of Environment, p. 17.
 Pauliina Rautio, “On Hanging Laundry: The Place of Beauty in
Managing Everyday Life,” Contemporary
Aesthetics 7 (2009).
 Yuriko Saito, “The Power of the Aesthetic” (paper presented
at the VIII International Summer School
of Applied Aesthetics, Lahti, Finland, June 15-18, 2008).
 Rautio, “On Hanging Laundry,” Section 3.
 Emily Brady, “Imagination and the Aesthetic Appreciation of
Nature,” in The Aesthetics of Natural
Environments, eds. Allen Carlson and Arnold Berleant, (Peterborough:
Broadview Press, 2004), pp. 156-169; ref. on p. 161.
 John Dewey, Art as
Experience (New York: Perigee Books, 1980), p. 42.
 Rautio, “On Hanging Laundry,” Section 3.
 Brady, “Imagination and the Aesthetic Appreciation of
Nature,” p. 161.
 Thomas Leddy, “Everyday Surface Qualities: Neat, Messy,
Clean, Dirty,” in The Aesthetics of Human
Environments, ed. Arnold Berleant and Allen Carlson (Peterborough:
Broadview Press, 2007), pp. 163-174; ref. on p. 163.
 Richard Kearney, The
Poetics of Imagining: Modern to Post-Modern (New York: Fordham University
 Rautio, “On Hanging Laundry,”
 Martin Heidegger, “Building Dwelling Thinking,” in Basic Writings, trans. Albert Hofstadter
(San Francisco: Harper, 1993), 343-364; ref. on p. 349.