Unpacking the Absences

by stronged

“Digging caves behind characters.”

Virginia Woolf.

At first I interpreted this quote – used by Norman M. Klein in his essay “Waiting for the World to Explode: How Data Converts into a Novel” – as a metaphor for a database where a “cave” of information can be stored behind one node using a series of hyperlinks to connect it all up. However, I now understand that Klein used this Woolf quote to highlight the importance of establishing an unknown space behind each node. The empty space, or “Absence”, allows an element of mystery (that reminds me of a TED Talk by JJ Abrams) to form in the users mind that allows them an opportunity to apply their own interpretation to the experience. Some of the greatest works of art allow this absence to exist between viewer and artefact, encouraging a more proactive approach from the viewer to interpret the work and therefore generate a unique experience.

An adept artist understands how to design the rhythm of absence and presence within an artwork, allowing the audience to breath in unison with the work. Every in-breath ingests key components of the artefact (i.e. it’s language/semantics) whereas every out-breath allows the audience to rest from the stimulus and put their own thoughts, feelings and experiences into unpacking the meaning of the work. A delicate balance that separates good art from poor art. Every piece of art is a machine in the way that it elicits a response from an audience. This does not mean a piece of artwork must function with shock value, instead, a work of art allows for an ecology to develop between reader and signifiers in order to establish an impression or imply a meaning.

I started this post with a quote so I’ll finish with one:

“Don’t strive to make your presence noticed, make your absence felt.”