What is Art? Can I call any expression art? If I can play the violin beautifully, is that an art? Or, if I can hold a pencil in my hand and write something captivating, is that worthy of being called an art? Is the final product art because of the in depth process that went into it or based solely on the effect of the final product? Why does some art live beyond the boundaries of time, language and culture whereas some ‘art’ fades out? What makes art timeless?
Time started when humans began to reason for themselves. We asked questions and looked to the sun to track our days and hours. Timelessness is a state of being that is impervious to the passage of time and changes. However, does it attribute its meaning to something that lasts for centuries? Or does it mean something which is equally relevant after centuries? When we talk about any art form or work of any artist, just survival is not enough; otherwise any piece of rock would be timeless. Will a singer’s intense rendition, which is neither recorded nor documented in any manner fade away the next moment; is it not timeless then?
Timeless art has depth, complexity and most of all flexibility. Timeless art do not possess exactly the same features, they can be different. They have qualities that are absolutely integral but you can’t pick them out of a lineup. Their beauty is in the significance and the ability to morph according to the times it’s in and continue to be relevant several centuries later.
Timeless art has to be sat with. You can’t appreciate its timelessness by experiencing it once. It has to continually sit in your subconscious to produce its timelessness. I feel timeless art carries with it the energy to give an experience of ‘timelessness’. Sometimes it doesn’t have to do with the quality of the art itself but the emotions and conversation it evokes from humans.
The Subjectivity of Time in Fashion
Fashion is a reflection of time and culture in our societies and the subjectivity of time in fashion is documented all throughout history.
Timeless fashion is associated with designs that have survTheof garment than in the styling. The deflating and reflating of silhouettes as well as the parallels in materials, details, tailoring and cuts, across eras attest that timelessness exists in fashion, immune to the rigidness of transient trends.
The progression of timelessness in fashion is shown in the endurance of archaic styles of classic cuts, impeccable tailoring, and pre-modern silhouettes that are reflective of an everlasting look. It’s beyond inspiration and nostalgia. There is a connection of the past to the present such as how the bow motif from a 1939 evening dress has persisted onto the Viktor & Rolf in 2005, or how the uniform color scheme of Gabrielle Chanel’s 1977 suit is preserved by Karl Lagerfeld’s 1994 version.
Despite the hundred or so years between each garment pair, they each bare a resemblance in shape, motif, material, pattern, technique, or decoration cohesively. Timelessness in fashion can be ascribed to the recycling of past ideas and the rehabilitation of past aesthetics. A garment that transcends time must come from foundational and disciplining creative ideas in order to continue to be relevant after a lot of time. Therefore, timelessness can be redefined as that which encompasses the past, the present and the future. It is the creative kindling of modernity and archaism, breathing newness on the old to produce timeless.
I’ve observed that no new outfit, style or pairing is actually new. General style transforms every few years but it’s always something close to what was before. The temporality of fashion, ironically, illuminates on the timeless aesthetics of garments. Louis Vuitton’s Creative Director Nicolas Ghesquière once said– “Never forget that what becomes timeless was once truly new.”
Time and Relatability in Storytelling
The medium of storytelling has evolved over the century. From midnight tales to journals to books to movies to documentaries and now TV shows. To see what I mean about the timeless nature of art, look no further than books. Here, you’ll find works that could be a century old, two centuries, or perhaps even older than that. And yet, we still read them today and get value. Why does this happen? It means there’s a resonating theme in these books that has stood the passage of time. An enduring relatability. These creative works endure transforming social context showing that even though times change, our fundamental way of thinking, acting and feeling do not.
Adam Ross, a film critic, believes that a movie has the potential to be timeless or classic if the audience can relate to the characters story and emotions. He points to films such as Gladiator and The Godfather, noting that while we may not be able to relate to the feel of the Roman Colosseum or the Italian Mafia, we can empathize with the universal themes of family and betrayal.
“To produce a mighty book you must choose a mighty theme.” said Herman Melville. This is true for all stories and art. Mighty themes are the one significant feature of timeless art. What is a theme? A theme is the meaning that the components of your art can add up to, it is the underlying message that your art points to. Stories of family or stories of betrayal, tales that feature conflict and forgiveness- these are all the things we experience today. But there are certain themes we will always relate to. There are always parts of the human experience that will be true in whatever time period. The art of timelessness is in the exploration of the human theme elevating creative works to the status of classic. “By way of a narrative, classics often have the characteristic of addressing, subverting and challenging concerns in subtle ways, whether it be towards politics, social injustice, religion and so on.”- Joana Medina
A great story goes beyond the functions of the characters and plot. It invokes something the audience can connect with on a much deeper level, an emotional investment. And this happens when the story reflects a universal theme- a greater reality or desire common in the human experience. “A timeless story taps the depths of your soul. It evokes your deepest thoughts, feelings, emotions and desires and brings them into your conscious awareness and as a witness you can experience the story as if you were one with the character…. as if you were breathing each word.” – Michele Kaydo. It impresses itself so deeply that months and even years later, recalling the story brings back those strong emotions.
Maybe this is why classics are so often returned to. Why do continue to spend time with them? Because these works are repeatedly enjoyable and each time we re-experience them, there’s something new to be gained. It’s in the details: a connection you didn’t see before or a new meaning. There are certain television series I return to again and again and each time I find something that compels me to keep watching although I know who the story unfolds. They capture timelessness, provoking thought even after hitting pause. CS Lewis proposed that “we do not enjoy a story fully at the first reading. Not till the curiosity, the sheer narrative lust has been given its sop and laid to sleep are we at leisure to savor the real beauties. Till then, it is like wasting great wine on a ravenous natural thirst which merely wants cold wetness.” These real beauties are the intrigue that leaves such a lasting effect on one’s memory.
The purpose of art is to free the mind of the sense of time, to think beyond what is known and exists right now. Not to necessarily transport your mind to another time but to escape the essence of time itself.