Sight, Insight, and Out of Sight: From Light as Information to Colour as World

Leonardo/ International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Leonardo Electronic Almanac, 2017, 1, 22 (1)
Issue Date:
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The current understanding of the expanded image is based on visual experiences provided by information turbulence in contemporary convergent media. We are therefore challenged to rethink everything we have come to understand about visuality, including the very physics of light and the physiology of the human eye. This essay will develop an alternative philosophy of visual perception based on hints given by Martin Heidegger and partially developed by Maurice Merleau-Ponty. It involves devising a new language for seeing that looks into the light of the technological world as a way of apprehending the self-luminous. This results in the creation of an ontological sight capable of looking beyond the objectification of what is, revealing the way humans come into contact with other beings, both natural and technological. Exploring the ideas of Herbert Damish and Jacques Taminiaux, this essay will show that we can no longer cling to contemporary notions of sight that say we have, on the one hand, things identical to themselves—things that give themselves to sight—and on the other hand, vision that is at first empty and that then opens itself to the visible. These ideas somewhat deconstructed by Merleau-Ponty will be shown as remnants passed down to us from the ancients, who developed a primary language to describe the accuracy of looking and ideal representations of sight. Alternatively, another kind of looking, latent in our reductive techno-vision, will be invoked such that the so-called primacy of perception will be made secondary to the opening of presence. Ultimately, this results in an ontological tension between being looked at by the world, and gazing at things therein. This results in a chiastic overlapping of active and passive modes of being that goes beyond the completion of an optical process.
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