Saturday, October 27, 2007
Sunday, October 7, 2007
High resolution image can be found at my website.
This image portrays the concept of involuntary sequestration that can often be found in everyday life. Like the previous image, “The Cage,” this room shows signs of age and decay. The cracked paint, dusty floor and windows, and overall dilapidated feel of the room represent the lifeless effects that sequestration can have on a person. Involuntary sequestration can be the result of oppression and can manifest a fear of exploitation. It can also come about as a result of certain institutions that focus on strict rules that can teach away a person’s authentic self and creativity. It can even come in the form of certain situations people are driven into, through their own doing or outside circumstances.
A central focus in this image is the rocking chair with the wooden doll in it. Of course, dolls are static and can only be controlled by someone else. So, the doll represents someone who is sequestered involuntarily and the rocking chair represents the restricted space of the doll. The light shining through the windows draws the viewer’s attention to this image. As with “The Cage,” this draw towards the light represents the freedom one would have outside sequestration. However, in this scene there is no real contrast of being drawn into an existence outside sequestration and the draw towards a false reality that exists within sequestration. There are no open doors or exits symbolizing clear ways to escape. The reason for this is that in cases of involuntary sequestration an individual has no choice but to be sequestered. Unlike voluntary sequestration, there is nothing appealing which draws a person towards any form of involuntary sequestration. In this case the draw towards freedom is more of a dream-like fantasy one just imagines while being sequestered involuntarily.
There is a sign near the door and it has the word “
As stated earlier, involuntary sequestration can be a form of oppression or repression born out of fear. An example of this can be found in the story of Buddha as a child. Buddha, named Siddhartha as a child, was born to a king and queen and as a prince had everything he wanted. Siddhartha had no knowledge of what the world was really like. All he knew was the false reality within the palace, but he was curious about the world outside. His father wanted his son to one day be king, but he had a fear of his son becoming a monk if he saw the world as it really was, and acknowledged the true suffering that existed. Because of this, his father built a magnificent palace for his son, arranged for him to be married, and only allowed healthy and young people inside the palace. His father tried his best to distract Siddhartha and keep him disinterested in the outside world, but Siddhartha wasn’t content being a prince and yearned to know what life was like for others outside the palace. Eventually Siddhartha’s father let him travel to different towns and in his travels Siddhartha saw the suffering that surrounded people as he encountered an old man, a sick man, and a dead man. After seeing the world as it really was and discovering the suffering that he had not known about before, he decided he didn’t want to be a prince anymore and instead wanted to discover a way out of the suffering that he saw. So, he escaped his life of a prince and became a monk to find an answer.
This story has many similarities that can be found in every day life of many individuals who have to deal with those, perhaps even parents or a spouse, who might attempt to restrict the life that a person really wants to lead and in turn restrict who that person really is. Parents may be overprotective and try to dominate a child’s life and choose the direction in which the child’s life will progress. An example of this could be found in a parent choosing the university and career path of a child instead of letting the child explore and discover who they are and what they want to be. The parents may mean well, but in the end this overprotection, this sequestration, can lead to a repressed and false sense of self which discourages the child from discovering their true self and from walking their own path.
Also mentioned in the previous image, “The Cage,” involuntary sequestration can exist within institutions that teach away a person’s creativity and sense of self. These institutions usually focus on strict rules and often don’t allow room for individuality. There is a sense that everyone must conform to a pre-determined pattern. A person can be taught what to think and how to act. Their attitudes can be molded in a way that is against who they truly are. This teaching away of a person’s creativity and individuality can start at an early age, thus not even really stripping away a person’s individuality, but rather not even allowing it to be discovered in the first place. An example where you might find this is in schools or even broadcast through the media. In many ways, the media advertises to us what the ideal life is and often without realizing it most people accept the media’s standard as their own. In reality that “ideal” lifestyle might lead to the most dissatisfying existence an individual could have.
A person’s busy and demanding lifestyle can even strip away their individuality. When a person’s daily life is constantly focused on just getting things done, it’s easy to get into ruts or lifeless routines and drift throughout the day. Sometimes these routines go on for weeks and even months. This can be seen as a form of involuntary sequestration because the individual is not aware of what is happening. A person can become so focused on what they have to get done at the time that they never stop to question or make difficult choices.
It’s harder to escape this form of involuntary sequestration because something like the teaching away of a person’s creativity or individuality may have been going on for several years and to escape it requires the person to start looking at themselves honestly and it requires a new way of thinking.
As stated earlier, involuntary sequestration can come in the form of a mental state. However, unlike a mental disorder or illness, such as depression, a person can sequester themselves through a state of fear. This fear is not instinct that tells a person when there is danger nearby, but a condition that might become continuous and not attached to any specific threat in the environment. This state of fear keeps a person from living their life to the fullest. A common example is a fear of failure. An individual can be afraid to take risks for something they want for their own life because they are afraid things won’t work out. It is easier for some to stay sequestered because it is comfortable and this is where they feel safe. An example of this might be if someone dislikes their job and would rather pursue another career, but doesn’t because of the effort and risks involved. This person might have to go back to school to train for this other career and there might be a fear of not being able to provide for themselves or their family or they fear the lifestyle change they will have to make to achieve this goal. These fears can stop a person from pursuing a career that could vastly enrich their life, and possibly the lives of those around them as well. Escaping this type of sequestration also requires a new way of thinking, thus making it extremely difficult especially if this fear has been present within the individual for a long time.
