The time has come, once again, to say goodbye to our previous theme: Zin//Sentence. In these past two months it has served us well. It made many a dull mind gleam with creative splendour and woke slumbering spirits from their February lull. For all the good it has done us, everything old must, at some point, make way for something new.
The ‘new’ here comes in the form of parallax. A concept used in many different fields, from astronomy to artillery gunfire, it refers to the displacement or alteration that occurs when the same object is viewed from multiple perspectives in relation to other objects. Imagine, for instance, that you’re sitting in a train. People mumbling in the background. Someone’s reading a newspaper. You look outside and the trees that are right next to the train zip past at lightning speed. At the same time, however, the tractor that stands stationary in the distance slowly moves across your field of view. You even appear to make eye-contact with the driver.
This phenomenon, that objects in the distance appear to move more slowly than the objects close to me, is an example of parallax. We even use parallax to measure how far away we are from things, the overlapping visual fields of our two eyes allowing for depth perception through a process called stereopsis. As you can see, it’s a concept that has everything to do with how we perceive the world around us.
Another meaning of the word parallax, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) tells us, is a “distortion; the fact of seeing wrongly or in a distorted way.” Interestingly, this interpretation seems to be less open-minded than the more physics-based approach to the word. Whereas in the first example you are just looking at a tractor from a different perspective, in this case it is known for a fact that you are “seeing wrongly or in a distorted way.” For a term that exists as a means to describe different perspectives, you’d think that it would be less liberal with the addendum of ‘wrongly’ and ‘distorted’.
In line with this is the final definition that the OED gives. Parallax is apparently used in photography to describe “a defect in a photographic image caused by differences in the positions of parts of the camera.” Here, once again, the description conjures the same negative connotations. “A defect.” Something wrong, something broken. But what if your ‘defect’, your ‘distorted way’ of seeing, is just as valid as the one who decided that the word parallax would come to signify this? Would that then mean this definition of parallax is ‘a fact of seeing wrongly’?
An example of turning a defect into the desired outcome, can be found in the work of Jean Luc Mylayne. In his photography he attempts to capture birds. More specifically, he attempts to photograph three specific subspecies of bluebirds whose migratory paths cross once a year in West Texas. Further problematizing his own process, he imagines beforehand how his ‘actors’ should occur in the image and uses specific lenses that create optical distortions, or ‘defects’ if you will. After hundreds of visits from his feathery performers, if he is lucky, everything comes together. The light is just right, the bird hops just where Mylayne wants it to be, the distortions in the lens capture the gleam in the bird’s eye – SNAP – he has his photo.
In his work and the context surrounding it there is a true convergence of different parallaxis. Not only in the specific point of view of the artist or in the distortions of his lenses, but also in the eye of the bird, who is in its turn also using parallax to measure the distance to the camera.
With that, I’ll leave you to imagine your own perspectives, defects, points of view and ways of seeing the world ‘wrongly’. In case you want to share any of that here on Paratext, you can always send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
In case you’ve missed it, here’s a short recap of some of the creations that our ZIN//SENTENCE theme has brought forth:
First, of course, we have our ‘doorgeefverhaal’ which will keep going as we move forward into the next theme. The first part can be read here, written by our very own Isolde van Gog. The final part for now, was uploaded last Tuesday. Written by Saskia Soelaksana, it’s definitely worth a read. You can do so here.
Way back in February we started with some powerful and feministic poetry by Ricardo Moran.
The short story by Vincent Potman showed us the hubris of the writing process and still brings shudders to my spine.
Caro Sunigar invites us to write with her and look alongside her in two beautiful poems.
The week after that James Gray treated us to a modern and poetic interpretation of the word sentence. Meek but subtly worded, it’s definitely worth a read.
Last but not least, we also announced our first event – Publish It Yourself. It recreates the publishing process from nothing, to writing, to a full-fledged book – all in one day. Would you like to write your own short story, poetry, reflection etc. alongside 11 other creative minds? Then send us an email at email@example.com! Costs are €18,50 for a whole day, including lunch, snacks and drinks. Full is full.