Visions: Being Somewhere/Else
Being somewhere else.
That place you gaze at from the place where you find yourself.
That place you gaze at from the place where you find yourself. That other place you look at, from the place where you are. The place you are in and the place you are not… But can see. That place does not exist.
Like our sense of the future, it is positional, always relative to now, to here, always elsewhere (in the case of the future dependent upon the past). ‘There’ does not exist – at least not as we see it… not as we imagine it…
In imprint, largely visual, at almost any distance at all entirely visual (unless visual cues prompt the other senses to provide matching memories, scents, smells or sounds…). An arrangement of forms perceived from, only existing as seen from, a particular point of view. A point of view; the point from which you see the view. The point from which it exisits.
In the Dull place looking out over the Beautiful place. Admiring, being inspired by, the Beautiful place. Perhaps on the other side of a river, or gorge, or field, or square or street… or pane of glass. And perhaps the dullness of the Dull place aids and abets the beauty of the Beautiful place, over there, just out of reach. And so, inspired, we go there, to the Beautiful place. Which on arrival is not longer so beautiful – maybe not beautiful at all. So we look at the view. Look out over to the Dull place. Which remains, even at a distance, stubbornly dull. From the place of Beauty we look out over to the Dull place, and feel bored, and wonder why we bothered…
(Climbers of mountains, vista seekers, ascenders of high places, too, often get this sense of the bathetic, as the sight of a mountain from a distance (permitting sight of the whole perhaps with en-framing background and foreground), is often the best view. Oftentimes (depending on the features of the surrounding landscape) the mountain, once climbed, offers only a restricted view of flatness, of barrenness, a tapering distance or a bare jumble of rock. Or the view over the surrounding countryside, although charming, does not match the sublime vision presented by the mountain when viewed from a distance. A similar experience awaits those (again well-attested) who climb towers for views of cities, the view from the lower level of the Eifel tower, or Sacra Coeur, or even the Pompidou (‘Bobos’) is better than that from the very top of the Tour Eifel, and the view from the cloud-scratching top of the Montparnasse tower even worse… The mere brute addition of quantity, here height, does not guarantee an equal addition of quality of experience… for the experience of detail, texture, differentiation or recognizable feature is often denied, all become subsumed into something generalised, too homogeneous, an abstraction, coalescence or blur…).
For we want to be there. The place that we look at, the place we admire, that moves us… But it is only from here, as seen from ‘here’, that ‘it’ exists … As the vision that arrests us (whether of place, person or thing) is relative to our original position; our positioning relative to the object. The role of point of view in configuring desire is surely not a fresh observation (‘my best side’); yet we seem to forget this simple and, dare I say, ‘obvious’, fact, when it comes to scenery (perhaps as an optimistic ‘distortion’ introduced by the proximity of desire to hope or wish fulfillment). This aspect of the visual may be added to the way all our basic desires work; but do all our basic senses work in this way? Sound most often is found in combination with sight (and if absent we often provide it ourselves, in speech or in music; ‘noise’ is comforting, popular - silence is for the connoisseur). In combination, all may be inflected, to be sure, by scent or taste or texture. The image of a colourfully spiced dish is more likely to stimulate fantasies of taste and smell than sound. When considered on their own, however, the functioning of these senses seems the opposite. Proximity is the key to depth of smell, or taste, or touch – perhaps even hearing – notoriously distorted by distance (unless the sound of a bell, the striking of metal works well, but the rest is noise – and noise travels well). So the closer we get, the more precise and telling the sense perception involved (acoustic music, guitar or strings, the spoken word, the scent of honeysuckle, the taste of honey). For touch proximity is definitive (again the rest is imagination… prompted by anticipation). Texture may be imagined, but it must finally be felt. Yet vision is different: everything is different when we arrive. Looks different. There is no quantitative increase of the Same. Something Other awaits us – or rather, disappoints us. Barthes’ erotics of the glimpse (‘A Lover’s Discourse’) famously functions in this way, denial and distance, the gifts of point of view, orientate the co-ordination of our visual sense and the arousal of sexual curiousity - and of course satiety in any particular desire (thirst, hunger, sex – or the prolonged presence of a powerful stimulus, pleasant or unpleasant) immediately dulls the perception of what was once so appealing. Such things have a habit of working in concert…
