UCSD Visual Arts Graduate Department
Reflection, Refraction, Projection
How can the essential phenomenal aspects of being- such as the body moving through space, intentionality as it relates to perceiving objects and the relationship between image and imagination be presented in a radically new way? Although much scholarly research and discourse has been produced around these topics, how these paradigms are problematized within the field of media art and visual representation remains a nascent endeavor. It seems much of current art discourse and practice is stuck in the Post-Modern phase of “reading” images, referencing their symbolic representational qualities. In his time, Marshall McLuhan lamented culture’s deficiency in a deeper understanding of television and what it meant. I assert the same can be said for the image, the screen and the ontology of the object. What is the role of visual perception within the ontological subject/object paradigm? How are phenomena mediated through consciousness and media? How can we theorize and present the image as actual (not representative), the world as faceted screens (spatialized image) and recognize intangible appearances as interfaces for perception?
In my exhibition, Reflection, Refraction, Projection, I use the prism form as a lens. This lens is a central device to explore visual perception and ontology. As the prism form transmutates through three light installation works, theses of possible ways of being are presented. The first installation Refraction, an exploded prism-lens, is a materialization of the decentralized character of the object–the expanded, fragmented and faceted object that transverses through channels of media and consciousness. The second installation, Reflection, gives one the sense of being inside the prism-lens. The installation relates the subject to spatiality. Adumbrations of movements from multiple vantage points form a reflected environment of the self projecting through physical space and consequently the self becoming the spatial environment. Reflection and Refraction posit a model of Being-in-the-world as a constellation comprised of subject and object nodes. In this matrix, both the subject and object project their image outward. Intersubjectivity is visible in both the connecting vectors and the transparent superimposition of projected images. The final installation, Projection is a conception of looking through the prism-lens. Presenting the prism as an interlocutor to an imagined way of being–a literal window into an altered sense of time and space. In the superimposition of the viewers’ shadow with the positive image of a natural environment, Projection posits an inverted world beyond our natural spatial perception and ultimately Being-in-the-world.
James Turrell’s Cube questions the validity of our cognitive faculties’ ability to apprehend spatial forms accurately. Robert Irwin’s work suggests light can be an actual art object. During their involvement in the Experiments in Art and Technology Program, Irwin and Turrell built artistic practices challenging the limitations and conceptual implications of visual perception. Their efforts provided a groundwork for contemporary works that hypothesize, perhaps there is more than we are currently seeing, both literally and figuratively. Of course most artists are presenting some form to be regarded in a different manner, but the rigorous investigation of perceptual phenomena within the Light and Space movement is noteworthy.
Robert Irwin’s practice is heavily influenced by Phenomenology. Phenomenological texts are also an influential theoretical component to my artistic practice. More specifically, theories of interest explore concepts of not seeing or not having access to the “whole picture”. Is a determinate horizon available for us to see? How can we trust our cognitive faculties to perceive what is outside of the self accurately? What is the role of one’s vantage point at each moment of seeing as it relates to the determinate whole? I find Husserl’s concept of Protention and Retention compelling–wherein a lack of visual content is filled in by images of memory and intention to complete a picture. What is the role of the image and imagination in perceiving existence? How are appearances related to actuality? How can we truly know the object, the self and the world? What methodologies are most effective in our ontological investigations? I favor the phenomenological study of objects and being in terms of space and time. It seems relevant as the essential conditions of being are spatial and temporal. In my practice and research, I consider the object and being spatially in terms of dimensionality, the ambiguity or inversion of positive and negative space and permeating space. Temporality manifests in terms of potentiality and the trajectory from consciousness to form. As much of continental philosophy suggests, the full spectrum of the object remains up for debate. I have entered into pondering the object and crafting my own ontological theory, entitled apparition cognition.
