The Importance of Absence

So, I missed the field trips. Where that chunk of experience should be is an empty space.

I’ve been thinking about empty spaces lately and particularly the Japanese concept of ma. It’s the space between sounds, the meaningless movement between purposeful motions. It’s not an emptiness in the Western sense– it’s just as important as the action that surrounds it. It is there to strike a balance.

I’ve been thinking about it because there is a lot of material– fascinating, important, beautiful material– that won’t win its way into our final product. Depending on how we craft the site, this could feel like lacunae. Or we could make it ma.

Where big chunks of data could be, we could have tiny asides. Little amuse-bouche reflections that give a taste of what could have been a five-course meal. We’ve talked about stubs– making them purposeful and graceful, a lead rather than a lack, will be crucial.

Notice the empty sky adding atmosphere and emphasizing the rabbit rather than detracting from the whole.
Notice the empty sky adding atmosphere and emphasizing the rabbit rather than detracting from the whole.

At the same time, we must strive to avoid clutter. To accept the emptiness as part of our purpose, an aspect of our argument.

This will be difficult. It requires a patience and craft we might find lacking in the next week.

But I think it’s important. When you have a limited scope, every aspect and absence must be meaningful. If we are deliberate in our details, sensible in our silences, and elegant in our aesthetics, I think we can strike a balance between answers and questions, between argument and exploration, and between material and ma.


2 thoughts on “The Importance of Absence”

  1. You’re right, Katie! It can be challenging to stay motivated through the frustrating snags we hit as we comb through the material available to us for our final projects. It’s important, however, to remember that all aspects of the final painting are crucial, as you point out, even the “empty spaces.” Also, thanks for teaching me all the Japanese I know!

  2. This post provides such a wonderful way to step back from the grind of our individual projects! I spent a lot of time studying Japanese aesthetics last semester in a course on Japanese papermaking, and really appreciated your invocation of the concept of ma–being able to embrace emptiness as part of the final product will likely become even more important in the rush of the next week or so.

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