This week, much of the international art world is frothing with excitement about the annual arts extravaganza that is Art Basel Miami Beach. While it’s not in our purview to cover events far outside the Seven Days circulation area, we have noted that some Vermont artists are exhibiting in Miami — including Carol MacDonald and Elizabeth Billings. They and the other gazillion visitors to Art Basel are likely to experience FOMO.
Which brings us to the reason for this article: FOMO occurs in Vermont, too — at the annual South End Art Hop, for instance, and even during the state’s various First Friday art walks. So what is FOMO? Glad you asked. It’s fear of missing out, and it’s an actual phenomenon acknowledged by both social psychologists and neuroscientists, according to an article in the latest Hyperallergic e-newsletter. It’s along the same lines as Stendhal, or Florence, syndrome: heart palpitations, dizziness and confusion — even hallucinations! — in the presence of awesome, or simply too much, art.
At an event the size of Art Basel, which comprises dozens of venues and hundreds of artists, FOMO could be utterly crippling. But it strikes at more compact events, too. Raise your hand if you have been known to focus on a single opening reception — at best, two or three — during First Friday, overwhelmed by the prospect of hitting any more. (At Burlington’s First Friday, the venues exhibiting artwork number more than 40.)
Hyperallergic writer Jillian Steinhauer spoke with psychologist and attention expert Lucy Jo Palladino to get the skinny on FOMO. Of the phenom also known as “loss aversion,” she says this: “The adult human brain registers loss three times more intensely than it registers reward. So, left unchecked, the urge to avoid loss is stronger than the urge to achieve gain.”
Palladino offers both practical and surprisingly new-agey advice: Plan ahead, and get your Zen on. In other words, before you go out to Art Basel; a museum; or First Friday in, say, White River Junction, read up on the exhibits, decide what you really want to see and stick to your agenda. And while you’re out, if those loss-aversion chemicals begin to flood your brain, take a deep breath, focus on the present, even close your eyes and go within if you must (not while driving, please). Rather than fret about what you’re missing, express mental thanks for what you are seeing.
Come to think of it, this method could be applied to so many things in life, such as Christmas shopping. Facebook. Choosing a toothpaste, or a mate.
Anyway, art lovers, we hope this advice helps at your next exhibition binge. But if you’re the type who just goes to the gallery that serves the best snacks, never mind.