I was fortunate to engage in some “field research” within Haim Steinbach’s seminar, The Object. The format of the course involved bringing an object and discussing each other’s objects each week. To provoke a conversation regarding appearances as actual, I brought a digital Smart Object (a component of Adobe Photoshop). During the course, I deduced some common themes and misconceptions within ontological analysis. My colleagues would attempt to know the object via the following epistemological methodologies- how well it fits in hand, object as a tool, its name and how it functions as a sign for a related concept or entity (semiotics), narrative (either personal or cultural), causality/origin and finally rational data gleaned from the internet. It was puzzling to spend hours using these systems to talk “around” the object, never entering into knowing the “objecthood” of the object- it’s way of being. As Heidegger elucidates, “The being of the beings means whatness, howness, truth. Because every being is determined by the what and the how and is unveiled as a being in its whatness and howness, its being-what and being-how”1 To interpret the object as having a relative functionality as means to an end determined by the subject–each object as a tool for our gain, is merely to enslave the objects as soldiers for our small battles. The at-hand tool approach is clearly a faulty process of examination, because we not only limit what we see in the object- it’s whatness, it’s way of being, but it is not the case for all objects. Objects that exist in mind, intangible objects and objects that exist in the natural world far from our reach, become excluded from our lexicon of beings. To look at objects in relation to how well they fit in hand; their tactile qualities and employment as tools is a two-fold assumption, only objects that are tactilely sensible and function as tools for us to use (for our own ends) are actual objects. Another misguided subjectivist endeavor is to relate to the object as it’s embedded within one’s own personal narrative. Peter Schwenger observes, “Their long association with us seems to make them [things] custodians of our memories; so that sometimes, as in Proust, things reveal us to ourselves in profound and unexpected ways. Yet, all this does not mean that things reveal themselves, only our investments in them.”2 These object related stories have to do with a personal mythologizing of the object, but tell me very little about the actual object itself. When the object becomes a literary symbol, we lose its dimensional character and intrinsic essence. Narrative is of course constructed by the fiber of semiotics. David Abram warns, “By linguistically defining the surrounding world as a determinate set of objects, we cut our conscious, speaking selves off from the spontaneous life of our sensing bodies.”3 The linguistic definition as in the name game we play with semiotics also creates a mirroring effect, which points us to a tangential object meaning relation, but is not a key to unlock the actual way of being of the object. The above methodologies are ways we attempt to control the object, we deny it’s continual revealing of authentic objectness. In so doing, we diminish its power. Heidegger advocates, “…the unveiling appropriation of the extant [object] in its being-such is precisely not a subjectivizing but just the reverse, an appropriating of the uncovered determinations to the extant entity as it is itself.”4 In each moment, the object is revealing itself to us.
When approaching each object in the context of the class, respondents always touched upon the origin of the object. I noticed when the origin of the object was unknown, students would quickly look up more information regarding the object via the Internet. The Internet becomes an epistemological tool to look deeper into the taxonomy of the object. Yet, the Internet is merely a digital emanation of our collective consciousness. The origin of the object as sourced via the Internet, becomes an object that is born from our collective consciousness. The digital object informs the physical object. Look at the paradigm of looking at a physical object and then referencing it online. It is the modern eidos, an object that travels from ideal form to the physical world, to consciousness, into the digital world, back through the individual consciousness and then back to the physical object. For example, a table as a general object; you see a physical table, it passes through consciousness, you Google “table”, the digital table object appears–this is a digital aspect of a physical table somewhere else that passed through the consciousness of someone else, was photographed and uploaded online. Before the physical table was actualized it was a form in someone’s consciousness. If a physical table was not present to spark the google inquiry, it would be passing through memory. In this causality paradigm of accordion adumbrations the table object both travels from physical to intangible and is present in multiple locations simultaneously. This paradigm of Google as intermediary is not evident in my exhibition but the process of moving from 2D form to consciousness to 3D form to 2D is explored and will be discussed later within the essay.
