Disturb the Obvious: Turn the Strange Into Familiar and the Familiar Into Strange
Author: Tara Behruz
“A truly creative work of art creates a new reality and in itself constitutes an experience.”
Recently, I came across knowledge that informed me on an alliance I thought was interesting. A short-lived marriage between Margaret Atwood and Arthur Fellig, a foreseeable relationship between two protagonists engaging in banter and kisses. Maybe their relationship excited me a little too much, respectfully, as both individuals helped me understand how an image contributed to the trajectory of how I envision the future. Feverishly expressive, their different mediums explore the networks of underlying themes — cryptic distortions of reality, dystopian truths. A relationship, a moment to remind one that skepticism and harsh imagery is necessary to galvanize a resistance towards the controlling linear narratives of reality, to resist the survival mode of life.
Margaret Atwood honours the world through a series of novels encapsulating the dystopian nature humans may succumb to, if they have not already. Recognized in the popular novels The Handmaid’s Tale and Oryx and Crake, subjects of the state become subservient to the limits imposed by surveilled control, depicted in these storylines. Whether ecological or social destruction, such themes are realized in our everyday lives and directly impact how we choose to respond to the blur that reality already is. My personal lack of knowledge on these books and on Atwood forbids me to continue writing as the depths will not be accomplished. However, Atwood reminds me that through time and space, history and narratives expose the dystopian truths distorting our realities.
A natural voyeur, Weegee captures intimate tragedies. One can say, ‘the assignment was always understood’ when working for respected publications. The sophistication of his unsettling photographs captures the fractures life may impose. Dire circumstances that are not actually your reality and rather someone else’s create a disconnect, however with Weegee’s point of view, the melding of realities is forced to be looked upon as one cannot look away. His famous distortions and black and white photographs compose a tone that forges abstract visions of reality. Once, an individual pursuit and now a collective effort in edits. Weegee’s photojournalist lifestyle captures raw realities of New York City in itself, complimenting Atwood’s cryptic futurism.
Said best by Michel Foucault, I similarly do not want to encourage the optimistic smugness about the now because we are not in fact liberated. The bourgeois is primitive and everything happens in private, as the modernization of systems is continuously blamed in critiques of progress. To focus on the future is no more than a storyline and is needed evermore to express the realities of our lives, reminded effortlessly in their art. Life looks kind, but it isn’t so let us continue to resist the networks of linear subjugation. An empathetic epiphany for all would be nice, wouldn’t you say?
Whether we like it or not, progress means change. Atwood and Weegee’s relationship did not successfully progress into a marriage til death, however this relationship feels familiar. Short-lived yet profound, the two individuals crossed paths to fulfill what they see in the world and what they needed in each other, two truths — what you need and what you see. Both produce a ‘new’ reality and give us a reason to view the world as an experience that feels more and more familiar. How one comes to know is how one comes to respond, and maybe it is a brief moment, just like this relationship, that creates a legacy of enlightened change. The works of art that can be imagined and perceived in a world of all worlds can remind one to never give up.