Figurative Prototype

Brief Explanation

This series of drawings is an attempt to explore and question the definitions and qualities of the ideal figurative form. Ideal form refers to the highest expression of aesthetic value derived from the human form. The question is what appearance is the sample, or template, that the figurative form strives towards?


There are many factors to consider if one asks what the most aesthetically pleasing figurative form is. It depends upon the society in which one lives. The development of that society has a powerful effect upon what one views as desirous and what one views as unpleasant.


It is possible to consider societies of the past to search for a tentative explanation of prototypical figure. It is also possible to ponder the implications of technological advancement on the direction of the ideal form of the figure.


The drawings do not attempt to define each form for each time or civilization. Each work is influenced by its predecessor and is completed in a series, but is not necessarily in linear and chronological order. Each drawing is an individual and is an improvisation with its roots in concept, theme, and intuition more than precise logical progression. Each work does not explicitly state its reasons or justifications; although, each work draws from the assertions discussed in the detailed explanation.



Detailed Explanation

In the animal and human kingdom, there is an ideal form that each organism strives towards. One can argue that in the animal kingdom, this form must be the one that gives the best chance for survival and the best form to attract a mate. In human society, the explanation of what is the best, or most attractive, form might not always as easy to explain.


It is possible that the ideal form represents the potential for meaningful function. It could also express values and ideals that are contingent upon culture. In the case of meaningful function consider a primitive society at the edge of survival and lacking any technological development. This sort of society would hold strength and endurance for the masculine form above others as these qualities would benefit survival above all others. For the female form, the traits that would facilitate the best chances for reproduction would be desired above others. In a society on the edge of survival, there might not be any respect towards a form that appears thin and gaunt as many in that society already tend towards that appearance as they are struggling to survive. So if the common appearance is too look at the edge of starvation, the most difficult form to obtain would be to become overweight and portly. If the elite of society are able to eat more than enough and gain excessive weight, the have-nots of society would want to emulate that form in order to indicate social status.


In a society where power above others is expressed not only by physical means, the ideal form might be very different from a more primitive society. Consider the ancient Egyptians, the Pharaohs are not represented as thick and muscled. They have small waists and thin arms and legs (compared to what our pop culture shows for arm size). They are above needing to participate in brute force activities, such as work. But if you consider the ancient Greeks and Romans, their depictions of ideal male form display highly muscled and strong figures. This must indicate that they held power and strength in high regard.


After consideration of older cultures, one must arrive at a logical point regarding our modern society’s aesthetic value towards the human form. In a world beyond the struggle for survival, it seems likely that the form that is most rare and difficult to obtain becomes the most desired. In a world of plenty, where everyone has their own needs met and still has plenty to consume, the thin and gaunt appearance is reversed from how it was previously. The common person can have enough to eat that the portly figure becomes common, instead of only the rich and powerful having the opportunity to eat beyond subsidence for survival. In a powerful and opulent society, the most aesthetically pleasing form might become very thin and lacking any body fat. The very thin form is the most difficult to obtain because of the natural tendency to eat more than is necessary to prepare for times of difficulty. But there are no times of difficulty in the society of plenty, so many consume beyond what is necessary even when it becomes detrimental to health. In this type of society, the ideal female form might drastically change from ancient times.


Infant mortality and breastfeeding are not a concern like they are in a primitive society because technology has vastly increased the chances of survival as an infant. So, the particular physical appearance that would increase the chances of a successful birth are not as important. The most desired female form can change from only what is best for reproduction. If the society is an opulent one with obesity as the normal state, then the ideal female form might go towards the opposite end, since that is the most difficult and unobtainable form—and it becomes the most desired.


In addition to these assertions, there is another topic worth mentioning. In the animal kingdom, some animals must develop organic structures that might have no purpose or utility other than to demonstrate their superiority to others of their species to obtain a mate. One could argue that the biological resources to create these organic structures could be better spent somewhere else in a way that would be more beneficial to survival; however, nature has given reproduction and finding a mate the highest importance—even above self-preservation. An example, deer and their related cousins, if they did not develop antlers for fighting and impressing their future mates—couldn’t their bodies use those resources to make stronger muscles for running or better eyes for seeing predators? These things would give them a better chance for survival but that is not as important as finding a mate and reproducing.


The reason for the previous paragraph is to illustrate the biological necessity of attracting a mate. If it is present in the animal kingdom, why would it not exist in some form in the realm of humanity? Remember that this reason for structure is not for effective purpose for survival but only for utility in differentiating from others to secure a mate for reproduction. Just a few examples, birds prefer larger wings or tails, deer and antelopes prefer impressive antlers, other animals prefer the intensity of colors of an organ. Humans are just another animal so there should be analogous preferences towards what is most desirous. But perhaps the cultural context of humanity dictates what the preferences are and how they are expressed.


Humanity is free to go beyond the limits of physical structure that the body itself creates. In the human realm, there are more opportunities for modifying the appearance of the body. This is true in times of plenty in a modern society where it is possible to change the outward appearance of the body entirely. It is possible with hormones and surgeries to totally change the body. It seems possible that in an extremely advanced society alteration may become so commonplace that those who do not undergo alterations due to lack of resources become undesired.


It is difficult to say what kinds of alterations would be the most desired and what form would be the best. Could the alterations start small and then, because of competition, grow large? As the technology increases alterations become common, then others will want to have x and y organs larger or smaller so they will increase or decrease in size increasingly to compete against others. Because physical labor is not necessary in such a society, there is no need for the organs to have a function for interacting with the world.


A thought experiment: if deer or antelope no longer have any reason to develop means to acquire food but still retain the desire to grow larger horns to impress mates. Let us assume that a display of horns themselves are what attract the mates and not the act of fighting amongst each other to demonstrate prowess. Another condition, there are no predators. Without the need to develop muscles for acquiring food and fighting, all resources will go into growing larger and larger horns. At some point, the horns would become absurdly large and each male could barely move around from the weight of the horns.


This is an analogous situation that humanity could reach. Due to technological developments, there are no predators, and no need to develop means to acquire resources. The elite of society do not need to go hunt animals or fight others to survive. Technology allows the alteration of form, then competition will force the increase of decrease of the figurative form to absurd levels.


Some tame potentialities following this line of thought, males might need to have ridiculously large biceps, the size of basketballs or watermelons, that provide no benefit in lifting objects, or long arms that drag the ground and possess no strength. Females might progress towards rear ends that are large enough in proportion to the rest of the body that movement is restricted, or hands that are so small they cannot grasp objects. There are already some examples of similar phenomena in our world that we do not need to mention in this context.


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