Whenever there is a background/foreground distinction in live arts (see applicable thought #13), the background is meant to support what is happening in the foreground. In terms of perception, any change in the background changes the way in which the foreground comes across. Nothing happens in isolation, either on a stage or in life. Everything is part of a system of dynamic relationships. Everything is background until we notice it and see it as foreground and goes back to being background when something else takes the foreground as figure. By definition we are more aware of the foreground, but we can expand our awareness to perceive the effect of the background as origin and context.
Live arts have traditionally used the distinctions between background and foreground: harmony/ melody, chorus/protagonist, corps de ballet/soloist to direct the attention of the audience. However, some contemporary approaches prefer to avoid this hierarchy and allow the audience by means of its attention to be the one that composes its own experience out of what is being presented. Gestalt therapy took from Gestalt psychology not only its name, but the notion that a figure and the ground it stands in are just parts of a field. According to this, it is the observer’s/listener’s attention that designates the figure. Sometimes it can seem that the same figure comes to the foreground obsessively in our lives. It might be interesting to ask ourselves what is making our attention pick out the exact same element out of an everchanging field.