To say the object is an apparition is perhaps a bold statement, although it was elucidated upon in Kant’s concept of the manifold of appearances. Kant positions the reality of objects as relative to the perceptual comportment of the subject. He equates perceivedness with being. If you can see something, for example of a shadow of a man shaped by trees5, in that moment of perceiving; the man is actual for you. Both Kant and Husserl touch upon objects comprised of appearances due to the inability to see the whole picture, this is illusionary (Nomena, Phenomena, Kant) or a literal one-sided perspective (Husserl). To radically “see” the object in a new way is to consider it as part of the object body whole. I posit the physical object as one appearance of a multi-modal object. The object is one entity yet spread across multiple platforms of being– its’ facets include the object of consciousness, the image object; the digital image, the physical image, the projected image, the image of consciousness, the intended object of personal comportment, the intended object of each person’s unique assertion of its cubist reflection projections, the eidos of the form before it was actualized, its previous states of being held within itself, the materials that shaped its physical limb, the potential object, the physical decay, all of its copies, the phonetic name sound and the memory of it (both personal and collective). These are all cells within the object organism. The object is the synthesis of presence and appearance. This is a pure unveiling of the object, by its many simultaneous ways of existing wherein the object continually transcends itself with its intelligent capacity to fragment through our attention economy6. The object has the power to transverse through our consciousness into mutable forms. Each time we see or recall an image of the object, we are seeing just one apparition of an overall elemental force. Each object has the power to act in the way water or oxygen performs in the natural world. When I breathe air, it travels through me and remains part of the atmosphere. When I see water in a stream or in my sink, it is a small apparition of the world’s entire ecology of water as natural resource.
Let’s look further into how this paradigm is possible through space and time. How can the object have several spatial modalities simultaneously? The primacy of digital ontology is increasingly relevant to the issue. The common assumption, seems to be digital media is merely a virtual, synthetic, fake; a copy, sign, symbol or simulacra of the “real world”. Additionally, because the digital object seems to hover in a non-historical referential space, the origin/causality has to be a referent to some “real world” physical object. For example, in the context of the course everyone regarded my digital smart object image as virtual, synthetic, fake; a copy, sign or symbol of a physical object, not an actual object in and of itself. Perhaps it’s the flatness of the object’s dimensional character or its intangibility that blocks one from seeing these digital objects as actual, but such an emphasis on tangibility becomes a form of blindness. Despite our world being apprehended by a synthesis of spatial and pictorial visual perception, we continue to delineate between spatial objects and pictures. It is commonly held that pictures are visual metaphors to be “read” as referring to something real. Spatial objects take shape, creating actual forms that can be representational but are always actual. Each object is a multi-modal being of many emanations. This is hinted at in the pre-digital era text, Ways of Seeing, as it discusses the image of a painting as captured by the camera and projected through Television tubes to multiple homes, “[before the camera was invented] Sometimes the painting was transportable. But it could never be seen in two places at the same time. When the camera reproduces a painting, it destroys the uniqueness of its image. As a result, its meaning changes. Or, more exactly, its meaning multiplies and fragments into many meanings. This is vividly illustrated by what happens when a painting is shown on a television screen. The painting enters each viewer’s house … Because of the camera, the painting now travels to the spectator rather than the spectator to the painting.”7 Herein, Berger attempts to point out the way in which the object’s meaning changes and perhaps could be regarded as less valuable, but he continues to speak of the painting, in terms of a single object that travels and projects emanations of itself through the camera, the television, into a physical environment and ultimately to the eye of the viewer. Regardless of the shift in meaning, the object is described as one object that has a decentralized character and travels to reveal itself. Just as the object travels through electrical cables, to emit from a TV or computer screen, the object also travels through our consciousness from one person to another, until it garners more and more attention: making it more “real”, by means of agreement.
