Unreal Nature

January 14, 2017

We Have Been Taught

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:41 am

… We have all been taught, in looking at pictures, to look for too much.

This is from ‘The revision of vision’ by S.I. Hayakawa found in Language of Vision by Gyorgy Kepes (1944):

… we match the data from the flux of visual experience with image-clichés, with stereotypes of one kind or another, according to the way we have been taught to see.

And having matched the data of experience with our abstractions, visual or verbal, we manipulate those abstractions, with or without further reference to the data, and make systems with them. Those systems of abstractions, artefacts of the mind, when verbal, we call “explanations,” or “philosophies”; when visual, we call them our “picture of the world.”

With these little systems in our heads we look upon the dynamism of the events around us, and we find, or persuade ourselves that we find, correspondences between the pictures inside our heads and the world without. Believing those correspondences to be real, we feel at home in what we regard as a “known” world.

… like other instruments, languages select. The thermometer, which speaks one kind of limited language, knows nothing of weight. If only temperature matters and weight does not, what the thermometer “says” is adequate. But if weight, or color, or odor, or factors other than temperature matter, then those factors that the thermometer cannot speak about are the teeth of the trap. Every language, like the language of the thermometer, leaves work undone for other languages to do.

… We attempt to visualize the eventfulness of a universe that is an electrodynamic plenum in the representational clichés evolved at a time when statically conceived isolable “objects” were regarded as occupying positions in an empty and absolute “space.” Visually, the majority of us are still ” ‘object’-minded” and not “relation-minded.” We are the prisoners of ancient orientations imbedded in the languages we have inherited.

The language of vision determines, perhaps even more subtly and thoroughly than verbal languages, the structure of our consciousness. To see in limited modes of vision is not to see at all — to be bounded by the narrowest parochialisms of feeling.

… Purposely depriving us of the easy comfort of all aesthetic stereotypes and interpretative clichés, Mr. Kepes would have us experience vision as vision.

… The vast majority of us — and by us I mean not only those who profess to know something about “art” but also the general public that delights in magazine covers and insurance company calendars and hunting prints and sailboat pictures — are sophisticated by our cultural environment beyond the point where it is possible easily to understand what people like Mr. Kepes are driving at. We have all been taught, in looking at pictures, to look for too much. Something of the quality of a child’s delight in playing with colors and shapes has to be restored to us before we learn to see again, before we unlearn the terms in which we ordinarily see.

-Julie

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