Seeing Between The Line

To become able to see beyond what we assume we are to see and what we think we are to see — both are culturally derived conditions — we must learn to see the gaps between the seemingly obvious and that which is not obvious.

It is tempting to compare seeing between the obvious and non-obvious to reading between the lines. However, such a comparison will only lead us astray, for reading between the lines implies that the author has an unspoken, or hidden, meaning for us to decipher. This logic suggests that there are hidden clues to culture that are available for our uncovering, and that once uncovered and debated, we can then agree to their significance and meaning. While there are certainly cultural clues to be uncovered, the problem with our analogy is that the author’s line, i.e., words, set boundaries upon our interpretations. Allowing boundaries to exist in cultural interpretation has the effect of creating predetermined results, for the results must always be kept within the stated perimeters. Keeping interpretations within the “stated perimeters” prohibits us from seeing the unexpected, that imaginative spark of inspiration, of understanding, that exists in the gaps.

Carrying the analogy into art, perhaps, will make the point clearer: In art, the lines are the perspective boundaries of the piece, thus controlling how we see the piece. Or to put it a different way, the lines serve as a frame to keep us within the lines. To go outside of the lines ruins the predetermined picture; factually, the lines determine the definition of “outside:’ I suggest that to see what is not normally observed requires that we see between the line (singular), not the lines (plural), to see the place (line) where cultural symbols intersect as a gap.

In the diagram above, each block represents a symbol; the red lines are where the symbols intersect. Upon examination of the illustration what becomes evident is that the shared lines of intersection are simultaneously part of more than one symbol (square), while at the same time, limited to being part of one symbol (as the bounding mark of the square). Therefore, in the interpretation of the symbol (square), all intersecting symbols play a role. Likewise, as the line (gap) is simultaneously part of both symbols, or in the center point of four symbols, the line must also have its own independent meaning apart from anyone symbol. Yet, this independent meaning by the very nature of the (line) placement must be related in some way to each symbol that makes up the intersection (gap). Thus, the independent meaning of the gap (line) draws the “participating” symbols together, creating a fullness of unity beyond themselves.

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