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How to Get the Magic Back

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Each weekend of the summer I try to take a long bike ride to some part of the city I’ve never been to.

I do this for three reasons. It’s several hours of exercise that doesn’t feel like exercise. It also gets me out doing and seeing things, which makes me feel like I’ve used the day well.

The third reason is that looking at new things, even if they’re just new streetcorners or deer trails, helps me recover a certain uncomplicated way of looking at things that used to be automatic when I was a kid.

To select a destination, I use an obscure app called Randonautica, which creates an X-marker somewhere on a map of the city. The app’s “About” section says it chooses this location through “theoretical mind-matter interaction paired with quantum entropy to test the strange entanglement of consciousness with observable reality.” It says the app’s users, when they arrive at their prescribed locations, often find “serendipitous experiences that seemingly align with their thoughts.”

I assume this is tongue-in-cheek nonsense and that the co-ordinates are random. However, the place it tells you to go is indeed a real corner of the physical world. When you arrive at the spot, it never looks how you might have pictured it, and usually you witness something there that seems oddly significant.

The first time it sent me to a creekside clearing, where I saw a strange black glob in the water that turned out to be a mass of tadpoles. Another time it sent me to a gravel back lane near where I used to live, at a spot where someone had written “DAD!” on the fence in some kind of white resin. Another day it took me to a book-exchange box containing only children’s books and Stephen King’s Tommyknockers.

Wherever it sends you, there’s always something there that seems charged with a small amount of cosmic significance, even if it’s just a particularly charismatic patch of dappled sunlight, an abandoned shopping list with unusual items on it, or some other superordinary sight akin to the twirling plastic bag in American Beauty.

Waiting for you to look up

The trick here is that there’s always something significant, poignant, or poetic everywhere you look, if your mind is in that certain mode – so rare for adults — of just looking at what’s there, without reflexively evaluating or explaining the scene. A mystery co-ordinate in an unfamiliar neighborhood gives you few preconceptions about what you’re going to find there, so the mind naturally flips into this receptive, curious state that’s so natural for children.

I sometimes call this state “art gallery mode,” because of a trick I learned from an art history major. We were at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, browsing famous abstract paintings by Pollock, Kandinsky, Mondrian, and other artists whose swirls, rectangles, and blobs are regarded as masterpieces.

I said something like “I like some of these but I’ve stopped pretending to know what they mean.”

He told me not to bother figuring out what they mean. “All you’re supposed to do is look at it, and notice the feeling it gives you. That’s it.”

This improved my experience immediately in at least two ways. It relieved a kind of inner pressure, which I hadn’t noticed I was feeling, to understand what I’m looking at. I didn’t have to think about what the artist was trying to say, or even think about artists or art at all. I didn’t have to “get it,” or try to look like I get it. All I needed to do was look at what was there and let it affect me in exactly the way in happened to. This is something any human mind can do –- it doesn’t need to be endowed with any special knowledge or insight.  

Definitely endowed with something

Besides simplifying the activity of looking at art, this way of looking opened a window onto a sort of inner palate -– a field of emotional tastebuds, if you will — that was operating in the background all the time. Everything you look at imparts a unique emotional flavor, which can be noticed only if you’re just looking at the thing, and cannot be noticed while you’re trying to figure out what it means or why they made it or why someone paid for it. 

Looking at things in art gallery mode made the museum into a sort of advent calendar of unique emotions. Each painting or sculpture was a little door with a surprise inside. What feeling will this one give me? What about that one?

I was surprised to discover that this approach worked on everything I looked at in the Met — not just the canvases featuring swirls and blobs, but also stodgy portraits of European aristocrats, white Roman statues, and rococo furniture.

It even worked outside the museum. Art gallery mode can give an air of poetry to pigeons fighting over spilled fries, or make a filthy subway sign look like the opening shot of a movie.

