The Art of Being Lost

How can we define the state of being lost?

The idea of being lost is one that is difficult to define – it seems initially to refer to that purely animalistic experience; one akin to a state of confusion, a panic that floods the body with endorphins as you realise you are somewhere you don’t want to be and you don’t know how to get back. But actually, I think being ‘lost’ is less of an individualist experience, and more a community issue: an idea based on a local scale rather than about vast open spaces.

In fact, it is possible to define lost as being either external or internal. Physically being lost is about the relationship of knowing where you want to be, and being unable to get there. It is about the relationship between the self and our physical surroundings. To be internally lost is about having a heighten sense of awareness concerning your current environment and not having a social role to fulfil. These two states of ‘lost’ are the opposites of each other.

Why do creatives crave the unknown?

The state of being lost is often a driving force behind modern artists: be that visual, literary, musical or otherwise. It can be seen as the obtainment of freedom from contextual information. This includes, the art world, market forces, and other personal stresses. This freedom promises the elusive elixir of artistic life – true originality. To find this we must travel outside of all recognisable signs and symbols, and inhabit the land of the lost. This state can be seen as a doorway to another way of thinking, another way of living, and ultimately another way of creating. It represents adventure and freedom. Why wouldn’t we like being lost?

Well, in reality, both adventure and freedom (along with being lost) can all be terrifying and all three states represent a loss of control.

What is feeling lost anymore in art and culture when everyone is interested in creating the boundaries of identity and protecting them against appropriation and mimicry. Is this about keeping our originality or is it about being very definitively not lost?

Where now?

I would like to suggests that whilst we might think we understand the world around us better due to our collective knowledge – that actually our individual knowledge is less than our ancestors. We think we know what is there, because someone has told us; someone else has photographed it; someone else has interpreted it, but it is not our knowledge and it does not possess the specifics that would make it useful. How many times has someone visited us and shown us the place we live in, from a totally different perspective?

The idea of getting lost is nearly always portrayed metaphorically as travelling into areas of urban decay, ruins, uninhabited areas, jungles, deserts, and places unlike that of where we live. This image is a metaphor for the loss of contextual relationship to the external, but it can also be quite literal. To be lost, is a description of your state of being. It means that something was lost and that person has become subsequently isolated from conclusions. If a person looses a map, they become lost, i.e. unable to draw conclusions concerning which direction to walk. If a person looses their community, they become lost in concerns to their own identify that was, (as is human nature) determined by their context to others. Without context we have no directions as to who we are. We have nothing to compare ourselves. And it is through these comparisons that we determine characteristics such as funny, agreeable, determined – or even physical details such as, tall, strong, etc. We can only determine these things in relation to others.

Thus attaching the logic to travelling to far-flung places in a bid to ‘find yourself’. Only when we are in a place significantly different from the original can we start to be aware of our former roles and place within that society – or at the very least, the role which we’d like to have.

Think about the people around you. What do they like? What do you like? If you don’t like change and are happy with your environment, does that mean you feel defined by it? If you hate getting lost does it mean your sense of self is fragile? Think carefully as you step out the front door.


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