Mediated Visual Perception
In a subsequent research project titled “Mass-Minded Systems,” I explored mediated social interaction between two physically separated subjects. The goal was to understand how perception is influenced by space, proximity, and sensory input (or lack thereof), and to question the role of architecture in an age when physical space is seldom a prerequisite for human interaction.
Continuing this research on the role that distance, mediation and representation play in informing, or misinforming, our perception of objects and places, the focus of my graduate thesis would be the mediated interaction between a physically separated subject and object, and the technologies used to mitigate the space that divides them. Namely, the use of a telescope as a mediating device between an observer and his or her visual perception of an observed object.
This thesis questions visual perception where vision is mediated by representations and images created by an optical apparatus. This study seeks to articulate and explore questions of mediated vision by focusing specifically on the telescope. As an instrument of representation, the telescope uses a series of lenses and mirrors to allow objects otherwise too distant, too faint and too massive for direct observation to become captured, scaled down, and translated into analyzable images of record. Thus, cosmology is a profession where perception occurs only through layers of simulacra, rather than through direct engagement with the objects themselves.
The role that representation and images (drawings, photographs and renderings) play in informing and impeding our perception of places and objects – especially and specifically when they are the only means of such perception – raises important questions about what is gained or lost in such mediative layers. For instance, what issues arise when perception of an object privileges vision over our other senses? At what point does representation transition from being a tool for cognition and imagination to being a veil between subject and object? How does a lack of physical proximity mitigate our ability to perceive objects, and if visual perception, particularly through images, is increasingly what we seek, then what is increasingly absent from what we find? Lastly, as increasingly larger telescopes are built to see deeper into an infinitely large universe, where are the outer limits of not only our ability to represent what we observe, but of human perception in general?
The culminating piece, and the proposal of this thesis, is a solar-powered drawing machine, created to re-conceive the methods and tools by which we represent objects in space. Rather than create drawn or photographic images of celestial objects, the drawing machine is a tool that allows new techniques of representation by focusing sunlight – the light of the celestial objects themselves – to draw, etch, and cut surfaces into solar portraits, making these objects active participants in the creation of their own visual representations.