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Artist’s Statement: Absolute vs Relative Reality

Levenberg, Kate

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doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000003167
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“Do you see that it’s hailing outside?” Yelled the patient sitting across from me. “It’s the beginning of June. We’re killing the earth as a human race. Our greenhouse emissions aren’t reversible. Global climate change is happening, and we’re just sitting here waiting.” His discussion started with global warming, went on to discuss the pope, and veered towards creating music before circling back to his current manic episode. There was a definite theme of tangential thoughts. However, I could not help but notice a creative brilliance to his perspective.

I left this patient encounter feeling inspired to think poetically and found myself focusing on the physics topics of special relativity and time dilation. Abstractly, both of these concepts discuss how space and time are relative to the observer. Specifically, time dilation states that two observers with a difference in either velocity or position relative to a gravitational field will experience a difference in time elapsed. In other words, there is a difference between relative and absolute time. Poetically, two observers could literally and scientifically experience two different “truths” in the same situation.

This difference in perception, relative vs absolute, seems to be a great analogy to describe the difference in comparing a euthymic view to the manic view above. Both realities are correct, but are reaching different conclusions. Metaphorically, his relative time seemed to be faster than the relative time I was experiencing during our encounter.

I created the painting Absolute vs Relative Reality, on the cover of this issue, to discuss the idea that reality is only a perception. By nature, it is imperfect, and it varies from person to person depending on his or her vantage point. My painting is meant to depict how reality is skewed through the processes of the brain. I depicted a figure observing a cube that is then projected to different parts of the brain, combining and ultimately creating an image that the figure is perceiving. The final image is close to, but not quite a cube after the individual has processed the information. My design of the objects coming into and out of the canvas was meant to give the feeling of an optical illusion. Overall, this piece is meant to advocate for respect for differing perspectives, as every perspective is unique by nature.

Absolute vs Relative Reality
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