When one is listening to music or watching movies or enjoying any sort of culture, there are clearly going to be elements that are of their time. Certain choices in audio production, costuming, camera filters, and the like mark a song or album or movie as being of a particular time. These characteristic elements of a given time allow those from later times to use these same elements to create a sense of nostalgia for a time, which is often successful in giving something a positive feeling for those who have positive feelings for the era in question. The same is true in books where the language used and the style of writing will often give a strong clue as to the specific time and context where a book was created, and again the adoption of these stylistic elements serves as a callback to give honor and glory to a previous period and its thinking and expression.
All works are created in a given context. Every work, moreover, is created as a response to something that is going on in the internal and/or external world of the person or people who create it. We respond to internal crises and pressure and this leads us to make art out of our suffering. We respond to external crises by seeking to place the timely in a larger context that helps us make sense of it and that simultaneously allows others later on to learn about what was going on for us by reflecting upon and responding to what we have created. We respond to the pressure of companies for profits by making art that has commercial appeal, and to the pressure to be authentic and personal by creating art that has personal resonance and meaning, and we hope that the two intersect at a place that serves the benefits of not only ourselves but others as well.
As it is with creating art, so too in the consumption or appreciation of art there is an intersection between the timelessness of something and its being simultaneously of its time. We not only create art in a timebound fashion but we also interact with it in a specific context. We see art when there are particular trends around us that lead us to favor some forms of expression and not others. We encounter art that springs from a different experience than we can relate to ourselves. We meet with symbols and allusions that may not be familiar to us and that we may not be able to recognize. At the same time, we may grow in appreciation of art to the extent that we are aware of and sensitive to the context it was made in and also the context that the art created with us. There are layers to responding to art that can help us improve our appreciation of still more art. If we like a piece of art, we might be predisposed to think highly of art that is of a similar context and content to that which we already like, or that which makes reference to or is referred to in the given art that we enjoy, all of which leads us to appreciate still more things than we did before.
Often, what is of its time in a given work is the ephemeral nature of the work, its precise style and approach, which is time bound because of the materials used, the context in which one works, and the choices that people are aware of and make because of what is done in a particular time and place and environment. There are a great many possibilities as to how something may be made and the choices we make are heavily influenced by what options we know to be available and what will appeal to others well enough to endure. Yet what is timeless in a given work is the larger resonance a work has, the way it speaks to concerns that are lasting in humanity. There are a great many works of the ancient and classical worlds, created millennia ago, which continue to resonate because they speak of lasting preoccupations of the human heart and mind. And the same may be true for us in the art we create, in the hope that we are speaking of lasting things that others will be able to understand about us, that we were human beings like they were, even if in very different contexts than they will find themselves in.