I want to investigate my new photographic work in more detail to understand what’s driving it. I’ll do this by asking myself a series of questions.
Question 1: what is liminal space?
The ‘threshold of a physiological or psychological response.’(1)
‘Occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold.’(2)
‘Situated at a sensory threshold, hence barely perceptible.’(3)
Victor Turner’s notion of liminal space suggests ambiguity and ambivalence, an in-between place that allows the ‘active exchanges of ideologies, concepts and methods of working.’ It indicates ‘transition from one state or space to another, an on-going search for answers’ even if the end point remains unclear. Liminal space can be ‘read as a metaphorical realm where ideas and concepts: artistic, political, cultural, social or otherwise, are in constant states of contestation and negotiation.’(4)
For Victor Turner, liminality:
‘Is one of the most visible expressions of anti-structure in society. Yet even as it is the antithesis of structure, dissolving structure and being perceived as dangerous by those in charge of maintaining structure, it is also the source of structure. Just as chaos is the source of order, liminality represents the unlimited possibilities from which social structure emerges. While in the liminal state, human beings are stripped of anything that might differentiate them from their fellow human beings—they are in between the social structure, temporarily fallen through the cracks, so to speak, and it is in these cracks, in the interstices of social structure, that they are most aware of themselves. Yet liminality is a midpoint between a starting point and an ending point, and as such it is a temporary state that ends when the initiate is reincorporated into the social structure.’(5)
Liminality delivers freedom of movement but its cost is a lack of stability. The routes out of liminality are to either be absorbed back into the social structure or to shun it all together. Most people only exist in a liminal state for short periods. It creates a situation where you don’t belong anywhere, which as social animals we’re poorly equipped to survive.(6)
1 Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limen, accessed 18th March 2015
2 Oxford Dictionaries, http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/liminal, accessed 18th March 2015
3 Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limen, accessed 18th March 2015
4 Credited to Ann Lauterbach & Lim Le Ann, http://elephantwirl.blogspot.co.uk/2006_04_01_archive.html, accessed 18th March 2015
5 C. La Shure, http://www.liminality.org/about/whatisliminality/, accessed 18th March 2015