evocation

How much should a reader bring to a story, and how much should a writer give? Should a work of art be a monologue from its creator, or a beautiful dialogue with the one experiencing it? The less representational the work, the more the reader/viewer/listener can bring to it, to make it their own, to personalize and deepen their experience. Walter Murch, the renowned film and sound editor, has described how brevity can have more effect on the consciousness of the viewer than full revelation: “the danger of present day cinema is that it can suffocate its subjects by its very ability to represent them. It doesn’t possess the built-in escape valves of ambiguity that painting, music, literature, radio drama and black and white film automatically have, simply by virtue of their sensory incompleteness – an incompleteness that engages the imagination of the viewer as compensation for what is only evoked by the artist.” Evocation rather than realization; the former seems more powerful, more compelling. Olafur Eliasson, an Icelandic creator of sublime and beautiful art installations that defy our everyday ways of perceiving and thinking, redefining the usual perception of conceptual art, has this to say: “I do not see my work as any kind of manifesto. It’s a dialogue. Always.” He created The Weather Project for Tate Modern in 2003, a hypnotic, sensual, and seductive experience that involved turning the ceiling of the Turbine Hall into a giant reflective surface, and installing the sun at the far end of the hall, its light refracted through slow-moving mist as watchers wandered beneath it all, staring in wonder. To call it an installation does it no justice; it was a majestic redefinition of what art can be. The experience was undoubtedly the dialogue that Eliasson was seeking. It created that moment, the shock of something other that dislocates our usual ways of seeing and perceiving. It took all those who witnessed it outside for a moment of their usual way of understanding. Into that gap rushed new perceptions, new realizations, and everyone who saw it came away changed in some way. In the face of such transcendence, the rigid ways that we insist to ourselves are the ways in which we see, may relax. Habits can form a defence against experience; art like this can open a gap in these defences, and allow experiences your usual concepts would not normally allow. By not giving a viewer everything, we give them the ability to bring themselves into the equation more fully. The Weather Project gave virtually nothing in terms of information; it contained no easy narration. Yet it had astonishing resonance with over 2 million viewers. Giving readers gaps that they can fill, lacunae in which they can remember, and create. This can draw the reader deeper in, allowing them to move in their own ways in the beautiful spaces between what is known; dreaming the dreams between the lines.

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