• Coco

The Spaces Between Reality

Updated: Jun 16, 2020

This is that moment when your reality feels altered, and uncomfortably alien. Often you're alone, or away from the crowd, and sounds start to become heavier, or there are no sounds. All your surroundings are unnaturally still, or terrifyingly fast in comparison to your own stillness. You can observe the dust particles flicking through the air, or the echoing of bright lights. This feels like something out of a film, like you're being watched, or that this moment holds significance in your life. What was meant to be a transitional scene has become a moment of piercing clarity and self-awareness.

These spaces can be defined as liminal spaces: a transitional cavity or boundary between capacities. The adjective 'liminal' is derived from the Latin 'limen' which translates as 'threshold', fitting for what can be seen as the threshold between our everyday reality and moments of intense, otherworldy clarity.

Beneath are some examples of liminal spaces:

Beaches at night

Motorway rest stops

Empty hotel hallways

Being underwater

Airports early in the morning

Hospitals at night

Empty playgrounds

Being alone in the snow

On a plane when everyone is asleep

Gas stations at night

Empty school corridors after school

Waking up in someone else’s house

The last one awake on a sleepover

Walking down an ikea isle

Reflection of water rippling on a ceiling

Lifts alone

Supermarkets near closing time

Your house after midnight

Empty cinema corridors

Empty museums


Empty car parks

Your room when its raining

Another word for this might be kenopsia, which refers to the eerie atmosphere of a space meant for, but absent of, people. This stems from the Greek 'kenosis' meaning emptiness, and 'opsia' meaning seeing. Again, there is the suggestion of seeing something that goes against its function, like seeing beauty, or a sense of self, in the expanding emptiness of a hotel corridor.

Julia Awad, from the Odessey, writes that the feeling of an altered reality occurs "because of the incapacity of our brains to process these liminal spaces as individual entities. Our brains react to context, so when a space lacks context or we experience it out of context, we feel uneasy or anxious."

However, liminal spaces may not always make you feel nervous and can be spaces of comfort, or perhaps introspection. A place of altered reality does not have to occur in a transitory space, but somewhere that encourages you to pause and reflect on the liminality of you and your surroundings. In short, any sense of alienation, disassociation and disorientation.

Helpful reading:





Photo Credits:

  1. swimming bodies ©Neil Krug

  2. tower block ©Lauren Tepfer

  3. swimming pool foot ©Aurvm

  4. abandoned room ©enki22

  5. hospital corridor [own photo]

#space #beautiful #emptiness #existentialism

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