• Eccentricity

    • ‘abNormal’ is a documentary by Barry J. Gibb and Chris Frith; it questions whether we are all abnormal in some way (and, hence, whether it is possible to sustain the concept of normality).

    Is abnormality in our brain? This documentary puts this hypothesis to the test / 

    One way of characterizing reality is as a type of story. Many of its aspects, on many of its planes, can be compared to the stories we tell, read, make our own, modify or that we let pass us by. The story of our identity, of the people who surround us, the stories with the greatest reach can explain the economy of a country or the history of an object.

    In light of this, we may also think that these stories can be described as ideological, stories which are slightly more abstract that use generalization as a method to establish common behaviours, codes that make life in society possible, rules that enable coexistence. For example, the juridical narrative: the story of a community of a community whose members made a pact to survive together. The list goes on: the story of private property, of aesthetic taste, of dominant values. Or the fiction of normality.

    Does normality exist beyond its theoretical conceptualization? There exist, yes, real expressions of this concept. There are hegemonic ways of thinking and dressing, cultural products that enjoy a greater diffusion than others, which is why they have a greater presence among consumerist goods. There are phrases that become the pet phrases of entire generations through different means. And there also exist, for many centuries now, social mechanisms that sanction the transgression of these unwritten norms, mechanisms that exclude and segregate, which exhibit the “abnormality” as something —a thought, conduct— beyond the limits of the community’s expectations.

    But is this enough to sustain the idea of normality? Possibly not.

    Recently, Barry J. Gibb, researcher, and Chris Frith, neuroscientist, presented abNormal, a documentary which explores the seed of abnormality through the roots of our physiology. Using the examples of a professional dancer, a visual artist, a trumpeter, an architect and a taxi driver, Gibb and Frith create a mosaic of people characterized by a trait of singularity which, perhaps in other circumstances or another era, could have taken them beyond the walls of a city or to a mental hospital.

    By examining their mental processes and the way in which the brain of each individual works throughout their daily tasks, the researchers try to trace the blurry borders between one territory and the next, between a person’s normality and abnormality; qualities which, if considered maliciously, either are inexistent or interchangeable.

    The premise of abNormal is disquieting: if it is possible to find abnormality in our brains, perhaps we are all abnormal but we pretend not to notice it?

    Tagged: brain, human behavior, neuroscience