The idea object has a spatial character, as it occupies space in mind. It is akin to the digital object in its intangibility. It is both visible and invisible. It is visible in the mind’s eye of the thinker, yet hidden to others. You can pass the image to others via language, yet, it remains malleable and shifts form based on interpretations and desires. This can be described temporally, in the way the object travels via consciousness and tele-technology, from dream space to imagination, through language to form. The object enacts a different temporal sequence in each scenario. Robert Sokolowski explains the phenomena of imagination, “However even when I imagine, the identity synthesis that is proper to all intentionality remains in force. An imaginary object stays one and the same through many imaginings of it. There is a manifold with an identity at its core even in imagination. We can take things we have hardly perceived and enroll them into imaginary scenarios, and the things remain the same; or we can fabricate purely imaginary things and put them into an imaginary routine and they remain the same throughout. Obviously imaginary objects do not have the thick solidarity of perceived objects, since we can fantasize them into all sorts of improbable situations…”8 The object exists in multiple temporal schemes simultaneously–imagined time, potentiality, dream time, memory, its previous states are all hovering around and held within the object. Sokolowski elaborates on potential, “The horizon of the potential and the absent surrounds the actual presences of things. The thing can always be presented in more ways than we already know; the thing will always hold more appearances in reserve.”9
Through my hypothesis of the object thus far, I have mapped a way in which the spatial and temporal character of the object is perhaps more expansive than is commonly held. In this paradigm the object does indeed transcend itself. If the object has the ability to transcend its objectness, what does it become? Could it be regarded as a subject? Perhaps the object is part of an intersubjective exchange? To be a subject that responds to other subjects, the object would have to contain some form of consciousness or intelligence. By immediately making the assumption all objects are inanimate unthinking objects, we miss the opportunity to not only truly see the object, but to work with the object. Smart objects (smart phones, autofill, websites that learn your preferences, webcams and spaces controlled by sensors) embody this model of co-creation. They have an acute awareness or intelligence of our behaviors and desires. They enact the subjects’ desires by changing surfaces, remembering changes and persevering the eidos of the form. In this instance, the subjects’ desires become the content of the object, and the subject is at once both objectified and the source of causality for the object’s appearance. With this role reversal the object becomes the subject. It’s easy to see objects comprised of interactive media as “smart”, intelligent or even conscious. Some of my previous work uses interactive media to evoke this conscious object theory. Yet, I would argue that all analog objects have the same capacity. For this reason, the exhibition has light objects and materials that reflect the viewer or encourage the viewer to move in different directions creating an interactive exchange via analog means. In addition to the aforementioned ability to travel through consciousness garnering attention, every object we come into contact with whether physical or intangible is an interface into an intersubjective conversation.
My strategy with the installation, Refraction, is to create a visualization of the theories I’ve outlined thus far. Refraction is an exploded or expanded object made of projections from multiple directions passing through suspended mylar facets and string. Images and light refract around the room. The physical materials and implied forms synthesize presences and appearances. The layered light refractions on the walls give one a sense of dimensionality that oscillates between expanding and collapsing the overall space (seeing more or less of the pictorial horizon). Each individual mylar facet and suspended string also expands and collapses its dimensionality, dependent on the viewer’s vantage point. The mylar panels infer a framework of a prism but the absent sides are interactively intended by the viewer. The literal fragmentation of panels hanging in different areas of the room illustrate the expanded object matrix.
I am inspired by the Bauhaus artist Lazlo Maholy-Nagy. He went to great lengths to make mechanical apparatuses that would cast light abstractions, which he would then photograph. Within his practice, the physical object is merely a means for the actual art object, the light refraction. The light then becomes an image object (his photograph) that travels to viewers. Similarly in Refraction, the physical object is transparent and becomes an intermediary catalyst for the light object. In projecting images of light through the mylar, the photographic image of light becomes an actual light object again. The appearance becomes actual as in the Kantian thesis of perceivedness equating existence. Additionally, the content of what I’m projecting is photographs of light on the mylar, which is projected back onto itself. This transmutates the dimensional form into an image back onto the dimensional form then into an appearance of a light image object that is both flat (on the wall) and dimensional (layers of light giving the appearance of depth). Moving from the 3d form into 2d back to 3d then to a mixed dimensional appearance is a strategy I will continue to explore within my practice.