In the end, no real progress and nothing great can come from a person being sequestered. In this case, life would be like treading water and to a certain degree the individual would be the equivalent of a dead person because there would be no growth or evolution of that individual’s character and no true achievements. There is a lack of individuality and a lost sense of self within such an existence. However, at times it can be beneficial to be sequestered, in order for a person to see who they aren’t so that once they escape they can start to discover who they truly are.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Meaning and Symbolism of The Cage
This image deals with the various forms of sequestration that characterize contemporary society. Sequestration, in this sense, signifies a withdrawal into a false reality that is simply given. There are many aspects of contemporary society that can distract people from the more essential aspects of life and many people intentionally wrap their lives up in these forms of voluntary sequestration. For example, things like television, shopping malls, and other forms of entertainment advertised to the public are all types of voluntary sequestration. Through engaging in forms of sequestration excessively a person can become detached from the world and can fail to develop as an individual. A person can turn into a cold distant observer in life rather than an active participant that can make a meaningful contribution.
There is a sense of lifelessness that comes with sequestration. In this image this is symbolized through the dirty textures, peeling paint, dead plants, and overall run down feel of this image. The room is run down, but not abandoned. It seems abandoned because of the run down feel it has, but there are a lot of objects in the room that can be used, which can indicate that the room is occupied in some sense. The contrast between the abandoned, lifeless feel of the scene and the reality that it’s still in use, or “alive”, can be true of humans as well when sequestered. They are alive, yet dead at the same time. When sequestered intentionally, the potential and ability within a person is ignored and the individual becomes dead to the world around them.
In order for a person to sequester themselves willingly, there must be some sort of appeal that draws them to it. This appeal can be found in all forms of voluntary sequestration that exist in society and are advertised to the public. In the image, this draw towards sequestration is symbolized through the pictures on the wall. For some, these pictures would be appealing in that they are pleasant to look at and a person’s time can be absorbed in observing them all day. Yet, unless the viewer is the artist, they are not the viewer’s own creation. Similarly, forms of sequestration are simply given and most who willingly sequestrate themselves are content to just accept them as they are and move to other forms of sequestration when one form loses its appeal.
There are forms of sequestration that can be involuntary. This scene is reminiscent of a school classroom. The podium, chairs, and chalkboards represent an ordered structure or restrictive institution that can be found in some places such as schools. Institutions that focus on order and structure based on societal norms can “teach away” a person’s creativity and individuality because the focus is not on encouraging individuality, but rather the primary focus is on enforcing the rules that are given for all to follow. In this way, people can be molded into something other than who they are. Usually, when these things are taught away it is allowed to happen unintentionally and unconsciously, which in a sense makes it involuntary. The symbolism of ordered structures also represents the strict structures and bad routines people can drive themselves into that can strip away their individuality. This form of sequestration can be harder to escape because the loss of one’s creativity and individuality can be something that has gone on for several years. Escaping it requires an individual to think in a new way and to be reflexive of who they want to be. The mirror in this scene symbolizes this reflexivity, which is simply a reflection of a person’s true self.
There are many ways to escape forms of sequestration and because of this the path of liberation will be different for everyone. In this image there are exits which represent different means of escape. The doorway, staircase, and open window are these exits. The light comes in from these exits which draw our eyes towards them when looking at the image. This symbolizes another kind of draw. It is a draw away from these forms of sequestration into a life, an existence, rich with meaning, feeling, direction, and a purpose. The pull of sequestration through its appeal and the pull towards humanity is another contrast commonly felt in everyday life.
There is a fourth exit in the image, the easel and the unfinished painting. Painting can be creative work. Through the process of creation a person no longer deals with something prepackaged, something that is simply given, but instead actively engages in producing something unique that can convey meaning and affect others who observe it. A process such as painting a picture for hours may seem to be another form of sequestration, but it really isn’t. A person can be in isolation when in the creating process, but the difference is that this creative process can have an effect that can vastly enrich a person’s life in some way. This creative process has an ability to affect the painter and someone else who might see meaning and value behind it. This can be an immediate or distant effect, and with this effect a person isn’t sequestered, but becomes an active participant that can contribute to humanity.
The painting is unfinished, a work in progress, which can be said the same of any active creative process. An artist never really arrives at a certain place, but is always in a state of becoming. The true artist is never content with where he or she is because the true artist knows there is always more to see, know, and do. There is always a deeper meaning to be found and a deeper level of understanding that can be reached. This view of a true artist can be said of anyone that isn’t sequestered. They are active participants that constantly engage in life and constantly change in a world around them that constantly changes. Life can be seen as being essentially the same as any creative work, in that it is always in the making and always being expanded upon.
Finally, the cages in this image represent various forms of sequestration that can cage a person with false realities. In this scene however, all the cages are empty representing an escape from these forms of sequestration.
That is not to say that just because something can be sequestering means that it has a negative effect. Something like watching a television program, reading a book, or viewing art can be very inspiring and relaxing. There is a need for balance between actively engaging in the world and isolating oneself from it. It seems in contemporary society however it is easier to be distracted by forms of sequestration in which there are more now than ever before. It also seems as a result of this most people have a hard time finding a balance and such that the focus of their lives is caught up in these forms of sequestration. Although for some, the main goal in life deals with these forms of voluntary sequestration. Instead of transcending given realities and realizing their true potential they sequester themselves willingly and treating life as if it goes on forever.
(My philosophy teacher says she sees this as an image of transcendence. Feel free to comment on what this means to you.)
(A larger version of the image can be seen here.)