Two things came together and led to thoughts about how we react to realism versus something more abstractly expressive...
1. Words from Bluets by Maggie Nelson
"I don't go to the movies anymore. Please don't try to convince me. When something ceases to bring you pleasure, you cannot talk pleasure back into it. "My removal arose not out of a conscious decision, but was simply a natural fading away from film," writes artist Mike Kelley. "We have become filmic language, and when we look at the screen all we see is ourselves. So what is there to fall into or be consumed by? When looking at something that purports to be you, all you can do is comment on whether you feel it is a good resemblance or not. Is it a flattering portrait? This is a conscious, clearly ego-directed, activity." I find myself in agreement with him on all counts. Perhaps this is why I have turned my gaze so insistently to blue: it does not purport to be me, or anyone else for that matter. "I think both the theater and we ourselves have had enough of psychology" (Artaud)." p. 66-67
2. Paintings by Simon Andrew (via Mira Godard)
Comparing my emotional reaction to these paintings versus what my reaction would be to photographs of the same rooms. Thoughts I might have about photographs of real rooms, that I did not have about these paintings: What is that wall colour called? Where did they buy that? I should redecorate. I wish I had more money.
People generally read my blog like it's the photograph and I mostly want them to read it like it's the painting. I wonder: Maybe, it's precisely the realism of the blog that invites identification and projection of self. I see a photo of an interior, I'm inclined to wonder if I'd live with that wall colour, how comfortable the sofa is. But when I look at painted interiors, I respond more abstractly to form, composition, colour, light, mood. I'm not trying to render everything relatable or realistic. I'm open to being moved more ineffably.
And when I read a poem or a novel, I'm similarly open to the characters and plot; it's not driven by identification, though of course that sometimes happens. Rather, I'm looking to be moved and indeed, I often value being moved by the unexpected, by a character who shares none of my history or geography, inner or outer; by something wholly unrelated to my life.
When I write for my blog, I'm often trying to move people rather than write something relatable. And so I'm often confused by reactions, which are rarely a response to what I've written and instead offer a counter-story. Of course, I'm flattered that people want to share their stories with me and I enjoy hearing them. But it's confusing when I'm trying to write something expressive and I don't know if I've failed or if readers simply aren't looking to be moved, rather they're motivated by an opportunity to share, to meet minds.
It's a little bit of a revolution for me to think that this is inherent in the ontology of the blogosphere. That precisely because our blogs are such realistic, day-by-day snapshots of what is supposedly our real life, that they don't necessarily encourage agnostic reflection. I wonder if the closer we get to realism, the more we elicit personal identification? And if a visceral emotional reaction is what I'm looking for, maybe the ontology of the blog is bound to fail me. Maybe its very realism will always elicit identification first and foremost.
Yet, I don't agree with the Bluets quote fully - not as pertaining to all movies. So, maybe you can have both. And maybe that's what I want to work on.