Art gallery mode is mostly just a matter of looking at the form in front of you, and categorically dismissing any trains of thought that come up about the thing – explanations, suspicions, shoulds and shouldnt’s. You just come back to the image itself and let it transmit its impression, if it has one for you. If not, move on. There’s so much else to see, in the museum and in the world.

A thing, seen

I think this is something to play with in an art gallery and then take it into real life. Art is relatively easy to look at this way because it usually comes in self-contained paintings or sculptures, and often doesn’t suggest much about why it’s there or what you might do with it.

Out in the world, the purpose of objects is more obvious, and our inner rolodex of explanations and inferences is easily triggered. An old concrete curb and its spongelike dimples might make you think of public works funding. A mailbox might make you think of letters you have to send. In the gallery, however, instead of familiar utilitarian objects, you see a hot pink railroad tie hanging from wires and you don’t know why the hell it’s there. Once you give up the fool’s errand of “getting it,” you can just see it, automatically feeling any significance it has for you. It becomes that haunting shot in a film again.

What the artist was thinking is mostly trivia. Sometimes there’s some interesting historical and personal context to read about, once you know you like Matisse or Andy Warhol or Frida Kahlo. But in that initial encounter, that information is only going to take away from the raw looking. Read the little plaque beside artworks at your peril. It always turns out that the pink railroad tie is some ham-handed statement about class conflict or consumerism. The official explanation, whenever there is one, is usually a letdown.

Frida, just looking, at you

When you get the hang of art gallery mode, you can flip it on as a comfortable default whenever you’re out and about in the world. It’s certainly more fulfilling than the habitual mental analysis you might fall into otherwise. Art gallery mode can restore much of the majesty of terracotta buildings, murals, and wrought-iron gates — and also of robins, dandelions, and rivers –- which might otherwise feel like old hat to an adult who’s ostensibly seen it all before.

This mode of looking might remind you of the way the world appeared when you were a kid, when long explanations were foreign artifacts from the dry and distracted world of grownups, and it was the shapes and textures of things –- and the feelings they gave you — that mattered.


Photos by Mick Haupt, David Cain, JC Trujillo, Edgar Chaparro, and Tim Mossholder

Carol in Denver May 23, 2022 at 9:13 pm

Your last paragraph reminded me of when I was a kid eating popcorn, one kernel at a time, biting off one protrusion, seeing how it looked, then biting off another etc.
I also wondered how your way of looking at things per today’s essay would figure into when someone makes me angry. The other day at the small gym there were three tvs and one canned music going at the same time. I was alone there and like to read while I ride the bikes, but the young man refused to turn off the sounds, as “some people like music when they work out; the administration wants them on.” His job is apparently to keep the electronics turned on, not to make sure a patron has a safe and enjoyable time, even when she is the only person using the gym.

David Cain May 24, 2022 at 9:01 am

I spent a fair amount of my childhood studying popcorn. It is pretty amazing aesthetically — each one is different, satin texture, round but with edges.

Anger is an acute emotional state. It’s meant to grab our attention so we drop everything else, including noticing details, until we deal with the offense/crisis. I recommend noise-cancelling headphones and audiobooks. Totally changed my gym experience.

kiwano May 23, 2022 at 10:35 pm

An important thing to remember about those little plaques telling you what the art is about: assuming the artist actually wrote that blurb (or something that was condensed down into that blurb), the thing the artist wrote wasn’t answering the question “why did I make this art?” anywhere near as often as they were answering the question “what can I put in this statement to keep the grant money flowing/get good gallery placement/etc.?”. Grant reviewers don’t really respond well to “I was just messing around and thought this looked neat” or “when my friends and I dropped acid last weekend, one of us asked ‘why aren’t railroad ties pink?'”

David Cain May 24, 2022 at 9:03 am

For sure. Whenever I read them I sympathize with the artist, because I know what it’s like to have to write a blurb when you want to be making something else.

teo May 24, 2022 at 2:53 am

Thank you. A refreshing reframing of mindfulness. I don’t know how many people I’ve heard express that same “i don’t get art” complaint and this is a good perspective.

