This singer on stage, Patti Smith, mouthed the lyrics to Bob Dylan's "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall," but her voice had left her body. Smith also went stiff. Her hands locked in place above her stomach, grasping onto one another. The guitar quieted down and slowed its rhythm, and Patti looked to the crowd: "I'm sorry," with a smile of discomfort. She tried to restart her voice but found choked sounds. "I'm sorry," again to the crowd. And then, looking to the conductor: "I'm sorry. Can we start that section..." The guitar had become a trickle of notes, and now its strings stopped vibrating entirely. Every sound left the room. Patti looked again toward the audience: "I apologize. I'm sorry. I'm so nervous." The crowd at the Nobel Prize Ceremony in Stockholm started to clap.
The arts have always held a mirror to our lives, and now, artists are managing just that with the process that drives our lives: the inner workings of cognition. I'm thinking of two exhibits that play with the connection between light and vision. The first, by James Turrell, involves giving viewers visual experiences that demand they see themselves seeing. Typically, we look at something in the distance without noticing the process that allows us to view that something, but Turrell sets up careful experiences with light that leave no other option but to attend to one's own process of perception.
A student in my Media and Mind course, hunting for examples of viewpoint flexibility in film, found the opening sequence to Pixar's Finding Nemo. When we watched the clip together in class, it knocked our socks off. The sheer number of viewpoint switches in the 21 seconds of film and the brilliance with which the director and artists planned these viewpoints gave us all a lesson on the power of storytelling in film.
First, we encounter Coral, the mother on the right, and Marlin, the father on the left, in a state or surprise. We don't know what about, because the perspective limits us. We see only an emotion.