Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Visual Perception

From what I've read so far, the debate around visual perception centres around some specific concepts to do with photorealism, illusionism, opticality, ambiguity, meaning, nature-nurture, context and depiction.  Writers have serious disagreement about perception which is made clear by their different approaches to studying the field.

One of the strongest debates through the literature I have read so far are to do with the nature-nurture debate around extracting meaning from images, some researchers such as Ramaschandran, Hyman, Goodman and Arnheim argue that perception can be looked at as a systematic set of rules for critiquing the success of the composition of a work where as the other side is Gombrich, Gibson and who have have written in support for the cultural side discussing visual literacy as similar to learning a language.  In this discussion a lot of linguistics comes to the fore as evidence in support of art as a learned language such as in some of the works by Munro Beardsley.  Linguistics can offer a useful perspective sometimes when it's used to deconstruct arguments already put forth, but the analogies of linguistics and logical algebraic forms are sometimes used to assert that because grammar is rational and structured then so too must pictorial design be.

Opticality vs Impressionality
Descartes looked at Optics, The impressionists looked at optics also.  The perceptual theories of Goodman look at the correspondence of optical information onto the retina from the artwork to the optical information on the retina of the depicted object.  This has strong parallels with photorealism and don't take into acount the stylistic and impressionistic nature of the art.  Arguments around the priveledge of perspective are crucial to this argument, however the development of cartesian perspective has been demonstrated to be a matter of style by Hagen, by demonstrating the role of assumptions in "incorrect" perspective drawing such as naive art and Egyptian art.

This is the cooky side of the debate where researchers give illustrations of visual phenomena which confuse or mislead the audience.  A few examples of these are MC Escher's entire body of work, Op Art, Salvador Dali's use of double images etc.  A lot of these images are plays of perspective and formal elements and used to demonstrate a perceptul interruption.

Ambiguity and Imcompleteness
I've stored these in the same category although sometimes they are treated distinctly.  For example Neil Overton's CSU lecture on illusionism in 2011 for VIS101 mentioned Ambiguity as something with double meanings, which is something that I've listed in illusionism.  Overton mentions that ambiguity and incompleteness are form of illusion which I believe is an extraction from Gombrich's Art and Illusion.  Ambiguity, however might be better understood as being an image which can depict multiple meanings which is why I have placed it here next to incompleteness because it involves a constructivist approach similar to Gestalt Psychology, where the audience completes the image by using a range of clues provided in the work and a range of clues provided from their own visual experience.

Meaning and Depiction
Again this falls under the nature-nurture debate as well but John M. Kennedy wrote an interesting article which mentioned blind people being able to feel lines of a representational image and apprehending it as a represtentational composition.  Kennedy's article in John Fisher's Perceiving Artworks is a guide as to what he sees as the representational system for conveying meaning and depiction which includes simplicity, distortion, Gestaltism, context and codification. These issues make up the content of the debates around representation, meaning and depiction.  There are parallels between the meaning of an incomplete work wuch as a tea stain or some other pattern which can be seen as resembling something.  Kennedy discusses the artificiality of an object as a function of depiction which is similar to Wolsterstorff's notion of seeing representationally.  Some of the really dry and only vaguely relevant theories are preoccupied with linguistic notions of meaning and depiction which reduce the discussion down to component parts and discuss them with parallels to writtern language that they continue to be asserted as analagous to verbal or written language.  

Alot of these discussions are highly abstract and split the hairs on matters which boil down to disagreements about a definition a word or a methodological research preference or ideology.  In the literature that I've read so far no artists have themselves been included in the process so I'm going to see what kind of info I can find from this other persepctive, and I'm going to spend some more time looking at the role of constructivism and psychological projection in an image and how artists have used these methods of constructing images.

I am going to look at Rorshach inkblots and op artists as well as other art practices who utilize percetion as a way of contributing to the knowledge of perceptual theory.  Hagen mentioned while discussing Gibson that it's necessary to look at what artists do but not what they say.  In her article she barely mentions any artists let alone a discussion of any one particular artistic practice.  This is a common trend among the perceptual literature where researchers discuss particular images which are typical of whatever visual phenomena they are discussing.

Some relevant names in the study of visual perception which would be useful for discussion here are Virginia Ross who I found in Jaqueline Millner's Conceptual Beatury, then there's Olafur Eliasson, James Turrell and Bridget Reilly as well as the rest of the op-art movement.  These artists have had some relationship to the study of perception in art whether they be exploring it, referencing it or talking about it.

Hagen's assertion that we shouldn't listen to what artists say about perception beyond their art practice is unfounded because their ability to talk about what they do is going to be informed by the studio practice.  As the artist is not an absent maker of things, he or she actively involves their own professional and personal experiences in their work there is no reason for anyone to assume that the words they use would be unsuitable for the discussion.

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