Project Description

proxemics

[ prok-see-miks ]
noun
(used with a singular verb)
1. the study of the spatial requirements of humans and animals and the effects of population density on behavior, communication, and social interaction.
2. Linguistics.the study of the symbolic and communicative role in a culture of spatial arrangements and variations in distance, as in how far apart individuals engaged in conversation stand depending on the degree of intimacy between them.

specs:

smsart sarah schumacher mixed media painting word of the day proxemics empathy apocalypse the100dayproject 100daysofartandessays

thought process

The Linguistics definition of proxemics is what caught my eye: “the study of the symbolic and communicative role in a culture of spatial arrangements and variations in distance, as how far apart individuals engaged in conversation stand depending on the degree of intimacy between them.

Despite indications to the contrary, we’re still in the middle of a pandemic. “Social distancing” is now part of our everyday lexicon. There are protests across the country. People are foregoing the ability to social distance in order to stand in solidarity with people of color. Other people are simply watching, dismissing or verbally protesting the protests.

The operative word here is “other”. Other people. Us, them. I wanted to represent that Us and Them.

Two women face each other over a massive, centuries-old chasm. They’re not wearing masks; they’re wearing blindfolds. They can’t see each other.

The entire piece is meant to have almost a post-apocalyptic feel, or perhaps the nearing of an apocalypse. America is more overtly divided on race and class than I’ve ever seen in my lifetime, while we’re also seeing the impact of our greed on the planet itself. We’re blind not only to each other, but to what we’re doing to the planet. The tape in the sky represents our blindness to the interconnectedness of all things (although artistically, I’m not sure it’s necessary, as that’s what I intended to convey with the landscape itself).

Western thought suffers from a reductionist mindset. It’s not all bad; it resulted in Newton’s Third Law: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” But that same method of thinking prevents us from applying that logic to the world as a whole. In a world as connected as ours, every action has consequences. Every person has a story. Every society has a history. We’re blind to all of it–ignorant, sometimes willfully–and it results in blindness to each other.

This is a darker piece, because it’s representative of where we’re at right now. We don’t have to stay here.

“…our fates are, in fact, inescapably intertwined. If we, as a nation, are ever to free ourselves from the logic and politics of white supremacy, we must not allow ourselves to imagine that progress is made if the system causes greater harm to “them” than to “us.” Nor can we be seduced into believing that ending racially hostile rhetoric is the same thing as ending systems of racial and social control, or that simply electing a different president or a different political party will necessarily free us from the history and cycle of creating caste-like systems in America. More is required of us in these times.”

– Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow

The background collage is a picture of text (sky) and of a photo of a ruined landscape/what appears to be a church. “Guerrero Viejo by Elena Poniatowska, photography by Richard Payne, addresses the conflict between tradition and progress, and illustrates the consequences suffered by a remote Mexican village, Guerrero Viejo, when a joint U.S./Mexican dam project submerged the town that dated back to colonial Spain.” (Communication Arts 1999 Design Annual)