David Cain May 24, 2022 at 9:05 am

I am a big fan of Alain de Botton, who has addressed this problem explicitly. I’m sure many more people would like art if they knew they didn’t have to “get” it. Art is often presented in ways that make people feel dumb or inferior, maybe on purpose.

Vilx- May 24, 2022 at 3:54 am

I think I do understand what you mean about the Art Gallery Mode, and it’s a good tool, keep using it. Thumbs up for bringing it into people’s focus!

However this article also hits on a pet peeve of mine about modern “art” (the kind you typically find in galleries). I’ve got a mile long rant about it in my head, but I can summarize it in one sentence – If the majority of your target audience doesn’t understand what your artwork’s message is (without looking at the plaque), you have failed as an artist. Please analyse your mistakes and try again. (And if your work has no message and the audience is free to come up with their own – then that’s just laziness).

David Cain May 24, 2022 at 9:21 am

Well there are two big assumptions you’re making here:

1) That art must have a coherent message encoded in it somewhere, and the point is to “get” that message. This is the myth I’m trying to expose here. All art has to do is evoke a feeling in some people. That evocation of feeling is enough to make something worth making.

2) That the majority of people need to resonate with a piece of art for it to be successful. Why? Art that the majority of people feel they “get” would have to be very, very broad — so broad it might not even be art anymore. Would the majority of people say they “get” Picasso?

Vilx- May 25, 2022 at 3:49 am

Hmm, I think I need to explain myself a bit more.

I’ll start with an anecdote. I think it is a true story, although it’s origins are lost to the mists of time. Once upon a time a school decided to do a poetry contest. All the kids who wanted submitted their works, were graded, prizes were handed out. One kid decided to be cheeky and submitted a lesser known poem by Shakespeare. He got 3rd place and a commendation that he’s a good budding writer and there can be great things in his future if he does not give up and keeps practicing.

Whether this is true or not, this nicely illustrates something we all already know but do not really want to talk about – when we judge artworks, we don’t judge the work itself, but the fame of its author. Picasso’s paintings aren’t so famous and expensive because they are somehow better than other paintings – Picasso just happened to become popular. There are plenty of other artworks which are miles better than Picasso’s being produced by art students every day – and we’ll never get to see any of them. At the same time famous artists can squirt some ketchup on a canvas and sell it for $100,000.

And this irks me to no end. This is just _WRONG_. An artwork’s value _should_ be inherent in itself, not in the reputation of its author. If someone produces another work of art as good as the Mona Lisa, it _should_ be sold for the same amount of money, and _should_ put in a similar museum, no matter who the author was.

And conversely, there _should_ also be some cutoff line below which a work is NOT considered art. A banana left to rot on a table is NOT art. A pile of garbage is NOT art, not matter what context you try to give it. If your artwork gets cleaned up and trashed by the cleaning lady at the end of the day (true story, btw), get a hint.

Of course, one might argue that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and a completely objective way to evaluate art is impossible. Maybe, but we could at least try to approach that…

So, I’ve given it some thought about and I’ve come to a very general way of trying to evaluate an artwork. It consists of 2 questions:

1. What is the purpose of the author?
2. How well was that purpose achieved?

Both should be judged. Especially the first part never gets any attention. People just assume what it was and move on to the second. But it should be examined too. For example, if your purpose is to make someone entertained, or experience beauty or inspiration – you get top marks. If your purpose is to make someone feel disgust or depression or fear or some other bad emotion – you fail. Etc.

Judging the execution is much more straightforward once the purpose has been established.

Now, I can already see the next argument – but why do you need to judge art at all? Why not just enjoy it without judgement? That’s what Art Mode/mindfulness is all about, isn’t it?

To which I would say – sure, but, again – there HAS to be a cutoff below which art is not considered art. You must judge it at least that much before you turn off your critical facilities.

Otherwise, if any squirt of ketchup can be considered art, then the very word “art” loses its meaning. We might as well close all art schools and fire all artists, because, after all, anything is art, and no special skills or talent are required to make it. Art museums become pointless because you might as well go outside and look at birdshit on the pavement – that’s art too, made by the synergy of man and nature, no less! But that’s obviously not right.

