“Labelling Challenged”, or “Artistically Inclined” …Whichever …

I have a unique skill.  Or, well, some might say “defect.”  But this is my blog, so we’re going with ‘skill’.  I have the ability to watch something full of images I’m familiar with, and have absolutely no idea what I’m looking at. Like, I can become that apocryphal alien landing on Earth who’s never seen an ‘x’.  Only ‘x’ becomes ‘everything’.

I noticed this first at the movies, though it occurs other places as well.  Any movie where the context is altered … be it faster, slower, more explosive-y (explodey?), darker, monochromatic … I begin to just see this series of shapes and motions on the screen, with absolutely no idea what I’m looking at.  I guess, as with most people and their perceptions, I assumed everyone saw these things the way I do.  But then the movie ‘after action reviews’ would go something like this:

“Hey, mom, remember when that car blew up and rolled over the guy?”

“Uh, no … What?  Did that happen?  Who was rolled over?”

“You know, the bad guy. Right after he jumped his motorcycle off the bridge.”

“He did what?  When was this?”

etc, etc …

I thought everyone else, like me, saw a bunch of color and lights and then the morgue with the dead bad guy looking a bit smushed and was like, “oh, so he must have been killed by the pretty colors …”.

Now, I love my daughter very much. When I told my family about this, after my epiphany, I believe my husband said something like “It’s right there!  How can you not see it!?” and my son something like “Freak.” (um, something exactly like that, in fact).

But my daughter, she said “Mom, you’re an artist.  The same thing that makes you see the world in order to draw and paint it makes you see these things differently.”

Isn’t it always better when you can explain your differences in a way that makes you seem somehow ‘better’ rather than somehow ‘worse’?  What is it about us as people, that ‘different’ alone can’t cut it?

So my daughter’s theory, which I of course immediately latched onto, led me to proudly say things like “Oh, you all see a chainsaw there cutting her arm off?  Really?  I see a silver blur … with hints of orange, and a glimmer of blue in the corner.”  Ok, probably not that obnoxiously, but my lack of vision was at least no longer a source of shame.

And then another artist, a fantastically talented and very academically gifted young woman I’ve taught (and learned from), was telling me about how she can’t ever tell left from right.  Like, ever.  Like, she knows she’s supposed to hold up her hand to make an L, but then she can’t remember what the L means, so it doesn’t help her.  And how spatially, positive and negative space have no meaning to her, each space is its own unique entity.  Maybe my daughter was actually onto something other than making me feel a bit less stupid when watching Transformers or any slasher movie ever created.

Maybe she was defining something about artists, about our reliance on our universal right-brains rather than our “everything has its box” left brains.

Anyway, not to get too deep, but I needed to share this so that anyone else who sees nothing but color and motion in any movie more animated than your standard chick-flick doesn’t feel quite so alone any more.  Though maybe, if you’re venturing alone into the woods at night while camping, take a stong light.  Or a left-brained friend who’s a bit more aware of the visual difference between a ‘silver blur’ and a ‘whirring chainsaw’.  Whichever.

2 thoughts on ““Labelling Challenged”, or “Artistically Inclined” …Whichever …

  1. Whoa. Really? I mean, I guess we never really know how other people are perceiving things. Just like with color. What I perceive as pink might look different to you, even though we both call it pink. Same with taste, smell, all the senses really.

    And I would definitely be careful around saws of any type (well except maybe a handsaw).

  2. I know, right? When we perceive differently, how would we even know? My understanding is that it’s not a function of our vision, which sees well or poorly but in a measureable way, but is a function of our processing … different people process things differently. Left brains are good for labelling, words, etc, whereas right brains are good for seeing things in a more wholistic, spatial way; so if your left brain is dominating, things are clearly defined; if your right brain is, not so much.

    I would have conversations with very left-brained students when teaching, and I’d be trying to get them to see slight value differences … so we’d talk about, say, where two walls meet … everyone sees both walls as ‘white’ individually, but when they meet, almost everyone sees that one is inevitable darker than the other. It would help students realize that our labels aren’t always accurate, and are more of a way of processing the most important info (wall) rather than the secondary info (two planes meeting with the light coming from the left and illuminating the leftmost of the two planes more). I had a few students who couldn’t get past ‘wall’, and never saw one plane as darker, even when so (to me) blatantly obvious. Of course, to them, perhaps everything going on in a fast-paced movie is blatantly obvious, while I’m lost and confused….

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