In the beginning of my creative investigation into the physicality of seeing, I encountered both historical and contemporary theories about the nature of sight. For any inquiry into vision, the most obvious starting point is the eye. Investigations into human vision have been conducted as far back as Greco-Roman times: “many classical writers (including Euclid and Claudius Ptolemy) conceived of vision in terms of rays emanating from the eye, so that vision could be understood as … touch.” (Yellott 2004) This classical perspective resonates with my own perspective on vision: I also believe that vision is completely interwoven with my ability to project meaning on what I see. Many centuries after the work of Euclid and Ptolemy, “Kepler realized that light entering the eye through the pupil behaved like light entering camera obscura and he pushed the theory of the retinal image in 1604” (Sheldrake 2003). We now know that the eye is an advanced biomechanical sensory organ that is able to detect light and send coded signals to the brain. I suggest, however, that scientific knowledge has not fully accounted for the precise meaning-making elements in the mind.
Throughout my research, it became apparent to me that the connection between the biology of sight and the psychology of seeing is ill-defined. In particular, it remains to be characterized how the bioelectrical signals in the brain are converted into conscious meaning in the mind. The point where light is interpreted after being translated by the eye (Boahen 2008) into bioelectrical thought signals in the brain (Hine 2008) is where I begin my creative investigations into seeing. I suggest that the biophysical apparatus of vision does not fully account for the perceptual sensations of sight. “Vision involves a two way process, an inward movement of light and an outward projection of images […] The inward movement of light is familiar enough. Light moves from the book through … your eyes … From the point of view of the standard theory, there is no reason that you should be conscious at all.” (Sheldrake 2003) I believe that my conscious visual reality does not rely on physically seeing alone. In fact, I am able to imagine something, dream and even hallucinate within the deep recesses of my mind without the use of my eyes at all.
I use art and technology to help me understand my perceptive experiences. My work is an inquiry into the intersection of the visual and mental meaning-making mechanisms. I would suggest that the interpretation of subjective perception eludes traditional scientific understanding. From a purely biological point of view, my ‘visual reality’ is thought to be a physical connection of light, eyes and the brain, yet I know that I interpret the world when I perceive it. As a consequence, I examine the complex, iterative process of seeing and interpreting by exploring new ways of ‘visualizing’ and thereby ‘understanding’ my dynamic visual perception.