Content and Meaning: Jordan Belson’s Mandala (1953)

After reading “Content and Meaning in Abstract Art” by Pamela T. Turner, I have a lot of ideas spinning in my head. While this article focuses on abstract animation as an evolving art-form, I particularly resonated with using animation as a form of self-representation and visual rhythm. Jordan Belson’s Mandala (1953), mentioned in Turner’s article, is one of the first expressions of this particular concept within abstract animation.

Mandala is similar to other works of its time in that the visual focus involves light, shape, and movement, but Belson takes it a bit further. As Belson has described, his work is not completely void of narrative, but rather he is trying “to relate an experience or state of being”. Looking at Mandala this ideology is apparent. The animation focuses on radiating spheres of light in void space, moving in synchronicity to eastern instrumentals. While the animation is simple in form and composition, the subjectivity of these images aligns with concepts such as the soul, the universe, and other broad philosophical rationalizations of the self. The simplicity of this animation leaves a vast space for the viewer to insert themselves into; not to physically picture themselves but to immerse in as an intangible experience, varied among the individual viewer.

This leads me to a major point that was made in Turner’s article: that abstract animation is meant to be approached as an objective experience. Much like music, this art-form isn’t meant to be understood in a linear fashion, but rather as a whole. Mandala takes this concept and pushes it into another realm, using imagery and sound that follows an otherworldly motif. Though the viewer may have no idea what they are looking at, Mandala solicits the viewer to introspect and eventually resonate with the motion and rhythm of the experience.

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