Practical Theory. Embodied Presence and a presence to embody, how the extension of self, the activation of mirror neurons, and the avatar state allow us to see our selves in the conceptual world.
Wow, that heading was a mouthful, but let's see if we can't expand on it a bit shall we. Because the nature of the conceptual world is expressed through mental representations and built upon neural architecture, the weird psychic telemetry that allows us to engage with the conceptual world is often predicated on reconstructed memories and shared or similar experiences that contain both esoteric and exoteric levels of information that can only be understood through implicit or explicit levels of awareness. Or in other words, if we want to navigate that sphere of thought effectively, we only have metaphor to rely on as allegory and emotional comparisons are poor tools in terms of being able to mount a successful expedition. And if that was all a bit overly existential then allow me to try and elaborate. In terms of how the Id, the Ego and the Superego all serve to anchor various aspects of our selves and our identities in the mundane world, it can be said that is only through conflict and confrontation with others or with our selves that we are in turn able to establish and maintain a presence in physical space, as certain value propositions such as recognition and acknowledgment are predicated upon competition and comparisons to and with others. Case in point, many people in a relationship use said relationship as a means of establishing and cementing their identity through institutions such as marriage. Which brings up all kinds of strange litigious thinking but then, the moment something becomes intellectual property, it no longer exists in the physical and instead becomes a part of the conceptual, and often the only way to maintain such an investment is through the use of emotion. But I've digressed. The problem inherent with this kind of thinking of course is that once people have become accustomed to thinking in such a way, they are often very reluctant to change it, so the moment we in turn come to occupy a place in other people's thoughts that is deleterious or detrimental to our existence, the need for a heroic effort in order to reframe other people's ways of thinking becomes the only option in terms of dealing with the underlying associations that have in turn formed whenever someone else thinks about us, as the position we have come to occupy in the relationship is both toxic and untenable. This particular phenomena can be seen evidenced in almost every caste system throughout history as percepticide and various other mental defense mechanisms that work their way into how the social hierarchy is expressed will in turn seek to reinforce themselves because they preserve a sense of normality for those living under their yoke, and why reformation and revolution rarely if ever come from the top down as it is the desire to overthrow one's oppressor that in turn leads us to challenge the status quo. Which again, leads us into the formation of identity through conflict as it is all but impossible to form a sense of our selves without confronting the challenges and obstacles that must be overcome in order to achieve our objectives. Basking in the glory of others however will only allow the Shadow room to grow as trying to see our selves reflected in others is a denial of the self because it diminishes rather then establishes our own presence in our minds. Which in turn leads to all kind of weird psychic phenomena as the contradictions that must be resolved in terms of being an artist means that in order to first establish our selves, we begin by admiring the qualities and abilities in others we most desire or seek to emulate, and then discovering that about our selves which makes our own vision in turn unique. Or we begin to establish preferences which in turn reflect back to us those things we most desire in our selves in which case everything gets really existential again as evidenced by the fact that experiences which occur in the conceptual world can be used to temporarily satisfy the unspoken needs, wants and desires we aren't able to meet in our day to day lives.
Now without a strong sense of self in the mundane world and a healthy ego to keep us from unraveling whenever we encounter situations in which we find ourselves at a loss, the natural human tendency to avoid situations that cause us pain or leave us frustrated means that the coping mechanisms we develop in order to handle difficult or challenging situations is predicated on preserving either our pride or our position within society as all too often we come to rely on external factors such as recognizable achievements or accomplishments in order to establish that same sense of self. In the conceptual world, as in the virtual world however, the illusion of credibility comes into effect as the metric being used to measure our own effectiveness is no longer verifiable by internal means as the external forces which in turn serve to become determinators have a tendency to then overshadow our intangible efforts in favor of tangible results. In other words, the avatar state replaces our sense of self as the presence to be embodied, as the conceptual world and by extension the virtual world is made up of the ideas that other people have in turn come to recognize and internalize in ways that are based upon and yet abstracted from reality. They can however be measured in terms of statistics as status in the virtual world is largely dependent on prestige values and virtual scarcity. Which is in turn absolutely terrifying as resolving the dichotomy that exists in terms of social mobility in the virtual world and the mundane world creates a conflict within the self that gives preference to whichever reciprocates the fastest, or whichever is more likely to support and sustain our existence but humans have always specialized in terms of establishing a presence within new frontiers and the digital domain is no different then any other sphere of thought. At least not at the moment, the day that remote presence and telepresence become a facet of our every day lives however, this whole argument is going to become an anachronism.