Brandon June 13, 2022 at 9:06 am

Interesting viewpoint. My father was a small local artist and he held a similar view.

But what I think is interesting about this perspective is more so about what it DOESN’T say than what it DOES say: you gave credit to the Mona Lisa as being a piece of valuable art. Why?

I don’t see any inherent value in the Mona Lisa, personally. I don’t “get” it, and I don’t know why anyone values it. As near as I can tell, your assignment of value to it is entirely, 100%, subjective.

So my question is this: why should art YOU value be worth more recognition than art that *I* value? Why should I value your Mona Lisa above my banana peel?

I think that another way of saying this is: why should YOUR views on ethics/morality/values be inherently superior to MY views?

Art is an expression of individuality. You are trying to put it into a neat little box of your own making and then declare it “art”, as if everyone else’s lived-experiences either are equivalent to your own or inferior to your own.

Just a thought.

Cherie July 11, 2022 at 12:22 am

I really enjoy the simplicity of the concept “art gallery mode”. Every individual’s perceptions and experiences of life vary so much, you can never really know what an image will evoke. The idea that art must be interpreted and also interpreted correctly/ as the artist intended, places rules on a practice that glorifies, and encourages having no rules. I paint frequently, and most of the time the answer is simply because I like the way it looks. You can break down how a stylist, interior designer, artist puts things together – balance, symmetry, space etc, but people enjoy the finished piece without needing to know all those things, it’s how it makes them feel. When a message is glaringly obvious, it’s pretty safe to assume that’s what the artist meant. (Ex: A shattered tv screen with “read a book” spray painted on the front, or a giant family dinner with balloons and confetti, but all the people are staring at cell phones)

Catherine Stark May 24, 2022 at 4:48 am

Wow! I loved this post David. Ironically I saw in it a hidden depth of understanding and explanation. The word ‘kaleidoscope’ comes to mind, meaning ‘a beautiful form to see’. Thank you.

Lindsay May 24, 2022 at 5:27 am

Everything in our observable reality is a reflection of our inner state. So of course the coordinates you received are serendipitous. Of course the feelings that come up from the art are a conduit to your inner emotional state. Thanks for helping me remember that. A little serendipitous that I received your post today, if I do day so myself. I really enjoy your writing.

Colin Smith May 24, 2022 at 6:37 am

Hi David, thank you so much for writing and sharing this article. I appreciate your thinking.

There is so much to be seen and heard from simply observing. Arriving fully present, with no agenda, being curious and being open to all possibilities, enables us to observe more freely.

I agree, that what we observe may well be connected to our inner world/thinking, which is fine. It may enlighten us to grow, develop and for many of us even heal.

It will be inspiring to have the space for a few people to observe a situation or a ‘happening’ as Alan Watts calls them, and to share what we observed. In doing so we broaden the possibilities.

This approach will be most helpful in my listening work, thank you.


Jay May 24, 2022 at 7:13 am

I tend to view art this way, generally without explanation. It should be able to speak to you and convey itself. It reminds me of a line, something about how if you have to explain a joke, it really isn’t funny.

Steph May 24, 2022 at 7:30 am

Getting into a drawing/sketching habit is another great way to cultivate this sense of serendipitous wonder, imo. With a sketchbook in hand, any random collection of objects turns into a cosmically-arranged scene that begs to be captured. It really brings out the beauty of ordinary things. Maybe that’s part of why it’s easy to enter this mental state when looking at art—an artist is trained to look at the world in this way.

David Cain May 24, 2022 at 9:31 am

Yes, for sure. The way of looking I’m referring to is definitely something you need to develop in order to draw anything you see in the world. Drawing is the humbling experience of realizing that things never look like you think they do! It’s amazing. I’m not very good at drawing, but as you say, just looking at something in the way you need to to draw it will evoke that cosmic significance feeling.

