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Perception: Where Science and Art Meet. Sort Of.

Much visual art is, in some senses, concerned with creating a representation of the world. much isn’t of course, but we won’t let that detain us here.

A film relating to perception and illusion recently came up on my Facebook feed and I thought it was worth sharing here. I won’t go into the details, as Derek Muller – the guy who presents the film – does that much better than I ever could.

The Illusion Only Some People Can See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBap_Lp-0oc

The important point is our brains are wired in a certain way and we invent and build the world in our heads as much as perceive it as ‘truth’. This is important for anyone attempting to represent three dimensions in two. The world is indeed out there but perhaps capturing it requires more intervention than we might initially think. It also opens up the possibility of exploiting such optical trickery to make work that exploits the audience’s perception. As you’ll have seen in the film it’s REALLY hard to see the truth – even if we ‘know’ the mechanics – as our brain insists on seeing the world in a certain way. As Muller concludes, this might be taken as analogous to our understanding of the world.

After watching that video, I looked through a few more from the same channel and I recommend you do as well. Muller explains complicated and sometimes surprising phenomena in a really interesting and engaging way. If you’re looking to broaden your understanding of the world and perhaps even make art that engages with the scientific world, I don’t think you could do much better than spend a happy afternoon watching some of these films.

VERITASIUM CHANNEL: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHnyfMqiRRG1u-2MsSQLbXA

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Posted by author: Bryan
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2 thoughts on “Perception: Where Science and Art Meet. Sort Of.

  • Yes, interesting viewing. My immediate response is that I make art not to understand the ‘science’ more as a response to what I feel is more ‘magic’ than ‘science’. Chemical reactions and energy transmissions/transformations occur constantly otherwise the universe (let alone our planet) would not exist. A scientist is drawn to make sense of their world as much as an artist does. That art and science are so diametrically opposed is what has now brought them together. Art has the ‘upper hand’ because it can make sense of science (science can make no sense from art). Reducing the inexplicable to theories is comforting. Art has theories also. Scientists will continue to endeavour to discover theories, artists will simply continue to make art.

  • Two quotes which sort of sum it up for me:
    “Photosynthesis circumscribes a complex suite of electrochemical processes that spark energy gradients across densely folded membranes inside the symbiotic chloroplasts of green beings” (Natasha Myers quoting Margolis and Sagan, 2000)
    “Textbook diagrams familiar from high-school biology class are simplistic renderings of that utterly magical, totally cosmic alchemical process that tethers earthly plant life in reverent rhythmic attention to the earth’s solar source.” (Natasha Myers)
    (I tend to Myers).

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