Don’t fence me in

I’m constantly amazed at the human attraction for edges, the meeting place between two different environments.  To see this in action just watch a crowd in a big room (people migrate toward the walls or tables) or look at housing near a large body of water (housing density falls quickly as you move away from the shore).  Or simply how people behave when confronted with a big, open space.  No place to hide?

Or is it that big open spaces just aren’t that interesting, that we need contrasting elements in our field of vision or else we lose attention in our surroundings.  Do we need constant stimulation that badly?

Perhaps it’s a cultural thing.  Eastern art seems to utilize “negative space” more as an active element than an afterthought.  The importance of emptiness as a portal for the viewer to enter with their own interpretation, a way to leave room for the viewer that we rarely see in Western art.  Edge-less creations appear infrequently in Western galleries, where torture seems the preferred manner of treating media to result in an object for consideration.

Minimalist approaches to art, architecture, design and even fashion have been popular but rarely seem to result in a definitive change in people’s attitudes about open space.  Are we just clutter biased, the way the Victorians stuffed areas with bric-a-brac, reducing a room to a continuous challenge of edges?  Or is there a more subtle reason for our edge obsession?

Large expanses of our geography offer a single edge for consideration – the horizon.  Oceans, massive lakes, prairies, deserts – all stretch away from us to a unknown destination, leaving their trailing edge right in front of our eyes to beckon us forward, to come see what’s on the other side.


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