Anoop May 24, 2022 at 7:33 am

Hi David. I loved the line . “All you’re supposed to do is look at it, and notice the feeling it gives you. That’s it.”

Very useful advice. Speaking of advice, an old blog post of yours “3 Pieces of Advice I’d Give My 18 Year-Old Self If I Could” was wonderful and I loved it.

It inspired me to write a blog post of my own c​alled 5 Life-Changing Pieces of Advice I Would Give to My Younger Self

Reading your blogs over the last couple of years has been very thought-provoking and insightful and I’m grateful to you! :)

Rocky May 24, 2022 at 8:00 am

It all depends on how you look at it.
Everything depends on how you look at it !
You’ve provided a great tool for looking outside of the box. Very useful for creating art as well as viewing it.
Look through the eyes of your heart…
Not your mind.
Thanks David !

Tania May 24, 2022 at 8:11 am

Thank you David, just what I needed now… to get the magic back. As Anoop mentioned, this was the statement that made the most impact to me: “All you’re supposed to do is look at it, and notice the feeling it gives you. That’s it.”
I do tend to be quite mindful and notice the beauty of life BUT “notice the feeling it gives you” will surely deepen my experience. This is the important process I had “forgotten” from the ecopsychology classes I took.

David Cain May 24, 2022 at 9:33 am

As I said, an art gallery is the best place to start noticing that “inner palate.” Make a date with yourself to practice this. Enjoy!

Paul May 24, 2022 at 8:25 am

I can’t remember who wrote it, but David, you’re reminding me of a quote that I’ll paraphrase, the mind is on a constant search for things to ignore. By George, the gallery mode you’re recommending just might be the skill I’m looking for to cash in on all that ignorance. Thank you once again for putting me on notice!

David Cain May 24, 2022 at 9:34 am

Ok that one is intriguing but I don’t quite know what it means — what is meant by “ignoring” in this context?

Paul May 24, 2022 at 5:00 pm

We’re hard wired to perpetuate our species. The same survival habits of thinking that keep us alive and learning can also imprison us, especially now that we have lighters, Grubhub, and overpopulation. In the original quote, i”gnoring” I believe meant to disregard. In my follow-up comment after the paraphrased quote, I took the liberty of inverting the meaning of the content of ignorance from emptiness to fullness. There I go again. That was instinct as an amateur cartoonist. My inversion may have lost you and maybe most others. I was trying to say that maybe we can take advantage of our Sisyphean inclinations, and rather than scanning superficially and momentarily, we can dig in and savor the phenomena we’re designed to overlook at least every one in awhile. Thanks for the chance to reflect on my expository style.

David Cain May 25, 2022 at 9:05 am

Ah in that case I agree. Savoring is a good word, because it implies an interest in what the thing “tastes” like, rather than a mental analysis of the thing.

Rosie May 24, 2022 at 8:44 am

David – Thank you! I loved so many things about this essay – the concept behind your adventure rides, Art Gallery Mode, see more/analyze less, etc. I will be using this! I am not normally one to comment but needed to thank you for the experiences and opportunities that your writing offers. I’ve added a calendar reminder to revisit this article next month to reconsider its ideas.

David Cain May 24, 2022 at 9:34 am

Visit an art gallery too!

Kate Sheridan May 24, 2022 at 9:53 am

I’ll have to give art galleries another try. Meanwhile, what you said about riding a bike could not ring truer. I’m 65 and ride nearly daily, and each time the world is new again. Even though I often ride the same route, there is always something to stop for.
I only recently discovered your posts and I already sense a deep affinity with your world view. Thank you

David Cain May 24, 2022 at 1:33 pm

I feel like a bike is just about an optimal way of exploring the world. It’s fast so you have quite a large radius, but there’s also nothing between your senses and the world.

