Ocular Installation Virtual Mock-up / Concept

This is a virtual mock-up of a potential installation. From within a darkened room the viewer can see the outside world projected into the sphere by a single element lens similar to that found in the human eye. The result is hypothetically the same aesthetic and optical quality as is experienced by the retina.

The fundamental aesthetic phenomena that takes place on the surface of the retina is both known and unknown to us. It is arguably how infants perceive the world, sharp in the middle and blurry towards the edge. Gradually the brain’s sophisticated processing of vision gives us perception and the aesthetic derived from the limitations of the eye become unknown.

It is this ‘unknown eye’ that I am interested in, a place where the physical world meets the physical self in a process that is not part of our consciousness. Through my work and experimentation with single element lenses that replicate hypothetical retinal vision I hope to isolate the ocular part of vision, to take out the brain’s part of perception and invoke the primordial, physical sensation of sight and reintroduce ourselves to a significant yet hidden relationship with the physical world.

Custom Glass Sphere Prototype

Here are images of the first custom-made glass sphere, it’s make-shift cardboard housing and the results.

Glass Prototype Sphere

Here is the first custom made glass sphere being made by Pete Reynolds for the second prototype (http://www.reynoldsglass.com). This sphere was a successful ‘proof of concept’ in that the chemical treatment used to etch the glass managed to ‘catch’ the image at the precise pre-determined focal length. The Sphere has a 10cm diameter.

We are now working on a larger version which will be roughly the size of a basketball.

Ocular Sphere Installations

As part of my photographic series, ‘New Australian Plants and Animals’ I am developing installations based on single element lenses that recreate ocular vision by projecting the outside world into glass spheres located within darkened spaces. Viewers will be able to see the world as projected onto the back of the human eyeball.

This idea is similar to that of a camera obscure, where an image is projected onto the back of the box or room. Instead of the image reaching the rear flat surface it is ‘captured’ within the glass sphere similar to that of ground glass focussing screen used in photographic cameras (Hasselblad for example). I also want to create smaller mobile versions where the spheres are mounted inside boxes.

*Draft extract from the first chapter of my Phd:

The eye does not really see. Sight is the result of both the brain’s immediate and remembered interpretation of the physical world electro-magnetically interfacing with the physical self. The human eye by itself is optically and physically incapable of rendering what we visually perceive. Given the relatively poor optical and sensory ability of the eye, it is the brain that is mostly responsible for perception through processes that I shall discuss later in this chapter. What the eye actually sees is unknown to us and we can only make an educated guess as to the quality of the image the eye passes to the brain. The only visual ‘truth’ we can discuss is what the brain produces. It is this visual truth that we use primarily to make sense of the world around us.

Ontologically this could be seen as problematic. Expressed in terms of a simple mathematical equation where; the world (x) + the eye (y) = perception (z), an individual only knows the value of ‘z’ for sure. If we don’t know the value for ‘y’ (the eye), how can we know the value for ‘x’ (the world)?  This problem, never being aware of all the phenomena involved in vision is similar to what Plato explored with his hypothetical cave and again it suggests that ‘proof is a weaker notion than truth’ (Hofstadter, 1999). The act of perception is an unconscious one in which the initial data from the eye is not revealed. However, the fundamental aesthetic phenomena that takes place on the surface of the retina is both known and unknown to us. It is arguably how infants perceive the world, sharp in the middle and blurry towards the edge. Gradually the brain’s sophisticated processing of vision gives us perception and the aesthetic derived from the limitations of the eye become unknown.

It is this ‘unknown eye’ that I am interested in, a place where the physical world meets the physical self in a process that is not part of our consciousness. Through my work and experimentation with single element lenses that replicate hypothetical retinal vision I hope to isolate the ocular part of vision, to take out the brain’s part of perception and invoke the primordial, physical sensation of sight and reintroduce ourselves to a significant yet hidden relationship with the physical world. As part of my research conceptualises how Terra Australis exerts itself over the colonial psyche, I find there are parallels between the ocular part of vision and this phenomena. Both are hidden from our consciousness and both are immeasurable yet significant in terms of how the physical self interacts with the physical world.