Loving the unreal

The above photograph is by artist Jamie Diamond, and portrays a “Reborner,” someone who creates and cares for baby dolls.  In many ways, they treat them like real babies: they bathe them, comb their hair, and take them on walks.

This makes me think about the complexities of emotion and attachment.  It’s easy for us to dismiss these women as crazy, but I don’t think it’s as clear cut as that.  Their emotions toward the dolls is pronounced and specific, but most people have attachments to inanimate objects.  For instance, many of us believe on some level that toys have presence.  And sentiment keeps our closets, garages, and basements full of boxes and boxes of things we never use but can’t bear to throw away.  It’s arguable that the difference between walking a baby doll in a park and hauling around boxes and boxes of useless objects is mere semantics.

There’s also the question of human relationship with art.  When we create, we attempt to bring a fictional world to life in our own.  The aim of every artist is to stir emotion in the audience.  If we make you care, then we’ve done our jobs.  I think there’s definitely such a thing as caring too much, of becoming too invested, and I think these ladies are on the far side of that line.  It does, however, make me wonder exactly where that line is.  When I was in college, a debate society I belonged to once pondered the question of whether it was possible to truly love a fictional character.  They don’t really exist, but to what extent do any of us really get at the existence of another person?  At most we have our perception, which is always going to be incomplete, because we cannot fully know another person’s interior life.  It is arguable that it is impossible to truly know another human being.  All we know is a collection of actions and words, which is what we have of fictional characters.  A fictional character will never know of our love and will never return it, but one can truly love unrequitedly, even if the object of affection is never aware of it.  So we have to ask: if someone can truly love Sherlock Holmes, can they truly love a doll?

(For more images from this project, click on the photograph.  I highly recommend doing so.  Ms. Diamond has a number of fascinating projects that deal with similar themes of emotion and attachment.  The webpage is well worth your time.)

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