Art is about exchanges of perspectives.

As audience members, our own perspective is the lens through which we engage with art. 

The top-level perspective we engage with from the art’s side is the perspective of the creators, who work with their collaborators to concoct the art’s overall perspective through what’s depicted.

For narrative art, this macro perspective of the art is partially built on the micro perspectives of each individual character, the more overtly-humanistic bent of the perspective exchange between art and audience; a major appeal of art is dipping into the brains — the thoughts and feelings — of people from other walks of life.

But how about non-human perspectives?

I’m not referring to sci-fi extraterrestrials. Rather, what about art that hypothesizes what the sentience of everyday objects all around us, conventionally deemed as insentient, would be like? We’re all aware that other humans hold differing perspectives from our own, but how often do we consider the possible perspectives of what lacks communicable consciousness? What would be the nature of their sentience?

Case in point: large stretches of both Max Porter’s Lanny and Richard Powers’ The Overstory are narrated by trees. That’s right, these two books give linguistic voice to the perspective of…a tree. How differently would a tree view the world, time, existence, and us, predicated on the fundamental differences between the nature of their existence and our own? What would their thoughts and feelings sound like?

An entire character arc in Ruth Ozeki’s The Book of Form of Emptiness imagines what it would be like if we could hear the sentient perspectives of everyday inanimate objects, including of the physical book in our very hands. 

It makes sense that such perspectives would be relegated to literature, a medium unbeholden to anthropomorphic representation. When it comes to cinema and theater, such an approach is usually found in animated movies.

But how much of this kiddie fare is actually interested in plumbing the psychology of these non-humans? Toy Story seems like the only one?

Or, the new movie Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, which dabbles in what sort of existential philosophy an English-speaking shell would espouse. How could the nature of a shell’s existence inform the nature of their perspective on existence?

The final exchange of perspectives fueled by art occurs after the conclusion, when audiences discuss their differing perspectives on what they just experienced. 

The very act of me writing down my perspective here, and then sharing it with your perspective, constitutes one such example of art’s ultimate perspective mingling.

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