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  • Writer's pictureLee D Munro

Windows, Art & Liminality

Windows have long been the subject of artists, writers, poets and photographers. As a focus for creativity, the window can be both literal and metaphorical. A view in or out, used to illuminate a person or subject, a focus of attention or gaze, a representation of emotions - a window may artistically represent longing, dreaming, hope, insight, or transition among many other things.



Salvador Dali - Young Woman at a Window (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Young_Woman_at_a_Window)

Henri Matisse - Open Window, Collioure (source: https://www.nga.gov/collection/art-object-page.106384.html)



Banksy - Sheet Metal Curtains (source: https://www.nga.gov/collection/art-object-page.106384.html)



And of course, religious building have been beautifully adorned with stained glass windows for centuries





How often have you sat or stood by a window and just gazed at the world, lost in thought or not thinking at all? If not, you should.






One of the reasons a window works so well as an artistic mechanism, one could argue (and I do), is that the window is an object or space steeped in liminality.


Liminality comes from the Latin limen or limin, meaning threshold. The term was first coined by folklorist/anthropologist Arnold van Gennep in the early 20th Century, and taken further by cultural anthropologist Victor Turner in his studies of rituals, symbology and rites of passage. In his book, The Trickster and the Paranormal, George P Hansen takes the concept of liminality to further borderlands, using it as a foundation to view the nature of magic, myths and the anomalous.


Liminality refers to the space between two states. These states can be emotional, physical, periods of time, or indeed any structured state. For example,a liminal state can be said to occur between childhood/adulthood, old job/new job, moving between old home/new home, sleep/awakening, dreaming/lucidity or night/day. In essence, a liminal state is defined by lack of structure, uncertainty and transition.


The nature of liminality immediately lends itself to art, literature and culture. Indeed, reference and the influnce of liminality can be found in folklore, novels, painting and photography. Movies and TV shows too feature liminality - think of The Shining or Alien, and Twin Peaks is positively dripping with it!


Buildings and locations can also be liminal spaces - spaces between states, transitional spaces, border lands, temporary places (in terms of the places themselves or the people passing through them). Abandoned buildings, crossroads, bridges, rivers, hotels, train stations, airports, corridors, staircases, waiting rooms, and travelling fairgrounds are all examples. How many of these have featured in horror movies and books, you dig? There's a reason they do.


I recently took a jaunt to a particularly liminal place to scratch my photographer's itch - an abandoned carvan park. Wonderfully unnerving (if you let it in), beautifully aesthetic (if you see it) - windows, decay, abandonment, caravans - a more liminal place you'd be pushed to find. But I'm sure I'll try.


Enjoy the gallery...





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