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A yulem is an object formed by natural processes which possesses a set of intrinsic aesthetic characteristics that transform it into an object of unique interest. Only a naturally formed object that is recognized to possess such a unique or appealing character is considered a yulem object.
A yulem object is in contrast to a work of art or found art. A yulem object's creation is unintentional and not the result of human forethought. Art objects are intentional manifestations of creativity. This distinction forces emphasis on a collective recognition of an object's intrinsic aesthetic characteristics versus conformity to a pre-existing set of aesthetic criteria.
Similar to Duchamp's readymades, yulem objects are "never dictated by aesthetic delectation." In contrast to readymades, yulem objects are not "based on a reaction of visual indifference with at the same time a total absence of good or bad taste." To the contrary a yulem object instantiates the collective aesthetic judgement of its intrinsic characteristics.
Yulem objects are pre-existing. In their natural context yulem objects are typically unrecognized and their aesthetic characteristics are overlooked. When a person recognizes an object as possessing a unique set of intrinsic aesthetic properties it is classified a yulem object and is collectible. As a collectible the observer shifts the context of the object to expose those characteristics for others to observe. This is achieved by mounting, displaying or photographing the object.
After an object is observed by others a consensus of its aesthetic value is built. If many recognize the characteristics of the object as uniquely interesting the value is great. If only the initial observer holds the object in regard the value is significantly less. When the consensus of the observers deems an object sufficiently unique it becomes a collector's item.
The first formal appreciation of naturally occurring objects can be credited to the Chinese who as early as the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 220) graced their gardens with spectacular stone objects. A bit later Japan and Korea further developed the form. Today the aesthetics of Suiseki and Gongshi are well established and classified. However this oriental tradition only addresses objects of stone. There is a generalized notion of other "scholar" objects including roots and natural brush rests.
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