When you go to a gallery what do you look at? The art on the walls? The placard explaining the piece? Your phone maybe? How about the way we each interact with one another and the way we interact with the art itself? I find it thoroughly interesting to observe the human form from a more distanced perspective. I try and take a step back to shift my perspective from a participant to an observer. To me, the real art is not what hangs on a wall, but how we interact with the piece.
London is one of those places where, despite being populated by millions of bodies, despite being frequented by thousands of tourists, it can be so easy to feel alone. As I've alluded to in the past, loneliness is not dependent on the number of bodies around us but rather our attitude and mindsets. In this project I actually managed to feel more connected to those around me by taking myself out of the social norm and viewing the world through an outsiders perspective. How does that work? What could lead to such an outcome?
Channelling my inner David Attenborough, I observed and I studied. A fly on the wall of a shared cultural experience, a sociological observation was born. People paced, and they paused, paced and paused. They observed the art, they reacted, they discussed. They'd pace some more and they'd pause some more. Solemn in thought and quiet in respect. The viewers shared their behaviours with those who had come before them. Reactions varied, but the behaviours remained the same. Only occasionally was the status-quo disrupted.
We may have different views on the merits of art and the quality of what we see in front of us but it was comforting to realise just how similar we all are. The gallery managed to both unify us and divide us simultaneously. Division in opinion but more importantly: unity in behaviour. We usually share experiences in time, but here, we share experiences in space. An art gallery is one of the few places in which you can see different people sharing an experience in a spatial dimension across different times and if you look out for it, it can be thoroughly interesting to observe.
It was truly comforting to see just how similar we really are in our actions but that wasn't the only comforting experience to had.
Sitting back, observing from a distance and breaking from the mould of expected behaviour and expected focus felt wonderful. All of a sudden I had this secret, this ulterior-motive. Everyone else was there for the art on the wall but I was there for the art in the circumstance. Looking at the world from the alternative perspective provided a sense of power, for I was choosing my own reality. Extrapolating this concept to our other worldly problems can have profound affects also. In her book, The Charisma Myth, Olivia Fox Cabane talks about how shifting the lens of which we view our problems from can have a drastic impact on the emotional effect the problem will have on us. This is essentially what I experience by shifting my focus during my time at the Tate Modern. I shifted my focus and had a drastically different experience to the one I would have had if I had maintained my usual behaviour in the gallery. Perhaps this was just the experience I needed to realise the power of shifting perspectives...
Interestingly, a trip to the art gallery can be a fantastic way of practising mindfulness. When we walk around, observing our surroundings, identifying our emotional response to the stimulus, our thoughts are dragged into the present moment. This is the very essence of mindfulness practice and leads to a whole host of benefits. Try it out!