Every sensory impression of the world is a result of an elaborate composition of physical influences. Rather than passively register raw and externally organised sensory information, we are in constant state of exploration. We move through space, observe and focus our attention on different objects, reach for them, feel their surfaces and contours. Perception is an active process of ‘creative understanding’ [Arncheim and Grundmann, 2001].
There is an observable bias in this exploratory process for simple configurations, straight lines, circles and other simple orders and we will tend to find such regularities rather than random shapes in our encounter with chaotic world outside [Gombrich, 1984]. However as research into perceptual processes shows this desire for coherence (the Greek doxa) has its corresponding aberration, deception that resists precise rules of categorisation (the paradoxa) – the unresolved nature of physical and perceptual phenomena [Hecker and Matos, 2011]. This polarity hints at labour of perception in action and research accounts for it providing many examples such as the barberpole illusion, Shepard’s tone, the tritone paradox, Kanzisa’s triangle, the Penrose stairs/triangle and the Zöllner illusion to name just a few.
Whereas science considers such paradoxes as peripheral objects of its preoccupation, artistic practices have an ability to build upon and go beyond didactical presentation and explanation pointing towards unforeseen opportunities for radical physiological and psychological deconstruction. Instead of a simple illustration and transposition of scientific concepts into a material medium, these practices have the power to bring a realm of the conceptual into the domain of intuition [Mackay, 2010].
Contemporary art sees an extensive thematisation of perceptual and illusionary phenomena in both domains of visual and sonic practices. Artists such as Marcel Duchamp, M. C. Escher, Victor Vasarely, Bridget Riley, Jesús Rafael Soto and Gregorio Vardanega explored various visual phenomena like the after-image and consecutive movement, line interference, the effect of dazzle, ambiguous figures and reversible perspective, successive colour contrasts and chromatic vibration, different viewpoints and the superimposition of elements in space (in three-dimensional works ) [Popper, 2009]. Composers and sonic artists correspondingly used auditory paradoxes and experiments as part of their vocabulary. Jean Claude Risset in Computer Suite From Little Boy (1968) and James Tenney in For Ann (rising) (1969) utilised Shepard’s tone; an illusion of tone endlessly ascending or descending. Marcus Schmickler’s New Methodological Limits of Ascension (2010) exemplifies a recent take on the same phenomena (see Tenney’s Meta+Hodos for a comprehensive theory of auditory research and its applicability to music composition). Principles of Auditory Scene Analysis as proposed by Albert Bregman and some of Diana Deutsche’s auditory illusions are explored by composer Florian Hecker in his sound installations 2×3 Channel and Auditory Scene (5 fold). A sound artist Carsten Nicolai explored many auditory phenomena in conjunction with immersive visuals, see: Unidisplay (2012) and Unicolor (2014).
An exploration of this perceptual realm points towards many interesting questions, particularly with respect to new methods of artistic creation at the intersection of science, visual and sonic arts. How this new model redefines roles of an artist, artistic object and viewer/listener?
Your work on this project will contribute to and draw upon research and artistic practices as well as psychology of perceptual processes, phenomenology of representation, psychoacoustics, graphic design and aesthetics.
2. Aims and Objectives
- Carry out practical explorations of visual and auditory paradoxes and illusions;
- Produce digital media works (in form of an installation, performance etc.) which would unite both visual and auditory domains;
- Document the artistic research process;
3. Learning outcomes
- Develop an advance awareness of possible interrelation between perceptual processes and artistic creation;
- Gain an interdisciplinary knowledge of existing works exploring perceptual paradoxes and illusions;
4. Submission 1
At this stage of the project you will need to demonstrate a creative engagement with previous works in this area and developed coherent conceptual and practical orientation of the field. The submission consist of a textual component (approximately 500 words of an academic writing). The submission should include as well a documentation of your initial explorations. This documentation can be in any mix of media (audio, video, photos, etc.). You are not expected to have a polished final product at this stage, but you will need to demonstrate that you have actively begun digital media work of some kind, be that software investigations, spatial arrangements, plan use of technical resources etc. Given the mix of media required and the group work element, the submission may work best presented online as a blog, wiki or simple website.
Your presentation in week 11 could be:
- an audio-visual performance;
- an interactive installation;
You are encouraged to be creative with choice of visual and sonic media, consider incorporating in your project different spatial arrangements (multichannel sound and multiple projectors), pay attention to location of your final presentation (do not fall for a default venues – make space of your presentation meaningful), consider using lights.
This is a group submission which gets calibrated to individual marks from a peer group assessment. This submission is worth 30% of the final mark.
5. Submission 2
Final submission consist of group documentation of your project using an array of digital media (video, audio, photos, website etc). The documentation should provide information of the objectives of your project as well as methodologies and resources used. This is a group submission which gets calibrated to individual marks from a peer group assessment. This submission is worth 60% of the final mark.