Sunday, November 23, 2008

JB responds. . .

The Key of Dreams by Magritte 1898-1967

Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak.
But there is also another sense in which seeing comes before words. It is seeing which establishes our place in the surrounding world; we explain that world with words, but words can never undo the fact that we are surrounded by it. The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled. Each evening we see the sun set. We know that the earth is turning away from it. Yet the knowledge, the explanation, never quite fits the sight. The Surrealist painter Magritte commented on this always-present gap between words and seeing in a painting called The Key of Dreams.
The way we see things is affected by what we know or what we believe (7-8). . .
Today we see art of the past as nobody saw it before. We actually perceive it in a different way.

This difference can be illustrated in terms of what was thought of perspective. The convention of perspective, which is unique to European art and which was first established in the early Renaissance, centres everything on the eye of the beholder.  It is like a beam from a lighthouse --only instead of light travelling outwards, appearances travel in. The conventions called those appearances reality. Perspective makes the single eye the centre of the visible world. Everything converges on to the eye as the vanishing point of infinity. The visible world is arranged for the spectator as the universe was once thought to be arranged for God.

According to the convention of perspective there is no visual reciprocity. There is no need for God to situate himself in relation to others: he is himself the situation. The inherent contradiction in perspective was that it structured all images of reality to address a single spectator who, unlike God, could only be in one place at a time.

After the invention of the camera this contradiction gradually became apparent (16-17).

. . . Every drawing or painting that used perspective proposed to the spectator that he was the unique centre of the world. The camera -- and more particularly the movie camera -- demonstrated that there was no centre.
from John Berger's: Ways of Seeing. Penguin Books, London: 1972.

1 comment:

Jaspal said...

Beyond wor(l)ds... I just finished watching this:

Joseph Campbell mentions this very thing.

Funny that you mention the Sun Set, it is something that has been on my mind today. I watched Star Wars - The Empire Strikes back yesterday.

Watching A New Hope the week before, I had worked out that Luke and Han were the same person, Luke was the consciousness while Han is the Ego (Solo being a metaphor), and it is only when they become One that they defeat Vader/Darkness together.

This week I got one step further. When I saw the marks under Luke's eye after his battle with Vader, I knew I was watching the story of Horus. I had suspected already that Osiris was actually also Set, and Horus battles his father. This is one of the Hero archetypes, the son taking on the father, from Uranus to Arthur.

Horus was called "Skywalker" because he was the Sun, Apollo our Sun hero. He "walked" the "sky" for 12 hours/horus and on the horus-izon would battle Set, the darkness.

The name Luke also comes from Lucious or Lucifer, our light bringer, the son who rebelled against his father...