[-empyre-] open imaging

Alan Dunning einsteins-brain-project at shaw.ca
Tue Sep 16 04:17:27 EST 2008


Some not very organised thoughts.

The impact of images has never been very clear to 
me. I understand their operation and agency 
inside of all sorts of systems but, none of these 
seem very satisfying in explaining why I find 
some images, and their means of transmission, 
riveting and compelling and others mute. There 
are millions of things that are interesting, but 
the notion of inspiration implies a much higher 
level of compulsion. If I was pressed, I would 
say that  the connection is something to do with 
lived and imagined  experience, calling into play 
past, present and future incarnations of the 
fleshy and immaterial, extended body/mind. A sort 
of goose bumps in the expanded field.

There certainly are aspects of brain body/images 
and the means of imaging that are affecting. But 
even the newest images of the brain or body have 
long passed into a kind of distant abstraction 
for me, and they are hard to recuperate to the 
point of  awe or wonder, or even passing 
intrigue. The most compelling parts of these 
image are, as I think through Lucette's question, 
their means of production -  and consequently 
their expanded meaning.  What I see in these 
images is not nearly as compelling as what they 
suggest about the body and how that body is 
reconfigured  High tech images, of the body for 
instance, are much more interesting when I am 
struck by the enormous efforts taken to get that 
tiny glimpse into something at limits of or 
outside our perception. I am interested in this 
visualization of the invisible. Taking something 
that is essentially non-spatial and somehow 
rendering it visible in one or more dimensions - 
and then reaping the representational 

I think of great paintings and their effects. 
Consider Van der Weyden's extraordinary 
'Deposition ' in the Prado. The image is well 
known - the lamentation over the body of Christ 
as it is taken down from the cross. An image 
seen, at least by those of us in the western 
hemisphere, a thousand times since childhood. Its 
impact as an image of Christ has little effect on 
me. Yet, I would say that the effect of this work 
when I first saw it was nothing short of 
staggering. - its construction and its 
materiality - its presence (a hyperreality)  - 
was shocking. I imagine the most advanced imaging 
machine as a pinnacle of technological 
development -  extraordinary imaging as the 
latest in a line of centuries of invention and 
technology and developing ideas about what can be 
measured and what can be imagined. Van der 
Weyden's seeing machine is similarly technically 
superb - and can be seen as containing (although 
perhaps only in the sense that Barthes said that 
every text refers to every other text)  all the 
knowledge that preceded it. It contains long 
passed, but lived paintings. Perhaps both do 
engender, in me, a kind  of wonder through this 
odd indexing of past lives and endeavour.

Michele's idea of work that challenges perception 
- by using perception strikes a strong chord.. 
Earlier work of ours used the then very deficient 
rendering in virtual worlds (resolution in early 
headsets, for instance,  was the equivalent of 
being legally blind, tearing in graphics, low 
frame rates,  tracker lag, etc.)  to explore 
perception. The loss of impairment of a sense 
really concentrated the attention on that sense. 
I am still interested in the idea of deficient 
systems as providing some real opportunity to 
attend to the movement of bodies through worlds . 
I suppose I see all these imaging systems as more 
or less deficient.

Paul talks interestingly about the effect of 
music. I like to think of these as physical and 
material manifestations of phenomena that 
normally lie beneath our threshold of perception. 
As kinds of musical ectoplasms, summoned 
precisely to enter, and alter the energy/body 
field. I remember seeing Linton Kwesi Johnson and 
suddenly realizing that the bass was moving my 
diaphragm. (And probably a bunch of other 
organs). This physical connection is interesting 
because it makes plain the normally invisible 
connective tissue that surrounds us and extends 
into the world.

I was interested in the post about long term 
immersion. Over the years we have made several 
works using HMDs and, in development, I have had 
to wear them for uncomfortably long periods of 
time. I noticed very distinct effects. I had all 
the usual effects, although the worst was 
probably the sickness from serious tracker lag 
(thank goodness for fast machines). The lasting 
impact was not really physical, but rather 
psychological. The world looked different. Less 
random, more structured. Artificial even. 
Fractally generated clouds and landscape. 
Strangely it was if the inventory of the natural 
world had been somehow reduced to the limited 
inventory of the virtual world. Some kind of 
filter at work. The virtual had come fully into 
the material world - echoes of our appreciation 
of the natural world as driven by invention in 
painting. Same it ever was.


