art basic book chapter

Neither the devouring nor the gaping, neither the invisible nor the unnoticed, neither the threatening nor the unclosable gap, but the gap that is recognized and acknowledged.

“Mind the Gap” is the motif of the first illustration in Sara Ahmed’s book “Complaint!”, page 30: In a view from above, the lettering “MIND THE GAP” is embedded in a floor mosaic on the edge of a train platform; the train tracks can still be seen at the upper edge of the picture. The caption is: “The gap between what is supposed to happen and what does happen.”

This sentence refers to Ahmed’s observation of complaint processes on the same page of the book: Here, something does not coincide, namely that which is supposed to happen by means of a complaint in accordance with the policies and procedures and that which actually happens. There is a gap between the two, the should and the is. This gap is “densely populated” (p. 30), says the continuous text above the illustration, it should be paid attention to: “To mind the gap is to listen and learn from those who are experiencing a process.” (ibid).

“Mind the Gap” is the safety notice that can be seen at London Underground stations and heard as an announcement, a warning to passengers not to fall into the gap between the platform and the threshold of the tube. “Mind the Gap” is also the slogan of the London Student Feminists at the University of London, but here with a call to value and promote gender difference. One phrase, two applications, two meanings: one to pay attention to the gap in order to overcome it, the other to pay attention to the gap in order to acknowledge it. Ahmed’s variant combines both the warning and the expression of respect: to take care of the gap means first to recognize it, then to acknowledge it. 

That this message is visualized with the black-and-white illustration of the London Underground at Victoria station, where subway stations meet at different levels of elevation and construction, indicates Ahmed’s interest in the operational level of her topic, “Complaint!” How do which (cultural, institutional, linguistic) techniques meet, how can they be connected or made connectable without leveling their differences? How can differences not be ignored, how can differences be recognized as differences without stigmatizing them into difference? How can closures (of gaps) take place without closing them, but keeping them unclosed? “Mind the Gap” means with Ahmed: notice and respect the gap.

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