When I was in college, we had this one class with lots of very philosophical essays that we had to read. The truth is that I have forgotten what almost all of them were about, but one I do remember, and I see its implications in my life today. It was about the revolution of the camera, of taking a photo. This is so incredibly commonplace today that we probably never think about it, but the essay voiced passionately the power of putting something within a frame. By putting something within a frame – by differentiating it from its surroundings – by giving just that thing attention – well, that transformed the banal shoe in the corner into a Work of Art. It meant: Take Notice. And it gave it value. (At least, I think that was the gist of the piece…)
I’ve noticed that simply by giving objects attention, they transform. Perhaps it’s related to those physics theories that show that when an atom is observed by the human eye, it changes. So too with art. One day, I was looking at an accomplished designer’s logos, each framed beatifically in the shiny portfolio on his website. What talent. Look at these incredible logos, I thought, despairingly comparing to my own creations. Shortly afterwards I was on a low-grade stock photos and design elements website browsing for related logos, and there, piled in with the detritus of generic designs, was… the exact. same. logo. that I had just ogled at on that successful designer’s website. It was a monumental moment for me, when I realized that sometimes, just putting something in those four lines of a frame, is the only thing that gives it most of its value.
This phenomenon happens to me when I go to the store to buy clothes for my kids, denying that once again, that adorable shirt that is so clean and cute will be far less appealing when it ends up as yet another thing to fold in the laundry pile. It’s the gist of that experiment with violinist Joshua Bell playing on a stage versus playing in the subway. It’s the concept behind the Emporer’s New Clothes.
Isn’t that so interesting?