considering the liminal

What and where is the liminal state? Suspended, arrested, waiting, the state which describes dissociation when your mind is waiting to deal with a trauma. It happens with grief, because death, the reality of death has overcome you. How can you continue to live when there is death, lingering outside the door? It is the ultimate human question. When you experience real terror, you enter a liminal state, and how do you return? 

There are dark places which we don't want to admit are there in this day and age. It's both a gentler age, in terms of our sensitivity, and a strangely more brutal age. Since we don't accept the essentially gruesome truth about life on a daily basis, when it hits us it hits us hard. I'm interested in the medical world. We can save lives in ways we couldn't in the past, but we leave those we have saved with a deep existential dread because they have witnessed the other side of death. Those who have been in intensive care, and especially if they have been sedated and on a respirator, often suffer from delusions, an inability to tell what is reality, and they can suffer for years from depression and PTSD. 

Survival is a liminal state. Those who survive a trauma feel separate, cut off from other people. They come back to ordinary life but they no longer fit in.

Liminality is a state of being which is in-between, on a threshold, between an old state and a new one. It is a place which is strange, uncanny, frightening, because we usually seek to keep life within a narrative which makes sense to us. When this narrative fails, as in during a traumatic experience, or when the reasonable narrative doesnt seem to make sense any more, then we enter a liminal state of being. We don’t know for sure we will make it to the other side, but we do know that if we do, we will be changed by it.

I became interested in this concept, as it seemed to express what I was experiencing after I was involved in a serious crush injury. I entered a a state of emergency, of survival, and then into an uncanny, mysterious state which persisted as my body slowly recovered, a twilight world which I didn't leave for many months. In some ways I am still existing in the liminal state. I have Purtscher's Retinopathy and have damaged vision, and this itself makes the world different, strange - my brain no longer works in harmony with my eyes. I am interested in how the visually impaired experience the world, and especially those who create art.

portrait of a right eye - photograph

portrait of a right eye - photograph


How does someone deal with sudden and unexpected visual impairment after traumatic injury? Do you experience a sense of loss? Are you grieving for what you used to see? 

Below are three artists who are blind or visually impaired

Keith Salmon

little waves - painting

little waves - painting

Blood Red Sea

The sea is a powerful subject matter for artists, and is often rendered as something beautiful and benign. But what if we allow ourselves to recognise the fearfulness of the sea? It is dangerous, cold, unfeeling, deep. Looking at the sea now gives me an involuntary shudder and sense of dread and fear.



Death is the ultimate mystery. We don't know what happens at the other side of that threshold. The dying person is on the threshold and faces it alone. How can we think about death during our lives? How can we attempt to have a 'good death' and help others to have the same? When a loved one dies, what happens to our feelings for them?

grief is the thing with feathers by max porter

grief is the thing with feathers by max porter


Things I've read, watched, listened to etc which have a whiff of the liminal  


"If you knew how terrible it is to know suddenly , as if a bolt of lightning elucidated the earth. Now I live in a painful planet, transparent as ice; but it is as if I had learned everything in seconds." Frida Kahlo