[-empyre-] METAFORMANCE - Redefining Relationality ___Genealogies of perception: from proprioception to otherception

Jaime del Val jaimedelval at reverso.org
Fri Oct 21 01:45:36 EST 2011

Dear all,

 herewith I start my contribution to this discussion, with a number of posts in which I introduce some of the issues I am working on at the moment, both theoretical and practical.

thanks to all for the wonderfull contributions.


Jaime del Val



METAFORMANCE - Redefining Relationality

Genealogies of perception: from proprioception to otherception

Perceptual technologies and the production of the cartesian subject-object divide


How is it that the cartesian, humanistic and logocentric subject-object divide has come to be in terms of the articulation of sensory anatomies?


I will focus on some of the technologies that are bound to this genealogy. In particular technologies of vision and the camera-screen paradigm.


Since the XV century specific uses of the camera obscura gave birth to a realistic paradigm of representation in paiting. This has developed further through the photographic camera, film and with the ubiquitous proliferation of camera-screens in information society.


Fixed framing, distance and exteriority to the observed, centralised perspective, clear focus and "correct" exposure time have become normative and standardised parameters, indeed conditions of possibility for the very notion of objectivity in representation.


Fixed framing relates to the faciality of the humanist subject, where the camera acts as an extension of the eyes, fixed in the face that represents the subject as an abstract, disembodied and rational mind. Distance allows to situate oneself as exterior to the observed thus making the divide subject-object possible. Centralised perspective accounts for humanism's anthropocentrism and universalism and for space as extensive reality. Clear focus allows the mapping and representation of the object exterior to the subject, its subjection to control. "Correct" exposure accounts for the fiction of real and linear time, of the present as an instant between past and future.


I will argue indeed that the production of the subject and the object as pervasive political fictions relies upon the sensory standardisation induced by the proliferation of these parameters of the technical image, without which the subject-object divide, and its related dualisms (mind-matter, soul-body, culture-nature, mental-physical, virtual-real, artificial-real, masculin-feminin, heterosexual-homosexual) would not be possible. 


This political fiction, this paradigm permeates all of scientific enquiry and lies in the foundations of information-communication-control society at large.


The obsolete notion that we have 5 senses which work independently pervades not only the arbitrary divisions of the art disciplines, but society at large.


Visualisation and control


Visualisation is a long-standing control technology that has evolved in the midst of, and foundational to, imperialisms of diverse kinds. The attempt to subject all of reality to control, (which is more present than ever in media and simulation culture), is the intentionality which lies behind the production of technologies of visualisation. 


In surveillance societies such as ours, cameras still need to have the fixed framing, distance, perspective, focus and exposure that allows for an object to be identified as such and be subjected to control.


The production of the subject as something distinct from its environment relates directly to this long tradition of control, which is however challenged increasingly from the most diverse perspectives going from quantum mechanics, symbiogenesys or enactive congnition theories to posthumanist critique: all of these question the possibility to place oneself as an exterior observer and stress the way in which we are part of immanent relations which are indeed productive: from the atomic and molecular through the bacterial and cellular, to the social and planetary, we are effects of relationalities happening at multitude of interrelated levels. Quite contrary to what the humanistic dream attempted to make us believe, with its tales of autonomy, superiority and free will.


What control is it possible to excercise upon something that we are part of and which is contitutive of what we are? Arguably, in order to excercise control it is necessary to place oneself, however fictional and problematic this may be, outside of the controlled. Since this can never be really the case control is continually failing, and life is exceeding its boundaries in always unexpected movements. There is our only hope.


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