What is 'OTHER' Seeing?


For many, the idea of 'other' lives in a distant margin, filled with a kind of uncomfortable difference or difficulty. For others, it's more likely to be a longing for another self, eager for a freedom or distinction. Yet to see the world only through these prisms of good and bad, or left and right perceptions is to dismiss a world filled with puzzles, divisions and impressions that all differ from the obvious and familiar.

And still, the temptation to define the world using only binary beliefs is often too overwhelming to resist — offering a kind comfort in one's own immediate beliefs. But the ease in these responses is less pertinent to learning than the inevitable frictions that arise in pushing them against divergent perspectives.  Inside the theatres of advertising, identity politics, and the persuasive rhetoric that have permeated every aspect of our lives, we often try to either leverage differences between us, or eradicate any notions that they ever existed — often in the hope of selling solutions, alleviating anxieties, or creating illusory experiences. These efforts can sometimes manifest in weaponized virtues that declare everyone to be the same, idealized through only certain human prisms — 'ours'. Not surprisingly, we fail at these virtuous endeavours more often than we care to realize. Through them, our cultures often succumb to wayward ideologies in a strange effort to elevate ourselves before trying to realize the issues they're struggling to better comprehend. Time and time again through doctrines like Soviet collectivization, or Mao's modernizations, or the Jacobin's bloody justice during the French Revolution, we are left to destroy the very principles we set out to realize in the first place. 'You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs' was the rallying cry during the slaughter of the French liberation.  Yet in order to learn more about our perceptions and deceptions alike, the act of acknowledging, categorizing, and shifting across differences remains a necessary human tool — not something to be abolished or forgotten — but to be explored and better understood, despite the many uncomfortable understandings they may reveal.  

by Michael Graf

What the nature of 'Other seeing' suggests is an expanded approach to how we use our tools of observation — not just for more simplified reactions, but for greater varieties, differences and combinations of perceptions. The trap we often fall into is to perceive the world only through the evidence that confirms existing beliefs. Psychologists call this a confirmation bias, or sometimes referred to as a 'suchbild' – which literally translates into a search target for our attentions. With that target in mind, other pertinent information can be easily overlook since we're not focusing on unknown possibilities. When we go about perceiving the world this way, the fixation remains on searching for our own targets of belief. This runs contrary to the idea of what 'other seeing' proposes. What it attempts to do is to gather and explore alternate evidence and to offer conjecture on all the unseen possibilities that may abound. This is an effort to build larger contexts to observe from, and can help us to define our roles as observers, observing, and being observed (roles that we all play). Of course this pursuit can seem like a cyclical frustration, but its purpose is to illustrate what it means to navigate beyond rigid expectations into the realm of broader thinking — whether wayward or not. With an eye toward finding connections, the act of mixing contexts can only spark deeper insights into the tapestries of who we are.  In the quest for what Helen Langer calls 'mindful' creativity, the capacity to expand on isolated, idyllic contexts is among the most valuable possibilities a mind can achieve — something that segues into what psychologists call a theory of mind. This concept recognizes the ability for us to understand thoughts, desires and motivations separate from our own, or an awareness of both others and ourselves. Great art can trade heavily on this notion by providing an exercise in exploring our common human categories (prayer, tribe or promise) from uncommon vantages. These perspectives are not simply meant to entertain or draw ridicule and indifference, but to help us in our developmental struggles. The art of a culture can become a powerful tool to reflect both the aspirations and wayward intentions of its own times and influences — including our present times.

by Michael Graf

Yet this can be a difficult exercise for those who don't wish to read our behaviours or motivations with any care. And sadly, without visual reading there are no new vantages to see from. Without other vantages, there are no new experiences to expand our thinking. As a reading model, Otherness propels us past the deep-seated grip of glancing ideals into the influences of different times, places and cultural ordeals and connecting them in new ways to our own. And yet, when we succumb to blind obsessions, repetitions, or volumes of followers, a culture can become vulnerable to losing its founding structures and purposes. It's also an important reminder that we live in such ways that almost everything we perceive can be understood in alternate ways. And as a result, we are constantly voting between the palpability of one or other — often biasing our own immediate convictions in the process. This is where the truth of a situation and the power of our own beliefs can travel only so far, since we become stubborn to the fictions in our own beliefs. We watched this stubborn veneer surface through the histories of our not too distant past. Could there be a parallel to our own times as they blindly march forward?

So in these times of upheaval and difference, what does it mean to propel ourselves into other thinking when we feel so little need to? 'Other' remains a certain kind of openness, a courage, and at its core a kind of love  — one that becomes 12 degrees more wise about our bent, broken, and collectively wondrous nature. It is not a pursuit for perpetual control or immediate virtue over what we see, but a knowledge to see and think of them otherwise.

— michael graf