Sight Assemblage. Perception as a process. Thomas Metzinger

Sight assemblage from found objects

In certain sculptural ideas I wanted to explore the separation of certain aspects of the body. In my own area of personal interest sight plays a significant role in my thoughts. I had been looking at the writings of Thomas Metzinger a leading contemporary philosopher. His philosophy is very much underpinned by neuroscience. Metzinger leads an increasingly common connection in academic circles between these disciplines and it has led to his ideas of the self not existing as we have historically perceived it.

The prevalent part for me is Metzinger's discussion of the self as a result of process and not as a separate independent thing. I found this a catalyst for me to examine the idea of seeing, or light (electrical energy) being 'processed' through a sequence of interconnected structures that result in the actual perception of seeing.

The nature of this processing is that the information we receive through the mechanism of processing is a transparent event for us. Processing as a sequence is never made available to our conscious brain, it happens transparently. Thus because the system is transparent we assume that what are essentially electrical inputs into the brain are actually truly representative of what we see. We therefore have an illusion of immediacy to the world of objects but in fact this is only because the method of processing is not something that is available to us, thus we don't experience things as they are but rather after we have processed them.

I felt in a sculptural piece it might be interesting to address the concept of the self as such process so that light is seen to travel through a mechanistic framework before ever we formulate a picture. I think the point is the wider repercussions these transparent processes have for a self model as they clearly indicate systems at work to build reality rather than us passively encountering it. In philosophical terms this is the background to naive realism.

In addressing the self in my sequence of artistic responses to aspects of it, I felt it interesting to look more closely at some of the basic fundamental aspects of what that consists of. Representing sight as this process opens up a wider discussion surrounding additional processing systems that are constantly transparently occurring creating an illusion of reality. The problem for the self in this regard is that due to the nature of the self as a transparent system we are unable to recognise our own sub symbolic self model actually as the representational model it is and instead we mistake this for immediacy and direct contact with the external world.

Some would say these are academic points but for me they are crucially part of getting to the bottom of how we formulate reality and notions of ourselves. To identify the self model as resulting from a system we are saying that it creates a virtual picture of an external reality. Thus our self systems are working upon notions of best hypothesis surrounding its own current state as it isn't capable of being self aware. All of this underpins the illusion of a self and builds an argument for its ultimate fragility.

 

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