Onwards. Because a virtual avatar can be seen as a basic representation of our selves in those worlds which exist purely in digital space, the presence that we maintain or in turn come to embody has all the hallmarks of the real thing, with a few notable exceptions. For one, the body informs the spirit, so when we associate our selves with a character in a conceptual world, the moment we customize that character in any way, we begin the process of investing aspects of our own selves and identities into that character, and in turn the experiences and achievements of that character become an essential part of our own identities. Indivisible, inseparable, take your pick, the mind simply doesn't mark a distinction between that which has happened in the mundane world and that which can only have happened in the conceptual world. We can learn to distinguish between them yes, but because of our reliance on reconstructing memories in order to re-experience the events in question, the separation between the two will continue to blur as time goes on, until eventually the events as we recall them no longer reflect anything other then our own perceptions about reality. Which is part of why the conceptual world is filled with inherent risks to our mental health as when we embody the presence of a character in our own mind through the use of method acting we are either surrendering our sense of self in order to better understand or convey their motivations, or we are donning a mask in order to wear a persona not our own, and in doing so, learning how to identify as the mask itself, rather then the face behind it. This is another one of the reasons why it's so essential to work with mental projections in terms of writing or drawing if only because mental projections exist external to the self, and that means we engage with them rather then embody them, which tends to be a very important distinction to make as whenever we sit down to read a book or watch a film, the self contained nature of the experience has fail safes built in that keep us from losing sight of our selves in the conceptual world the artist has created. Which can be seen evidenced by the fact that specialized forms of language have developed in order to help others navigate those same worlds effectively.
Now having said all of that, I'd be remiss if I didn't make mention of how all of this can affect the creative process, so in terms of being an artist, whenever we sit down to write or draw, our body remains in the mundane world, while our mind, our self and our entire presence is extended into the conceptual world. Hence the reason why we would need a presence to embody as existing purely as thought tends to mess with our head quite a bit and is a very difficult projection to maintain for an extended period of time as it can very often lead to the dissolution of the self. But that's neither here nor there as whenever we attempt to conceive of an entire world in terms of writing a novel or creating a scenario for a comic book, the ideal action is to egress rather then regress, otherwise we run the risk of achieving amelioration with that idea, and let's try that again shall we? Whenever we set out to construct a mental representation of the idea which we will then attempt to create, or actualize as the case may be, frustration will typically arise whenever the idea collapses on top of us and we're left trying to extricate our selves from the rubble. Which happens a lot when you're first starting out as an artist as art is an iterative process and the only way to learn how to build it better the next time is to watch it fall apart over and over again. Now because the presence we typically come to embody while working on a project is not singular but rather an amalgamation of all the various elements and aspects of the work in question, our capacity to hold all the levels of information and act upon it in a meaningful way is what often serves to determine our practical rather then technical ability. As evidenced by the fact that if I could do even half of the stuff I've studied as an artist, I'd be phenomenal, as it stands I'm only really just starting out. As a writer on the other hand, I've already hit the upper limit of what one person can do with words alone. So, there is a balance that must be found between the presence to be embodied and the extension of self that we use to navigate and measure the health and well being of an artistic work as the activation of mirror neurons shows us, when we see someone getting hit, we can either feel the hit ourselves, or we feel as though we're the one's throwing the punch. Really it depends on how good the artist is and that's a determinative value rather then a subjective one as both awe and admiration open us up to new experiences and our mental defenses will automatically reject anything they perceive as being detrimental or dangerous to our psyches unless of course we've been conditioned, adjusted, acclimated or desensitized to the subject in question, in which case all bets are off. Also the issue of identification comes into question as who we choose to identify with often has to with our position in relation to both the person being hit and the one who is doing the hitting. In terms of being a purely hypothetical scenario its often the one we feel is most morally or ethically justified as in comic books, we're often led to believe that the villain has by their very definition done something to deserve being punched. In real life however the considerations that go into this process are infinitely more complicated and generally unpleasant to try and untangle as it means attempting to strip away layer upon layer of unconscious biases and other negative or unwanted crap. Now the same extension of self that allows us to embody a character while writing also allows us to experience what its like to be that character, hence the reason why all characters in an artistic work should be considered cardboard robots and not in any way something resembling real people as almost all events that happen in fiction are made entirely out of suck. And I'm not being facetious when I say that, as the most commonly used tool by artists to get an audience emotionally invested is to create a set of circumstances in which any alternative to one's current situation is an obvious improvement, but since we've already paid money just to enjoy the privilege of the experience well, catch twenty-two folks. This is also one of the reasons why leaving a character worse off then when they started is generally considered to be a dick move, but spoilers folks, things are only going to get worse before they get better because the higher the chance of failure, the greater the feeling of success when it actually does happen. Also the hero never wins until the final act, which is some kind of unwritten rule that's up there with the hero never appears until after the villain has taken to the stage but literary theory is weird like that. People come to expect convention and are equally disappointed when they do get it as when they don't. Anyway, because the extension of self and the activation of mirror neurons can in turn create a feedback loop that reciprocates the energy we as artists feed into a closed system, there is a conceptual threshold that can be reached in terms of an artistic work's ability to manifest. Which is what in turn allows us to judge our ability to actually complete said work or not and is what gives a work a presence to embody, rather then a presence to be embodied. Oh that sounded confusing even to me, and I've stood on both sides of the conceptual threshold more times then I care to remember. Anyway, I think that's enough for today, until next time folks, have a good one.
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Practical Theory, an artist's guide to understanding the hidden world of art, is a blog in which I'll be discussing all the weird, strange and semi-mystical things I've encountered while researching the emergent principles inherent in the transdisciplinary nature of art. So if you've ever wondered why art works the way it does, or if your just a fan of seeing if words can be weaponized in a way that can make people's head explode, check it out!