In the installation, the lines of string that connect the mylar panels are the literal vectors connecting the object nodes, which typically would be the invisible channels of internet cable, television and consciousness. With advances in ubiquitous computing the world is a screen-less computer, comprised of smart objects. From a theoretical perspective, I postulate the world as already being a faceted screen. What we take in are projections of images of things. From Steeves’ book, Merleau-Ponty’s Philosophy of Imagination, “On the basis of the theories of Hume and Kant, mental images have come to be seen as either objects in the mind or mental schemata that play an essential role in perception and in the acquisition of knowledge.”10 My personal experience of perception is in the form of images. I have a photographic memory–recalling moments as pictorial scenes. My mind stores pre-recorded perceptions into photos and movies. Herein the mind is an imaging faculty projecting a catalog of images onto the physical world–a superimposition of past projections and imagination onto physical reality in the present moment, shaping the determinate horizon of the world. In this way it seems we both take in and project out imagery. As an artist, I’m fascinated by glass doors and windows that reflect light phenomena of their surrounding spaces. It’s as if these spaces are projecting outward from multiple directions simultaneously and its only captured via the glass, the screen, the metallic surface or the reflection. If all things are just light waves of object images projecting, traveling about– is the object everywhere? Something I would like to investigate further during my graduate study is apprehending the image of the world within visual perception from a cognitive science perspective. For instance learning about mirror neurons, that spark when you see another being engaging in a specific behavior, leads me to think that the self comports or transports to others in seeing their image (in the physical world or in a photographic image). Is the self “everywhere and nowhere”?
In Reflection, everything that has been asserted about the object applies to the subject. Reflection is an installation using 3 suspended holographic mylar panels that capture reflections of a figure dancing and walking in space. The holographic projections of the dancer subject, may seem to be an appearance, but are of course perceptible as an actual figure in the moment of apprehension. The subject (in general) has a decentralized character that proliferates through media and consciousness, continually unveiling itself and projecting its image outward. For example, I was on a flight recently and saw a movie with Uma Thurman. I thought to myself, “She seems like a nice person.” Then I realized, “how can I be sure she exists”? I’ve only ever seen her image projected and proliferated through media and never seen her physical form in person. Yet, it is commonly assumed Uma Thurman is actual. In her image traveling to the public, she herself and her actuality travels with it. Another example, during a discussion in my TA section recently, the students expressed fear and concern about Facebook tagging their images (without human intervention) and further disseminating their images online. They concluded the source of their concern is in their belief, the image of the self is the self. The issue of embodiment is evocative within telepresence. With Skype, people are in awe–”it’s as if they’re actually there with me”. If a presence is perceptibly visible, it is there with you in some form. The image form of the subject is mediated through cameras, internet and consciousness. Just as the internet enacted the Global Village11, media will continue to advance and the question of embodiment will become less relevant–the divide between image and physically present will become less discernible.
Camera view relates back to the idea of singular vantage point. Regarding photographic seeing, Lazlo Maholy Nagy writes of “simultaneous seeing by means of superimposition.”12 Naturally, we never see in some of the ways that media presents (superimposition, macro zoom, black and white, etc.) In many ways, each environment is only for the self, in the self and of the self, in that it is comprised of your vantage point at that moment and can’t be available to anyone else. Again, with media the same environmental image can be projected for multiple viewers simultaneously, yet it is still in context of their viewing space. Even in a movie theater, each person is displaced slightly in relation to the screen. In Ways of Seeing, John Berger writes of perspective and appearances, “The convention of perspective, which is unique to European art and which was first established in the early Renaissance, centers everything on the eye of the beholder. It is like a beam from a lighthouse–only instead of light traveling outwards, appearances travel in. The conventions called those appearances reality. Perspective makes the single eye the centre of the visible world. Everything converges on to the eye