“Boundary extension.” That could be a great two-word description of what art is or, maybe, of what artists do with their imagination when they are trying to create something.
Turns out, this is the phrase used by scientists to describe what we do, perceptually, all day, all the time:
Boundary extension is a mistake that we often make when recalling a view of a scene — we will insist that the boundaries of an image stretched out farther than what we actually saw.
– from Our Cheatin’ Brain: The Brain’s Clever Way of Showing Us the World as a Whole from ScienceDaily (Oct.30, 2008)
A mistake. So, art is a mistake? Presumably, a happy, intentional mistake (oxymoron alert!).
So, what tools do scientists use to prove and get rid of this mistake?
The researchers created two versions of a photograph- the photographs depicted the same scene but one had a wider view, showing more of the background. In the first experiment, volunteers were shown one view, interrupted very briefly by a “mask” (an unrelated display of lines and curves with a small “happy face” in the center) followed by the same photograph or the other version of the photograph, which remained on the screen. Volunteers were then asked to report whether the picture they were looking at was the same, or showed more or less of the view compared to the first photograph.
The second experiment had a similar set up except that the first and second photographs were shown on opposite sides of the monitor forcing the volunteers to shift their eyes from one image to the other so that the interruption included an eye movement.
The results, reported in the October issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, showed that boundary extension occurred in both experiments—although the volunteers knew exactly what would be tested and their view of the scene was disrupted for as little as 42 milliseconds, when the view was identical, they rated the second photograph as being “closer up” compared to the first. They were positive that they saw more of the scene in the first photograph, even when the interruption lasted quicker than an eye blink! The results of the second experiment (requiring an eye movement) indicate that boundary extension also occurs during visual scanning and not just during more simple tasks that use a mask alone (as in Experiment 1).
Of course. The photograph. Photography is used to get rid of, remove, STOP all this “boundary extension.” And we’re surprised when our audience gets confused when we turn around and claim, “but these photographs are art.” Photos disprove boundary extension; art = boundary extension.
Photos disprove boundary extension, but they are also … boundary extensions. Yes. Damn it, if I say they’re art, they’re art.
*hypocrite, (n), dissembler, dissimulator, phony, phoney, pretender: a person who professes beliefs and opinions that he or she does not hold in order to conceal his or her real feelings or motives
*hypocritic, pertaining to (an actor’s) delivery — from The Shorter OED, sixth ed.