In 2010 I went to an exhibition on on New Topographics at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The photo exhibition documented everyday USA. Apart from its historical relevance, the museum was hard-pressed to describe why these photos were interesting, in fact going to fairly great lengths not to use the word "boring". I suspected that people were beginning to take interest in them because they had begun to be historically important. I remember something strange happened when I walked around the room looking at photos - the pangs of yearning went off again and again like a repeating gunshots. Whatever was the common thread between these pictures was most likely the thing that lead to this yearning. I was able to understand this feeling as the result of the following process:
- The initial connection is made through recognising the scene as normal, in the sense that these scenes are contexts which the locals that inhabit them consider unremarkable.
- Your mind searches through its store, trying to find something in your history to anchor the scene to personal experience but comes up with nothing.
- You then project yourself into the scene. The yearning arises from the hypothetical -
"what if my life was that life?"
What is the relationship between travel and yearning? First it is necessary to draw a distinction between travel and tourism. Travel is a form of self-projection (literally and metaphorically) while tourism is a form of voyeurism, that is - travel you're inside the scene while with tourism you're outside of it. This distinction is so important because an aspect of yearning is empathy with the humanity of your surroundings - to sit outside and to watch it restricts this empathy. Rather, to be 'in it' and to experience its newness is to remove the melancholy note from the chord, thereby transforming yearning into fascination. This world - is now your world, like bubbles coalescing, and with it the parameters that define your path have grown.