SPATIAL INTIMACY

Post 549  by Gautam Shah

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Intimacy is an individualized notion with primary concern for survival. Survival is a biological necessity. It is a defensive reaction where one tries to create a protective shield by distancing and sensorial indifference. It is also an offensive activity where to reduce the chances of physical (sexual, emotional) attraction one avoids person to person encounter, or tries to be part of a crowd. Manifestations of Intimacy are proximity, sensorial recognition and vulnerability, lack of protective cover for privacy and familiarity with people and objects. These are also important features of spatial experience. And, yet intimacy and space are not mutable.

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TV host Jon Stewart being intimate by being closer to the guest

Intimacy is an attitude, mental conditioning or mental posture. It is a feeling of closeness or affinity with a person or an object. It relies on compatibility, sexual needs, glandular secretions, social acceptability etc. Meaning of intimacy varies from relationship to relationship, and within a given relationship. Intimacy is both the ability and the choice to be close, loving, and vulnerable. Intimacy could be one-way feeling that is without reciprocal feeling. One can feel close to a person who is long dead -an illusory presence, or through notional links (clothes, odours, recorded sounds, etc.). So intimacy is not always a function of physical proximity or spatial distancing.

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‘Proposal’ by artist William -Adolphe Bouguereau 1825-1905

Intimacy can have two main forms: emotional intimacy and physical intimacy. There could be other forms of empathy like cultural, intellectual, spiritual, social affinity that are akin to intimacy in some conditions. Intimacy has more to do with rituals of connection. Strategic relationships developed to take advantage of someone could be very intimate, but it is make-believe closeness.

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Crowding in trains Wikipedia image by author Jkamyiu

Intimacy and privacy, both are expressions of behaviour in a space, but former is not dependent on quality of space but later is substantially a product of space configurations. Privacy helps intimacy, but one can be intimate with a person or group of persons even without any apparent need for privacy. Intimacy is attitudinal positioning to control ingress, distraction and unwanted engagements by others.

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Friendship and intimacy Wikipedia image by author Fernando de Sousa

Privacy and intimacy both are affected by the notion of distance. For privacy one resorts to physical distancing or barricading, but intimacy is a perception of interactions with other beings and objects. The distancing for privacy is in terms of space form, size and shape, intervening objects, physical reach and sensorial perceptibility. The perception of proximity for intimacy is factored by environmental factors, biological need, social requirements, communication, expression, psychological make-up, time duration and the relevance of objects and people.

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‘Peasants playing cards by artist Hendrick Martensz Sorgh 1610-1670

A person projects privacy and intimacy concurrently, but in various proportions. The space facilitates different levels of physical closeness, isolation and insulation, however the mental needs ultimately define the degree of involvement. The culture defines the acceptable or inappropriate types of intimacies. A crowded stair, elevator, metro carriage, do not project an intimate environment. A handshake or hug nominally has no sexual connotation in many cultures. In some cultures, a veil is considered private enough to be retardant of intimacy.

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Women in Shiraz, Wikipedia image by author Zoom Zoom from Beijing

Two persons or members of a group can talk in whispers and give out an impression of intimacy, in spite of the apparent distance between them. Conversely talk-discussions in high pitch could be used to present bonhomie, and thereby a non-intimate encounter. Politicians and celebrities talk in whispers to state things that need to be made public and talk loudly things that need not be public. A public orator changes the pitch from normal to very low to be intimate with the audience.

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