Nothing to See? Paying Attention in the Dark Environment


  • Matti Tainio



Darkness, Visual Perception, Aesthetic Experience, Atmosphere, Burke


A cloudy November evening deep in an old forest. It is really dark, and I try to observe my environment. I discern the difference between the treetops and the dark sky and the snow-covered ground. Everything else is formless. My vision is quite useless, and the other senses are weak in these circumstances. Only the background hum is audible and most aromas are erased by the freezing temperature. In a winter outfit, all I can feel is the moving air on my face. Yet, this is not sensory deprivation, there are things to observe. What is it possible to discern when the visual stimulus is minimized? This article focuses on the aesthetic experience of darkness by analyzing a visit to a deep natural darkness and attempts to connect this distinct case to aesthetic theory. The emphasis is on the descriptive analysis of the challenges of seeing in the darkness.

Author Biography

Matti Tainio

Matti Tainio is a visual artist and researcher, currently a university lecturer of fine arts at the University of Lapland. He is a Doctor of Art from Aalto University's School of Art, Design and Architecture. Tainio’s current research interest deals with the aesthetic experience in various settings. His approach to aesthetics can be described as applied aesthetics with a pragmatist perspective. At the moment, his research deals with the aesthetic experience of darkness. Previously, Tainio has studied the aesthetics of contemporary physical activities and the connections between art and sport in contemporary culture. Tainio’s work as an artist takes place in an interdisciplinary setting where the themes of the work often intertwine with his research practice.


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How to Cite

Tainio, M. (2023). Nothing to See? Paying Attention in the Dark Environment. The Nordic Journal of Aesthetics, 32(65).