Abstract to Escape

Abstract to Escape

What can we get away with using the art and science of abstraction? Where do escape artists go?

These thoughts were sparked by an article about the breakthrough of previously restrained accusations against Woody Allen, and a mind pregnant with ideas from a workshop by David Whyte about deepening conversations in a world increasing in complexity where abstraction is used as means to defer reality.

This post was written on 27 January 2018
3 min read / 507 words

Hollywood has long been an author-focused industry that reveres great men, directors who win piles of trophies, give enigmatic answers to journalists, and express their deepest feelings through their art. It’s that poetic notion that has sheltered many a “problematic” creator.

Thoughts streamed throughout the session with David, all confronting, evocative, that Friday in Oxford. In the context of sharing his wisdoms about deepening conversation in our increasingly complex world, he explains that the way of the abstract creates a diversion from the unknown we are destined to encounter, the way forward in all its awkwardness, violation, and trauma to the life we now know, the conversation we presently carry with ourselves and that informs our lives.

It makes me wonder at times, while reading of realities which we all inhabit, some more alternate than others, each subject to the idiosyncrasies and distortions crafted to self-preserve (and self-hinder). While art is like the screen onto which shadows by light is cast to project reality, it also by negative light hides and obscures other parts which cannot know exists behind that screen.

There is a great dichotomy of art and science of abstraction, in both revealing and also hiding. In its attempt to express a reality we understand, we also conceal the reality we don’t wish to see, elements we hide from others intentionally and without intention. The collective voice against injustice perpetuated by men of power in artistic (and many other) circles, bears the shape of an arrival point for perpetrators. They defer the consequences of the hurt they bring upon others; another form of hurt they must face like a violating, violent reckoning they escape by the art, business or science they tell, self-protecting stories in the name of craft.

I take many things for granted while writing this: I do not know these men or their personal stories. However, I do know of the victim’s stories, and the force of the #metoo campaign, of friends who Fear makes and keeps silent. Their stories exhibit similar patterns of abstraction, obscuring the language of wrongdoing with sanitized stories, and hiding behind principles that serve their own self interests: “as long as I take care of my family, as long as I am bringing business in, as long as this and this person does not know, as long as I stay true to my livelihood, craft.”

Multiple subjective realities are negotiated every moment of everyday, each one a vivid colour, distinct on an artist’s palette, As we open our colours to others, our colours compromise, sometimes to make something more beautiful, sometimes brushed into a brown slush. Thankfully, life is a force that David Whyte describes as carrying us to a reckoning, an awakening, painful, terrible at first, but fulfilling its purpose when we acknowledge it and step forward. It bears its fruits, lessons, balance we owe to ourselves and others, as traumatic as the effects of growth towards truth may be.

I think about how our attitude and tendency for abstraction shows up in our lives, what drives us to practice it, its consequences and side effects.

Ever learning, unlearning, relearning,

Post. I am not excluded from the traps of abstraction either, escaping reality by falling into our minds and staying there because our stories keep us safe. We pass the day’s happenings through an abstraction engine, like a meat processor, turning a cow into chunks of meat that we can sculpt into patties or meatballs. A digestible and necessary process.

2018JoyJan, ExperiencesComment