Soft fascination. When we shift from teeth grinding, cortisol producing, living-in-our-heads, single focus to a state that allows for reflection and quiet attention, we can experience soft fascination. Nature, sacred geometry and sacred spaces encourage this shifting of consciousness, allowing our fatigued attention a break, reminding us that the human mind and body were not designed for 24/7, 365. A machine made of meat and light, it requires rest, reflection and a break from life’s overwhelming challenges.
As urban living becomes the norm, many of us no longer have access to quiet, safe, private spaces in nature. In an increasingly secular world shocked and appalled by the actions of religious leaders, we no longer feel at ease entering into those spaces meant to provide quiet solace, a space to reconnect with the less tangible aspects of human life.
The idea for this series came together from a few sources and experiences. Depression and anxiety have lost much of their social and workplace stigma. As people feel safe to seek help and reveal their mental health struggles, what has become evident is that mental health issues are a growing, global concern. During hot, humid summers, Toronto opens Cooling Stations in libraries and city hall that allow people a place to rest, cool and get a drink of water. During a hot, humid summer and crisp cold fall, I used several of Toronto and New York’s large, ornate, stone cathedrals to cool down or warm up. Even though the doors were open to busy, noisy streets I was struck by the serenity and calm, quiet these spaces still offered. And I felt angry about how those spaces were reserved for something that has become petty, exclusionary and unsafe.
Like Cooling Stations, Calming Stations would provide a public place to cool fractured attention, still the mind and allow the reflective possibility of another thought. The Calming Station Series creatively combines concepts of soft fascination, semiotics and relaxation theory to create spaces where viewers can disengage and redirect their concentration, a type of deliberate intervention. Utilizing the semiotics of sacred spaces and religious ritual, this piece creates an installation where the viewer is encouraged to rest their weary focus.
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