This cluster seems to focus on several key points related to perspective. From reading the inspiration readings put forward for cluster two, I found these concepts emerge that, while not unknown to me previously, have been great to put into perspective in terms of the work which will be done this session.
The Crary reading focuses on this specifically – ‘Much critical and historical analysis of modern subjectivity during this century has been based on the idea of “reception in a state of distraction”.’ (pp.51)
How do we perceive the world when we are being constantly distracted? Things that gain the most of our attention are perceived to be the most important, but is that true? I think this is a very interesting concept in relation to our studies last session with Gillian Fuller on the economy of attention. There are many events in the world that are slighted because of limited attention, hence giving them a less prized place in the minds of many first world citizens, and conversely the third world have a different perspective of what is important.
Crary outlines his view that perception is gained from a mixture of sight, sound and touch. Our perception can be limited or enhanced by either a presence or abundance of these, and in different ways depending on what we are given contact with.
Aural vs Visual
I was reminded by the Blesser and Salter reading of a sound engineer friend of mine who enlightened me to some fascinating experiments with sound, which tie the visual directly to the aural. The study of this is called cymatics. In the experiments speakers are lain down so the drum faces upwards. Into the speaker drum a substance is placed (it can vary from water, to a flour mixture, to sand), which once the speakers play sound, the substance directly moves to, creating a direct link between what is heard and what is seen. I find this different perspective – a visual sound – to be truly fascinating.
Example can be seen here:
This approach has been used but the German photographer Alexander Lauterwasser to create unique artworks, taking photographs of the patterns made by sound.
Image taken created by Cymatics
Another Cymatic image by Alexander Lauterwasser
Blesser and Salter highlight the different perspective gained by focusing solely on sound. Sound is often ignored in favour of vision for those with visual ability, but Blesser and Salter have a fascinating take on sound’s importance. ‘Turn off a light source, even in a mirrored room, and abruptly the space becomes dark. Turn off a sound source, and the space continues to speak.’ (pp.55)
The sounds of one’s body when in isolation are amplified and I believe have been used in torture chambers before to drive people insane. The power of sound should not be overlooked and this has been highlighted immensely by this article.
Absence vs. Presence
The final reading brought up the idea of absence as being representative of presence, in that our cognitive experience is merely a reflection of what happened in reality. Cubitt speaks of art’s beginnings with the comparative stories of Buddha and Pliny. For the artist to paint Buddha, he must look at his reflection, conversely the young woman Pliny details traces her lover’s shadow. Both stories show quite literally that what we paint/draw is never a direct representation of the object, and in fact that the absence on the person is highlighted by their indirect contact in drawing them.
A culmination of these three concepts has inspired me immensely – not only in terms of this session but also to take it further into an exhibitable piece. As I am using the web as my delivery method I cannot help but feel limited in what I want to do and what I can do in terms of isolation.
For my projects this session I would like to focus on the concept of absence and presence and how each shift user perspective. For Project Two I feel this will translate well with the literal absence and presence of people who will be on the walkway. The higher the absence of people, the more visually isolated the user becomes – however in this isolation subtle sound is enhanced (such as bodily, environmental). As activity increases sound changes to more obvious noise as user concentration shifts to a slowly increasing visual presence.