The title of this article refers to a literary technique describing the perspective through which a narrative is presented. It occurs in a narrative where all information presented reflects the subjective perception of a certain character is said to be internally focalized.

In cinematography this technique is called a point of view shot, a short film scene that shows what a character is looking at. It is usually established by being positioned between a shot of a character looking at something, and a shot showing the character’s reaction. Some films are partially or totally shot using this technique, for example the 1947 film noir Lady in the Lake, which is shot entirely through the subjective POV of its central character in an attempt to replicate the first-person narrative style of the Raymond Chandler novel upon which the film is based.

In the other visual arts as painting and sculpturing, you get a more direct impression of how the artists perceive the subject of their work; how it relates to them and their visions up its interaction with the world.

focal_akzent-in-rosa by by Robert Yang

Musicians sometimes use phrases, called lyrics, to lard their music with, but the message is mostly transmitted by the tune, whose aim is to invoke a certain empathy in the audience with the musician’s subject.

I’ve got my inspiration for this post from an article from Atreyee Gupta on her blog Bespoke Traveler. In this article she describes her experiences and the comments of her friends while visiting Joshua Tree National Park. While her friends described it as a sanctuary of energy, where they can commune with the cosmos, she didn’t understand what they were talking about and still doesn’t. She ended her post with the question; I would love to hear about your sacred places and travel destinations that have become beloved homes in the comments below.

This made me wonder. I started to Google the most sacred sites in the world, and had to admit that there was only one I’ve visited; the lake Atitlan in Guatemala.

Around the lake they venerate Maximon; a long deceased drinking, smoking and womanizing local shaman but who did otherwise good for everyone he met. Maximon is a religious icon in the form of a mannequin dressed in colorful scarves.  Many towns, villages, and cities in Guatemala have a resident Maximon (or San Simón) figure.


The figure rotates from home to home on an annual basis.  If your home is selected for this honor, you typically convert the best room in your “house” as shrine dedicated to Maximon and you must keep your house open to the public during the day.  In the evenings the family puts the Maximon to bed (literally puts it in a bed and makes sure it is comfortable with blankets), only to place it on display again the next day.

Just like Atreyee, when she was visiting the Joshua Tree National Park , I fell nothing. On the contrary, the whole thing worked on me as an enormous money grab, organized by some locals to take advantage of visiting travelers. But then, many years later, after reading Atreyee’s post, I reconsidered and became aware that this was at least a metaphysical learning experience.

In analogy with Maximon, I’m moving around from house to house. Not around the Lake Atitlan, but around the world. Those houses are my sacred places. It’s all about focalization.

4 thoughts on “Focalization in Art and Daily Life.

    1. Credit was given where credit was due. I suppose it’s my Karma that drives me from one place to another. It was easier when we lived on a boat but then my other half got a serious case of boat-fever, so we had to abandon this lifestyle. Karma and Dharma, it’s sometimes difficult to keep the balance straight. Wish you the best and keep writing your inspiring posts. Urban.

      Liked by 1 person

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