‘Where you find yourself…’ where you are and what else is there, where you are not, in fact, but in imagination… are, are what implies your finding of yourself, your identity. For you are both where you are and what you see (such is the dominance of, our reliance on, our sense of vision). And the ideals that we find there, that we put there… are other, elsewhere, ‘over there’. These are what orientate you, like the vision of where you are, the vision of where you might go; the vision of some place over there, opposite, as inflected by our remembered visions, our inner vision. Finding place in what is before us. Just as what is before us, fills our vision, provoking our memories and our imagination. Place so often gives self: but it is the other place that confirms and cements it… Looking elsewhere is like a ritual with respect to identity confirmation, a sublime vision, a seeking out of the Sublime, which acts (as if) from the other place (‘the other place’ as carrying a trace of all other places, and so of Absolute Otherness in the sense of Eternity, Heaven, Utopia, place of gods and angels, heroes and heroines, myths and universals). Something ‘outside’ of ourselves as guarantor for self-recognition, identity – especially as inflected by our desire for the best of everything, of our desire for every experience to be the best possible, to approach or embody, in some, even imperfect manner, our ideal… ‘Ideal’… and again we are ‘outside’, going abstract, universal; something, somewhere, outside of the everyday, beyond our ordinary, repetition-bound, sublunary lives – yet always within them, an integral part of ourselves. Always a part of ourselves. A part we pretend apart. Apart from ourselves. Elsewhere. Synecdoche in denial. The eternal as the positing of a kind of parallel universe, and not a key figment of our imaginations… (extrapolation from the experience of self as an eternal present…).
From in, we look out; looking at, activating desire, activating the symbol wish realm of our linguistic subjunctive, our symbolic appetite (our appetite in symbolic form) license to imagine, to tell ourselves tall tales of possibility. Painting the present as a wall pregnant is possibility. The openness of ‘out’…
From out, we look in; the Same…? Or already at a different stage or a different person? Other to ourselves. Double in relation of memory self; triple in relation of these to the future… Triangular movement forwards in time.
Ranging over many landscapes of personal experience, from the interactional to the intimate, from that which we seek out to that which we find everywhere, from the specific aims and pleasures of travel to life itself (and beyond if we so imagine). Sight-seeing and seeing what we want to see… Positionality and desire united in the act of seeing… of seeing others, the Other, anything elsewhere, and of course that everyday object of desire… from big to small, from landscape to fetishistic body detail… and from objects of desire to states of desire… to Utopias. Seeking and seeing, utopias, elsewhere, in the other… in the other place. Also part of the joys and illusions of travel; seeing a place none of its inhabitants would dare imagine it… (‘heaven on earth’… only providing one is a consumer, and not in the position of one of the producers…).
Otherwise is it distance and the lack of simultaneity, the sheer lack of presence, which activates these states of mind, keeps them going… the views of things, a meditation on light reflecting surfaces (least we forget that this is a mono-sensorial effect). From ‘Some’ to ‘All’, the ‘looking on’, the ‘on-looking’ effect, is vital, constitutive of the vision, of our vision, and the Vision (the vision of the ideal, the ideal vision). All that is required is that it be not present to us directly, or proximately, but at one (visual) remove (again it works best with vision); like the past or future in the realm of sight, of visual rhetoric… ‘a perfect day’, ‘golden memories’, ‘a vision of the future’, ‘the next time, it will be perfect’… Not here… but there…
Future gives, utopias, subjunctive in all aspects of life… (or conversely, anxiety reigns, and the future is dystopic, so preemptively mourned, melancholic).
Past as our version, re–remembered, recreated on each retrieval… repainted in the colours of joy or mourning.
Paralleled by the constructing of eternity out of the Eternal Present out of our on-going sense of present experience, allows the creating of universals, heavens and utopias, along with their implied inhabitants, realm of perfect numbers, people and societies. Our parallel ‘outside’ inside (our own heads) which yet permits and inspires so much… both guided by and guiding desire.
Being over there.
Copyright Peter Nesteruk, 2017