This post is from the archive. It was written in 2012 when I was lucky enough to have a lot of time to think deeply about many things due to studying a masters in Design - Critical Practice at Goldsmiths, University of London. In my case this course really did cause me to think and I do look back and really that experience was very important and special. Time and space to think deeply and focus without distraction is precious and rare because it has to be desired and the conditions have to be there for it at the same time. I created a booklet from a series of posts I wrote about space. This is the first one.
Distant and nearby
Looking out over the Chiltern Hills, countryside, and town below, there is something astonishing and cerebral about the image of a landscape, ‘over there’ that doesn’t apply to looking at things nearby.
Maybe it is something to do with being able to judge how objects are in relation to each other in the near distance. For example, I can say: a tree is 10m away and there is another behind it but it is much further away so I can’t tell how much further away it is. The perception of space is different.
A Sense of Perspective
The landscape ‘over there’ appears to me as more or less a flat textural plain. I have to infer the positioning of things through thinking rationally about them, using my knowledge of how light affects things, how things look further away, and any other prior knowledge of the landscape I have.
Something in the distance, if you are travelling towards it, is ‘coming up’. You will arrive there if you keep going towards it. If something is closer, this logic doesn’t apply because I know I can, for example, get up and walk across the room 5m to some object. However, if I moved a lot more slowly, say if I was a snail, then then logic would apply.
There is a threshold somewhere for humans (and other organisms of similar disposition) where something becomes ‘over there’. At that point, mental process change. In order to have the motivation to move towards the thing ‘over there’ you have to convince yourself that you will eventually reach it, even though there is no direct conscious experience of it.
Does this logic not just apply to moving from one place to another but to moving towards any kind of object in general - mental or physical? If I am working towards something then I have to keep motivating myself to continue in order to get to it.
Getting into the Zone
During my travels, if I knew I had a long way to go on foot or by bicycle, my mind would drift, and I would get ‘into the zone’. Getting ‘into the zone’ seems as if it is partly a coping mechanism for dealing with the directional and functional limitations of the human organism.
This ‘flow’ state of absorption is revered by sportsmen and makers alike. It is interesting how cognitive functioning occurs during the process, particularly of movement and journeys. Does this way of seeing the world not affect how we build the world around us? Is how we build the world around us not a somehow an unconscious way of dealing with these functional limitations and attempting to expand and overcome them through the use of technology?
Supporting the body
Take a human and put them in a space of white nothingness as if from the film ’The Matrix’. On closer inspection we find there is something already there - gravity, a floor beneath their feet, air to breathe, and physical laws. If we add a chair the human can chose to sit in it which extends their ability to rest.
What is going on in the mind of the human is as much about other things that are out there in the world which forms a feedback loop. The attraction of travel is often the ‘freedom’ it brings. I don’t mean freedom of being out there somewhere in Nature, rather freedom from so many objects that are thoroughly bound up with consciousness whether that is the chair, sofa, table, laptop, cooker, coffee table, desk etc.
Objects vs Subjects
If I leave an environment with all these objects and travel through a range of other environments, I come into contact with many different configurations of objects and their relationships. This is interesting because we can find out more about how we exist by looking at the objects we desire and create. We don’t have to ‘get into the mind of a subject’ but look at the objects surrounding them.