Can anyone help me with the meaning of the phrase "to take on a momentum of its own"? Does it mean "to start to continue its progress on its own without external assistance" or something like this?


"Artists will recognise how an artwork evolves from the first few tentative marks on a blank page, establishing constraints as it proceeds, out of which a more complex picture emerges, which then goes on to provide a narrower number of options until it seems to arrive at a kind of inevitability, one which may even take on a momentum of its own."

  • Yes, you got that right. The writer is, of course, exaggerating, but tempers the hyperbole by saying "seems". Sep 1 '15 at 9:02

Essentially it means that whatever it is that you are working on or experiencing "takes a momentum of its own" at some point, such that you no longer need to be expending effort to continue working on it or experiencing it.

On a related note, given that your context is art, the notion of "aesthetic experience" is meant to create such a condition wherein the painting paints itself (i.e., the painting takes a momentum of its own wherein your conscious effort is no longer needed).

  • Here's a quote from your source: "[W]hen I start a sentence I have no means of knowing in advance what will transpire, let alone how it will end. All I need to know is the topic and the subject matter unfolds of its own accord." Two things: (1) this is someone so admittedly careless about his use of language that perhaps it's unwise to recommend him here, and (2) he's one step ahead of Sean Ede (who wrote the OP's quote): she doesn't even bother to learn the subject matter about which she writes.
    – deadrat
    Sep 1 '15 at 6:47
  • Your point (1) is off-topic (and one that makes little sense - but you are welcome to clarify with me in private); I was quoting Richard for that 'painting paints itself' example which addresses OP's question in a way that is not even a hyperbole (because of the 'aesthetic experience' way of being linked above). Sep 2 '15 at 1:57
  • I followed your link to the i-Perception paper and read its abstract. It could be taken as a parody of Sean Ede's writing.
    – deadrat
    Sep 2 '15 at 2:14

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