Sunday, August 15, 2004


I love the late Dr. Larry Bakke's statement about viewing objects in the Ames room: "It's easier for us to believe that a person is impossibly sized than it is for us to believe that the room isn't made of regular rectangles".

The Ames room was old when I went to school, it is older now. But it still works: even when we know that we know we are caught in the illusion of our own presuppositions.

It takes travel, experimentation and creativity to break our preconceptions. And sometimes it is necessary for us to be willing to withhold our judgements based on them. Why is it in our society that blind action is considered so compelling? If a president and his cabinet purchase the good will of Americans through misguided action, what does that mean for the rest of our society? Certainly actions are important, but once a gun is aimed, the action of pulling a trigger renders any later consideration irrelevant. If your judgement is wrong, and your judgement destroys another person, you are not worthy of the responsibility that comes with your position.

The Ames room has a specific architecture. When we look into it, we have a map in our minds that we use to interpret it, one with which we will base our actions. But the map is not the territory. One's judgement should not be based upon a single model, but upon many. In a similar way, images do not denote, they connote.

Life presents mis-en-scene after mis-en-scene. We can approach them like a speed reader, interpreting and acting as fast as we can run through them. But such an approach will not get one closer to reality. What is speed reading to a poem? And what aspect of life is less like a poem, and more like a newspaper headline?

This is why society so often destroys its artists and poets: because it does not perceive their difficult images and words except within its own context, except as misinterpreted by its own perspective. It reduces artists and poets to misfits. This is the conceptual map of the newspaper headline, of the rush through judgement, of the end of justice.

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