The Paradox of Isolation

Art by Chrys Roboras

THE PARADOX OF ISOLATION

Reflections on meanings and experiences

“Although isolation excludes – and even dis-ables – us from one set of practices and realities, it connects us with different, and often seemingly opposite sets of experiences. “

The sudden process and experience of (social) isolation that we have collectively been acclimatizing to throughout the world has brought forth for many of us overwhelming feelings of being separated, excluded and dis-connected from the normal course of life. The physical distance from our communities, routines and work has altered both the nature and shape of our everyday practices at this time. Unexpectedly however, this period has become the peculiar occasion to see the paradoxical quality that (social) isolation encompasses. Although isolation excludes – and even dis-ables – us from one set of practices and realities, it connects us with different, and often seemingly opposite sets of experiences.

Our present conditions have been lending insights into this paradox, where things have taken an inverse relation to each other – attributes through which we have often believed we connect or are connected, we are now separated from, and those through which we have often thought we are separate, we are now connected by. Needing to step back from our expressions of life through form and form-based practices outwardly in the social domain, these periods of isolation have been drawing our focus (in)to connecting with the interiority and meanings of forms, objects, feelings and their materiality inwardly. While ordinarily we have continued to trace our connections with each other through our work, group environments, subcultures, gatherings, informal retreats and the many intersections between these identity structures, we become – and notably so, have become – connected  with ourselves and with one another through the commonality of our experiences in enforced isolation. Categorizations of age, intelligence, status, roles and functions that have conventionally distinguished or separated us cease to qualify as distinctive factors, and have become the very codes that reveal to us our closeness and connections with the totality of life. These connections have now been manifesting in our fears, sufferings, feelings of uncertainty and occasional boredom, as well as in our hopes, desires and collective harmonic movements with Nature and its will; or to state briefly, through the abstract essences of our being and humanness.

Art by Chrys Roboras

Adjacent with this inversion has been the reorientation of attention of formerly peripheral and mundane practices to the centre, and conversely, of previously central practices to the periphery. Though materially and emotionally we remain involved in our personal and professional spheres, physically, attention to these affairs is primarily being directed through the quotidian and emotive frameworks we generally presume to be inconsequential. But these ordinary and mundane contexts are the foundation upon which all seemingly more valuable pursuits and connections (can) bloom. And though of late the pace of life has been slowing down for many of us, this coercion of confinement has allowed – and always does allow – us the space to sense, see, feel and appreciate the beauty of ordinary, everyday incidences – of the fragrance of the spices in our food, of the wind caressing our faces, of the blueness of the sky, of the perfection of flowers, of the rhythmic flutter of a bird’s wings, of the spontaneity of our actions, of the depth of our emotions, of the improvisations of our routines, and of all such infinite phenomena. Such physical intervals act as occasions that magnify the necessity and beauty of both, movements and halts in our lives. They enable us to understand the temporality and duality of material life, the transience of which makes intelligible their presence; a transience that is indispensable for us to perceive the meaning of their presence, and the significance of their function.

Art by Chrys Roboras

The inward cognizance that isolation provides us with, connects us more intensely to all aspects of life and enhances our relationship with the ideal experiences of life we think it separates us from. Emotionally, we may feel these intensifications as nostalgia, hope, love, loss, fear, and restlessness. Tangibly, we may experience these with mindful changes in our interactions with our surroundings, objects and people. The novelty of such emotional and substantial changes in our experiences transforms our (individual and collective) consciousness, and thereby, the materiality of our connection with the Whole, engendering it with a pronounced conscious quality. And though isolation may appear to be a withholding or withdrawing force, it operates as the very source that advances our consciousness; an advancement that ensures the continuity of life-generating and life-affirming practices. The paradoxical character of this phenomenon then, contrary to what we perceive, may harmonise our different – and differing – experiences of connectedness and dis-connectedness with all semblances of life, and offer to us insights into equanimous states of being.

We collaborated with artist Chrys Roboras for the artwork that beautifully represented our thoughts on isolation. Here is what isolation means for the artist in times of Covid-19 —

“Artists generally work alone, long hours in their studios or space. We are used to isolation and contemplation, for me its part of my process.It’s the way I can evoke the emotions required to project my story into my paintings. During this time when we are forced to be isolated and our shows have been cancelled it’s the loss of freedom that has erupted in our thoughts, the isolation has become more intense.”
Chrys Roboras

Writer Malini Mathur’s work centers on fashion, philosophy, aesthetics and the sociology of emotions. She holds degrees in Fashion Studies and Sociology, and has formerly worked as a Guest Lecturer in the ‘Philosophy of Art and Fashion’ at the Sri Aurobindo Centre for Arts and Communication, New Delhi, as well as as an Assistant Editor for an independent student-led journal titled BIAS Journal of Dress Practice at the Parsons School of Design, New York. She also works at IKKIVI Zine as writer.