Being there

I have an essay, “The World Beyond the Screen,” in the catalog for the current exhibition Being There at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark. The essay begins:

The paradox of modern media is that in opening the world to us, it removes us from the world. To enjoy the informational and recreational bounties of the networked screen, whether it’s a television, a personal computer, or a smartphone, we have to withdraw from our immediate physical and social surroundings. Our mind, with its faculties of attention and perception, has to shift its focus to the simulated, or virtual, images and experiences served up by the technological system. To speak of our time as one of great “connectivity” is to see only half the picture. We disconnect to connect.

The ability of the human mind to remove itself, purposely, from its physical surroundings and enter an artificial environment is, so far as we can tell, a talent unique to our species. And it’s a talent that seems elementally important to us, as individuals and as a society. It’s what unlocks the realm of imagination, and it’s what gives rise to much of what’s most valuable and enduring in culture. When we speak of being “transported” by a work of literature or art, we’re acknowledging the power of the mind to wander beyond the here-and-now, beyond the physical and temporal bounds of immediate reality.

Yet our ability to remove ourselves from reality also brings peril. . . .

The exhibition runs until February 25th of next year. Copies of the catalog are available at the museum’s shop.