as to the vanishing point of infinity. The visible world is arranged for the spectator as the Universe was once thought to be arranged for God.”13 Perspective/vantage point is evident in the faceted geometric planes of my work and its reference to cubism. Media theorist, Anne Friedberg, compares vision strategies, “Although the algorithmic constructions found in video games, in quicktime panoramas, in virtual reality systems continue to rely on digital simulacra of perspectival space, not all digital space is designed to suggest three dimensions. Instead, the vernacular “space” of the computer screen has more in common with surfaces of cubism–frontality, suppression of depth, overlapping layers–than with the extended depth of Renaissance perspective.”14 The singular vantage point is already blended with memory fragments of previous perspectives (protention and retention15). If multiple perspectives are visible within one view-point, the object becomes less of determinate whole and enters further into abstraction. The same can be said for the personal position combined with other subjective views- the image (or concept) becomes more kaleidoscopic than robust. Is a determinate whole “picture” possible or is it continually unfolding for each viewer in each moment? I mapped my overall exhibition to point to this quandary. In that each vantage point of each object and the overall scene differs quite a bit from the next, collapsing and expanding in multiple ways. Hypothetically, if seeing all vantage points simultaneously was possible, what would it look like? This is discussed in Merleau Ponty’s “la pensée de survol”, “The tree that manifests itself phenomenally does not manifest itself from all sides and all times at once; it adumbrates itself through time and space. For objective thought, which is characterized by Merleau-Ponty as “la pensée de survol” or thought that ranges over all space and time, this spatio-temporal unfolding is collapsed, and the real tree is conceived as encompassing the entire series of adumbrations. Where are we to conceive the real; in the partial adumbration or in the completed series? …phenomenal time is transcendent and irreducible to the processes of immanent constitution, it is evident that the objective thought of the total series of adumbrations is ideal rather than real, a presumptive synthesis, since it includes moments that are no longer and moments that have yet to be. However, if we atomize time and segment space, we are left with a view of the tree from position P1 at time T1, a literally one-sided and instantaneous view that is clearly inadequate to the real tree. Neither alternative, neither the totality nor the isolated adumbration can be taken as disclosing the real.”16
To work with this way of seeing in Reflection, I shot video of a dancer subject from 3 vantage points. The video is projected onto 3 panels of holographic film. The projection keystones to give the appearance of depth on the flat panel. Of course it would be impossible to have cameras for each minute vantage point and to document her entire lifespan including when she was just a thought in her mother’s mind. Instead my aim was to capture a series a movements from multiple angles and see them reflected upon on another. “By considering the body in movement, we can see better how it inhabits space (and moreover, time) because movement is not limited to submitting passively to space and time, it actively assumes them,”17 With each active movement all the potential movements hover around her. The speed of her movements goes beyond natural temporality. In utilizing media, she is speed up 400x her natural speed and slowed down at points to 50%. If we can experience time and space in an “unnatural” way, does that mean spatio-temporality is interior or exterior to being? Her angular directional movements are choreographed to enact being inside the prism. She also mimics the pin-wheel background image. A centrifugal superimposition of figure and ground. The holographic image of the dancer relates to consciousness and perception of space. On Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy of imagination, “[Merleau-Ponty] admits, with Jean Paul Sartre and others, that the image is not a mental content or a copy of perceptions. The mental image is a particular mode of consciousness. But he also argues that the image involves a spatiality that is continuous with the space of perception. According to Merleau-Ponty, fanciful thinking and perception occur within a continuous spectrum that is mediated and determined by the imagining body.”18 The adumbrations are collapsed in the video image, but expanded within the spatial structure of the installation. The dancer is both reflected within each video and the panels reflect each other. Subsequently, her image reflects around the room. The 3 panels create a space made of the dancer and the entire room becomes an environment comprised of the dancer. Not only does she inhabit space, project her image through space, she is the space. Perhaps she is “everywhere and nowhere” after all.