>Hello once again!
>In answer to Lucite's question
>'I'd like to know more how as artists you get inspired more or less by certain
>forms of imaging. How it informs you creativity in details.'
>I have been following the discussion about 
>science and math and more recently the notion of 
>metaphor. I find Lucette's question somewhat 
>intriguing in that in an odd way it seems to 
>suggest that inspiration can spring from 'forms 
>of imaging"
>One way of looking at this is that it suggests 
>that artistic activity stems from a technical 
>basis ŠI can see this . but for me I seem to 
>want to respond in a different way.. The reason 
>that I like to work with artistic problems is 
>that they are complex-in that they touch on many 
>discourses, which can involve for math, science, 
>biology, literature, and questions of sexuality 
>..the list goes on.  I am pretty sure that one 
>can make similar claims for other disciplines .I 
>am intrigued by however by some other issues 
>which are to do with perception and the body 
>Remembering and thinking about some of the 
>experiences that I have had with art works, 
>whether visual, written musical, or bodily 
>performances I can say that there are some 
>specific ideas which I value over others. I am 
>not going to call these ideas basic, they are in 
>fact forms of experience. One of the things that 
>I value about art is its ability to be 
>transported, this occurs very easily in music 
>that feeling that you are somewhere else or that 
>you are someone else its as if you body has been 
>occupied by a forces or forces. You could say 
>that I was possessed .I recently had this 
>experience when listening to the singer from 
>India Shankar; I felt that his voice had entered 
>my body so when I left the concert I was aware 
>that a now possessed a different body.  Another 
>version of this occurred and does occur when I 
>am participating in a virtual reality experience 
>where I begin to feel influenced by phenomena 
>that do not exist except in my mind - although 
>at another level I feel that my body has become 
>lighter- further I really enjoy the feeling as 
>well as the idea that I can be effected by 
>things immaterial. This of course happens when 
>we reading books, when the words create 
>imaginary worlds and strange feelings. The last 
>area that interests me is the notion of material 
>hallucination, which I feel occurs in many 
>different forms. For example looking at a 
>painting close up, being aware of its 
>physicality then observing the work a distant 
>one sees an image. It is as if the relation 
>between the material and the image is one of 
>hallucination. Matter has produced a ghost. We 
>have talked briefly about these phenomena in our 
>work,  "Ghost in the Machine"
>So maybe as an answer to Lucette's question- 
>what drives my interest are the desire to 
>produce work, which is less, and less material 
>but still works in the visual or sonic modes of 
>I am not sure how much detail you want or if I 
>have in fact responded to your question in the 
>manner that you desire?
>On 14-Sep-08, at 2:29 AM, Michele Barker wrote:
>>hi Everyone
>>just a response to what Lucette said:
>>>I'd like to know more how as artists you get 
>>>inspired more or less by certain
>>>forms of imaging. How it informs you creativity in details.
>>This is a good question, and whilst I'll answer 
>>for myself, I would be curious about what the 
>>others (Paul, Alan, Trish, Tina) think.
>>For me, working with the 'images of science' 
>>has always held great appeal - conceptually and 
>>aesthetically (if they can be separated). But 
>>it can be didactic in the sense that, in more 
>>recent times, the visual outcomes associated 
>>with, for example, an MRI image of a brain, 
>>have a strong 'popular' association that often 
>>leaves me wondering when I see an image in an 
>>artistic context - so what? Earlier works, like 
>>Justine Cooper's RAPT, 
>>whilst employing a full body MRI scan, resolves 
>>itself because, I think, the tactility of the 
>>work as an installation, and the rupture this 
>>creates in attempting to get a sense of any 
>>kind of wholeness within the work is not 
>>possible. It challenges us in that we are 
>>forced to move around the space and in doing 
>>so, the visual reading of the body in its 
>>entirity is constantly fragmented.
>>So, for me, and the the collaborative work I do 
>>with Anna Munster, its about responding to the 
>>processes - and often the problems of the 
>>outcomes - that becomes interesting. Lucette, 
>>you mentioned in a previous post, which Anna 
>>picked up on, about the difference between 
>>cognitive functioning the data represented in 
>>an MRI. It was precisely this potentially 
>>fraught 'relationship' that prompted Anna and 
>>myself to begin investigating how imaging 
>>technologies interpret the neurologically 
>>damaged body. You make the point:
>>>But careful approach reveals
>>>complex questions about the interactions of 
>>>environment and brain development
>>>rather than clear cut differences. There has 
>>>been many studies and it is growing.
>>This certainly resonates with our work - for 
>>us, the imaging technology is just a starting 
>>point for how to engage with, and respond to, 
>>some of the problems we see. Increasingly we 
>>are exploring a more embodied approach to how 
>>these processes can inform, for example, 
>>perception, if neurological damage has 
>>occurred. The challenge them becomes one of how 
>>to create a work that challenges perception - 
>>by using perception. Arguably, and I believe it 
>>is something that John would have researched, 
>>is what artists constantly do in many ways. So, 
>>I guess what I'm saying is, whilst our work is 
>>informed by the imaging devises of the 
>>neurosciences, the works we make are 
>>increasingly removed - aesthetically - from the 
>>visuals themselves.
>>It also makes me think of Brian's observation:
>>>Creating the open-ended universe world is a 
>>>challenge on every level, scientific, 
>>>philosophical, artistic...
>>I think there is resonance here in terms of 
>>Lucette's point about only now looking at - 
>>neurologically - the relationship between 
>>environment and the brain.
>>PS: And I feel I should clarify, that whilst i 
>>completely agree, it was Alan who made the 
>>point about metaphors in the first instance.
>>- Michele
>>empyre forum
>><mailto:empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>empyre forum
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