Jeremy May 24, 2022 at 10:28 am

I love the way you describe the “field of emotional tastebuds”. You’ve hinted at it a few times, but it’s a quality that I think is so under-identified yet so important to being alive and an experiential being. Living with a not-so-thin veil of derealization for about a decade, it’s this kind of emotional palate that I deeply miss, but it’s been the hardest thing to describe. The best I’ve got is calling it Feeling (versus Emotion), a kind of purely cognitive yet thoughtless sensation. If you have any more thoughts on this kind of thing and maybe knowledge of a few other sources that validate it even existing, I would love to read that post.

David Cain May 24, 2022 at 1:43 pm

I haven’t phrased it in that way before, but I do write about direct experience quite often. (By direct experience I mean all sensory experience plus mental and emotional activity.) There are a lot of ways to interpret direct experience, and to subdivide it. The most useful I’ve found is Shinzen Young’s noting methods of meditation, where you use the labels See, Hear, and Feel to denote different categories of direct experience. You can do this practice sitting, walking, or doing anything really. Basically, you notice where in your experience your attention is drawn, and then give that experience one of those three labels, and just observe it for a few seconds. Then you repeat the process.

The “Feel” label applies to any physical feeling, but also this subtle emotional quality I’m referring to.

Anyway, if that’s of interest to you, here’s a video with Stephanie Nash teaching this method to beginners: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aU5Q1ikgKlI

You also might appreciate this post, which gets at the same experience described in this post from another angle: https://www.raptitude.com/2019/08/how-to-see-things-as-they-are/

I don’t know much about derealization except what my best friend has described to me — she has been derealized/dissociated to some degree for years.

MarthaW May 24, 2022 at 11:59 am

Excellent post David. Another thing that results from this way of looking at art is, of course, that you can experience it over and over and it’s never the same. My husband, who is not a fiction reader at all, once asked how I could reread books, wasn’t that boring? I pointed out that he could listen to a Bruckner symphony multiple times. Every time through a gallery, or book, or piece of music, you are coming at it from a different interior space and so have a different reaction. To me, that is what makes art of any sort so compelling. If you always had the same response it WOULD get boring.

David Cain May 24, 2022 at 1:45 pm

Yes — it is never the same. I assume this is because the emotional experience that occurs is only partly the artwork and also partly who you are at this moment, which changes over time.

Rereading books makes this clear — it’s a very different experience each time. Sometimes it seems almost completely new.

Casey Cotita May 24, 2022 at 12:00 pm

Your app to take you random places and pursuing an art gallery mindset reminded me of this podcast we listened to about Serendipity that you might like: Christian Busch | How To Invite & Cultivate Serendipity Into Your Life, Nassim Taleb & The Serendipity Mindset (linked in the Website field)

On a side note, I started something 8 months ago where about a dozen friends and family listen to a podcast (like above) or TED talk on pretty much any topic under the sun then get together for a video call on Sunday mornings for an hour or two to discuss the topic in depth. Hoping to turn it into something similar to your soup get togethers once things are a bit safer or meet outdoors until then. Just thought I’d share!

David Cain May 24, 2022 at 1:46 pm

That sounds like a great idea. Like a book club but for different media.

Gabriela May 24, 2022 at 12:22 pm

I invite you to explore Miksang Photography (The Good Eye.) This form of contemplative photography requires a state of awareness where all “noise” fades away. A Stillness. No ambition. No comparison, no story, no analysis. A flash of perception stops me…https://www.miksang.com/miksang/

Another site to explore, Inner View/Soul Biographies. Coming to a similar state of awareness and stillness in the conscious presence of oneself or another. All the “noise” fades away. An impulse may arise to speak with no need to know what… https://soulbiographies.com/about/

I call it Liberation.

David Cain May 24, 2022 at 1:48 pm

I will check them out. This comment reminded me of a book I bought years ago but never properly read, called “The Art of Contemplative Photography.” I presume it covers a similar approach.

Aneliese Reason May 24, 2022 at 3:45 pm

Lovely read.

Reminded me of this Keats quote:

“I still don’t know how to work out a poem.