Another inspiration in my work is Maya Deren’s film, Meshes of the Afternoon. The entire film has a dream-like quality. It’s ambiguous as to whether the film captures a dream, an imagined montage, a memory or potential scenarios overlapped. The most resonant scene involves multiple versions of the same female protagonist in the frame. Again, one is left wondering if they are different aspects of her personality, remembered selves, potential selves or multiple moments collapsing via the artifice of film. In the same way, the multiple selves in Reflection, are meant to conceptually expand temporally while literally collapsing spatially the aspects of self. Not only is the self multiplied in the dancer video, but it is reflected once again with the image of the viewer moving through the space. In many ways, the dancer is an emanation of Being-in-the-world. The background within the video is shaped by refracted light. As in the physical world, we literally need light to see our environment. With the holographic film, she is superimposed on the background of the actual room which is shaped by all of the surrounding luminous projections (from Refraction and Projection). Reflection presents the subject as literal projected image. If others only see our image made of light projected outwards, than we are essentially a beam of light, just like a star beams its image to us. This is part of the strategy with the second moving-through-space video showing a figure literally made of light traveling through space. After seeing the dancer moving within a luminous space, we see a figure made of light in “void” space. Being is continually moving through space and time and in a state of becoming. Each movement manifests out of series of potential manifestations. The body moving through space is a powerful phenomenal moment, we are instinctually aware of. “The members of the audience understand the dance on the basis of their own bodily experiences, which means that they must be aware of both the forces on the dancer’s body and the image that is created by means of it. There is no shifting back and forth from perception to imagination; the audience imagines by means of shared kinesthetic and bodily experiences.”24 In the exhibition, the physical objects are mere mechanisms to reveal energetic light phenomena, which I have already asserted to be an actual object in itself. Perhaps what we perceive as “reality” is the superimposition of the subject’s image projecting outward to meet the object’s image in space. Each are a force19 of energy within one field of reality20. Their (literal and figurative) brightness is relative to their positionality. Intersubjectivity happens in the in-between spaces, captured on the transparent screen or window. “…truth as unveiling is in the Dasein as a determination of its intentional comportment, and it is also a determinateness of some being, something extant, with regard to its being an unveiled entity. It follows from this that being true is something that “lies between” the subject and the object, if these two terms are taken in their ordinary external signification. The phenomenon of truth is interconnected with the basic structure of the Dasein, its transcendence.”21
In the exhibition, the projections from the “object” (Refraction) spilling onto the “subject” (Reflection) (and vice versa) make this thesis literally visible. In this thesis, the tangible, physical is just an appearance of the “real” and the light phenomena appearances are presented as the “real”. Using this logic, the shadows of the cave would be the “real”, the noumena would be in the phenomena, the physical is just an engine for the traveling light image, merely an armature. Although both the appearance and physical presence make up the total object (or subject), the traveling light image is intrinsically more dynamic spatially and temporally than a fixed static physical armature. This is intended to be a radicalization of the image, seeing and being. As “real” is largely up for debate (why it’s used in quotes), I like to ponder what would a world outside of what we naturally experience would look like? If I look through the prism-lens, what would I see? How can space and time be experienced in a different way? Is a space beyond space possible? Or a time outside of time?
The final installation, Projection, envisions the object as an interlocutor, a window into a world where the literal horizon of the ocean is indeterminate, because it is vertical instead of horizontal. It begins to look more like a waterfall or abstract sparkles of light rather than ocean waves. Water flows upside down and backwards. (Both videos of light on water in Reflection and Projection offer the physical water as a transparent catalyst for the surface appearance of light phenomena) In Projection, transparent layers of clouds jitter, oscillate and envelope each other. Projection is a video projection of a triangle in the corner of the room. Due to a parallax effect from the lens to the wall, the triangle becomes a distorted pentagon. As the viewer moves around the shape, the parallax is between the eye of the viewer and the shape. The form shifts and distorts. In Projection, positive space and negative space are inverted. The positive, tangible space of the wall is a black void appearing as negative space. “The window reduces the outside to a two-dimensional surface; the window becomes a screen.”22 The negative space of atmosphere appears positive as it’s flattened in the whiteness of the image. In spending time with the projection, it appears less like a flat image and more like a window, a hole in space, the positive, physical wall becomes negative space at that same time that it is positive as an image and negative as atmosphere. Maybe a space beyond space is an artifice of multiple dimensions of spatiality occurring simultaneously. Anne Friedberg writes on perspective within screens and windows: “The screens of cinema, television, and computers open “virtual windows” that ventilate the static materialities and temporalities of their viewers. A “windowed” multiplicity of perspectives implies new laws of “presence”–not only here and there, but also then and now–a multiple view–sometimes enhanced, sometimes diminished–out the window.”23 To add another layer of inversion, the projector in Projection is placed on the floor. As the viewer walks in front of it, their larger than life black silhouette is cast onto the window image. The self that naturally embodies positive space, becomes negative space. Not only is the subject superimposed onto the image of the object as with Refraction, they both are projected onto the world and yet removed from the world. A black void fills their place. They are there, but not there. The image of the subject becomes part of the causality for the object/subject superimposition. Without the physically present subject in the room, the shadow/ void figure would not be possible. Without the projected object, there would be nothing to case a shadow of the subject. Would I be able to experience a world comprised of a spatio-temporality that radically differs from what my body naturally experiences? In the installation the moment loops in a vibrating jitter, an everlasting now… the actual horizon of the earth is orthogonal to the world seen through the prism. If such a world existed, I could not viably be there physically, yet I could be there in imagination. I could be there and not there.
