The Bell Jar is American writer and poet Sylvia Plath’s only novel, which was originally published under the pseudonym “Victoria Lucas” in 1963. The novel is semi-autobiographical with the names of places and people changed. The book is often regarded as a roman à clef, with the protagonist’s descent into mental illness paralleling Plath’s own experiences with what may have been clinical depression. Plath committed suicide a month after its first UK publication. The novel was published under Plath’s name for the first time in 1967 and was not published in the United States until 1971, pursuant to the wishes of Plath’s mother and her husband Ted Hughes.
The Bell Jar addresses the question of socially acceptable identity. It examines Esther Greenwood, a young woman from the suburbs of Boston’s, “quest to forge her own identity, to be herself rather than what others expect her to be”. Esther is expected to become a housewife, and a self-sufficient woman, without the options to achieve independence. Esther feels she is a prisoner to domestic duties and she fears the loss of her inner self. The Bell Jar sets out to highlight the problems with oppressive patriarchal society in mid-20th Century America. The men in Esther’s life are all oppressive, whether it is in a physical manner or an emotional one.
In Buddhism, all objects, or in other words, color and matter are another word for space and space is another word for color. All objects can become one according to the concept of “all matter is emptiness” and the process of breaking down is called “emptiness is form.” In particular, Hua-yen Buddhism’s teachings of “one is all, all is one” is a physical analysis of how points build to space and space breaks down to a point. Buddhism’s “all matter is emptiness” does not mean a lack. I will use my work as an example.
New York (2008) Indala Series A photographic portrait of New York using 10,000 images.
My ON-AIR Project’s Indala Series (Indala is another word for Indra’s net, which refers to the concept of the interconnectedness of all things in the universe. New York, Washington, Moscow, Tokyo, Paris, London, Venice, Berlin, Athens, Seoul, Delhi, and others, comprise the 14 cities that are a part of this project). For the project, I took 10,000 photographs of New York and superimposed them to create one final picture.
The completed picture appears to be nothing but a blurry, gray image, but there are physically 10,000 photographs within it. Those 10,000 photographs of New York streets, buildings, people, and events were vividly captured over the course of several years, lovingly, with proper photographic technique. I’m not Buddhist and I didn’t do this project with the intention of explaining the concept of “all is emptiness,” but this is similar to that concept of emptiness. If one penetrates into the gray image (as in Heidegger’s concept of entwurf, or the mental process of absorption in something), one is able to meet again the countless events and identities melted into the 10,000 cuts. This process of disassembly is “emptiness is everything.” If one physically dismantles an analog picture, one is left with the particles that make up analog film; in a digital process, only the pixels are left. In the final gray image of the Indala project, those 10,000 photographs have become one and each has lost its function but their identity is not gone. Just like how my DNA contains all of humanity’s genes, identity does not disappear. This is similar to how the point’s identity is inherent in space. Ironically though, the final gray picture of one city composed of 10,000 different superimposed photographs is digitized and has no mass or volume; it only has form when it comes out.