A poem needs understanding through the senses. The point of diving into a lake is not immediately to swim to the shore, but to be in the lake, to luxuriate in the sensation of water. You do not work the lake out, it is an experience beyond thought. Poetry soothes and emboldens the soul to accept the mystery.”

Jacky May 24, 2022 at 6:51 pm

Ohhhh!! I came to EXACTLY the same conclusion about looking at Art though I hadn’t made that connection that when you look at designated ‘Art’ this way it also spills over to how you look at ordinary things in the world. So you get a vastly expanded experience and a wonderful one to boot. I often find myself seeing Art in ‘pigeons fighting over spilled fries’ as you say. One night I simply walked from one end of my long narrow house to the other to get something and noticed the play of light coming into my darkened front bedroom from the street light outside creating a myriad of sepia coloured textural patterns. Had to take a picture! Had to capture it.

Second thing ….. those titles under the pictures you included are terrific. ‘Definitely endowed with something’, ‘A thing seen’ ‘Frida, just looking at you’ ….made me laugh out loud. With no small feeling of relief!

I’m not against analysis and explanation though. The winner of the 2020 Archibald Prize in Australia depicted an Aboriginal woman standing in muddy water (the terrible floods we have endured). She was holding two buckets with water streaming out of what must be holes in the bottom of the bucket. I read that this symbolised the outrageous commission (up to 50%) that art galleries are taking from artists. Its a bit of a scandal here, especially for indigenous artists. The artist also said ‘The rising muddied waters are a symbol of the artist’s position within the art world – trepidatious, unchartered and ominous”. Reading these two things added to my appreciation of the painting. There’s a place for both approaches I have come to believe – your experiential, feeling one and the analytical academic one. But yours is a lot more than simply the secondary default position of “Well I can’t understand it so I’ll just look at it”. It may be the most important way in fact and any analysis or explanation available to be used is simply an option … an add-on … the viewer can take up or not as she wishes.

David Cain May 25, 2022 at 9:10 am

Observing the play of light alone in this way can add a lot to any ordinary day. It’s always picturesque, always expressing some elegant principle of nature.

Valerio May 25, 2022 at 3:34 am

When I feel stuck in thoughts or papanca, sometimes I use something similar to art gallery mode – only I call it “text-only era Zork mode”, inspired by one of your past blog entries. I look at my surroundings and try to describe them to myself mentall as if I knew nothing about them. I try to do the same for feelings and different experiences of perception.

Valerio May 25, 2022 at 3:34 am


David Cain May 25, 2022 at 9:11 am

Zork mode! Every since I was a kid I’ve been finding myself accidentally in “Zork mode,” and later on I’ve learned how to create it on purpose. I like your method here — like you’re a crash-landed explorer, preparing a report to your home planet.

Pipsterate June 2, 2022 at 6:46 pm

Unfortunately I’ve basically lived in the same town for the last 15 years, so it’s getting harder and harder to make these kinds of discoveries. It’s a good idea though. Maybe I just need to travel a little farther to get it to work?

John June 8, 2022 at 5:58 pm

This post was one of the most remarkable things I’ve read.
Art gallery mode was a revelation for me. Something I feel I will be forever grateful for. Thank you.

Steven Schrembeck June 13, 2022 at 6:13 pm

A generalized approach to properly walking across a parking lot. Yeah. This article reads better in art gallery mode too

Ben Wheeler July 2, 2022 at 8:35 am

Plus, of course, the summary and description given to you by the museum or gallery or artist is itself a performance, one which sometimes captures something about the art and a useful way for them, sometimes for you, but shouldn’t be taken to be any kind of pure representation of the art. These summaries must omit nearly everything that is relevant to the artwork: the artist’s history with the medium, genre, techniques, form, and relationships with other artists; the artists examined and unexamined baggage semicolon the artists privileges and pains, blindnesses and insights; the degree to which elements of this art were cribbed from other pieces by this artist, or from other artists; and the inchoate alchemy that may have occurred in the process of making the art where conscious intentions were rendered irrelevant.

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