All 3 works are successful in presenting the image in a new way. In spatializing the image, it becomes the world and the world is the self. One of my colleagues recently inquired regarding a presentation of my work, “you keep talking about the subject and object, but where are you in the work?” To her, it appears I’m nowhere (in the work). At first glance, maybe I’m the dancer- on the surface she is a young female figure, like myself. Although, with deeper consideration, I’m more like the transparent mylar, the google image search of the table or the prism-lens. At some point all the imagery either originated, passed through or was superimposed within my consciousness. The images projected towards me and from me. In all the facets, planes and screens you see emanations of my personal visual perception; and the objects of memory, dream, imagination.
1. Martin Heidegger, Basic Problems of Phenomenology (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1982), 205.
2. Peter Schwenger, The Tears of Things (Minneapolis, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 2006), 3.
3. David Abram, The Spell of Sensuous (New York, New York: Vintage Books Random House, 1997), 56.
4. Martin Heidegger, Basic Problems of Phenomenology (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1982), 219.
5. Ibid. 63.
6. Michael H. Goldhaber, The Attention Economy and the Net (First Monday, Volume 2, Number 4 – 7 April 1997)
7. John Berger, Ways of Seeing (New York, New York: Penguin Books, 1977), 19-20.
8. Robert Sokolowski, Introduction to Phenomenology (New York, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 72.
9. Ibid. 23.
10. James B. Steeves, Imagining Bodies Merleau-Ponty‘s Philosophy of Imagination (Pittsburg, Pennsylvania: Duquesne University Press, 2004), 69.
11. McLuhan, Marshall. Understanding Media (Berkeley, California: Gingko Press, 1964, 2003), 6.
12. Moholy-Nagy, Lázló. Painting , Photography , Film trans. Janet Seligman (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1973)
13. John Berger, Ways of Seeing (New York, New York: Penguin Books, 1977), 19-20.
14. Anne Friedberg, The Virtual Window From Alberti to Microsoft (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2006), 2-3.
15. (On Genuine and Non-genuine appearances) Don Welton, The New Husserl: A Critical Reader (Bloomington , Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2003), 77.
16. MC Dillon, Merleau-Ponty‘s Ontology (Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 1988), 90-91.
17. Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, trans. Colin Smith, (New York, New York: Routledge Classics, 2002), 117.
18. James B. Steeves, Imagining Bodies Merleau-Ponty‘s Philosophy of Imagination (Pittsburg, Pennsylvania: Duquesne University Press, 2004), 68.
19. “This notion of a force allows us to reconcile the thinghood and the properties”
John Russon, Reading Hegel‘s Phenomenology (Bloomington Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2004), 30.
20.“…and Spinoza’s insight is to see that these Aristotelian “substances” really are properties of one single substance of reality.” Ibid.
21. Martin Heidegger, Basic Problems of Phenomenology (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1982), 218.
22. Anne Friedberg, The Virtual Window From Alberti to Microsoft (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2006), 1.
23. Ibid. 4-5.
24. James B. Steeves, Imagining Bodies Merleau-Ponty‘s Philosophy of Imagination (Pittsburg, Pennsylvania: Duquesne University Press, 2004), 61.