Saturday, 9 August 2014


It was Wittgenstein who formalised the notion of ‘seeing as’ in his philosophical investigations. He used the ‘duck-rabbit’ - see:  - image to illustrate this phenomenon that envisages an alternative object or thing in the same matter or diagram without any change other than in the manner in which it is perceived or ‘seen,’ hence the title ‘seeing as’ - one interprets or ‘sees’ this configuration ‘as’ this or that, or . .   These illustrations are a little like the diagrams that have an either-or interpretation, that come to be categorised as illusions, like the faces-vase graphic used in this voussoirs blog. There is a dancing ambiguity in these graphics that intrigues.

Traditional art is full of such playful games that hold a deeper meaning in their symbolism without compromising any function - see:  The match in form is one aspect of the arrangement, but this expression also frequently embodies an emotional or symbolic reference that once was familiar to all. It is a situation a little like that explained in The Sentiment of Flowers or Language of Flora, a late-Victorian book that defined the symbolic nature of each blossom, a latent understanding that needed no explanation for the masses, in the same manner as the message of the white feather (coward) was understood by all. Flowers held more positive meanings than the feather. These references were incorporated in a variety of items. Jewellery was a particular favourite for referencing love, commitment and eternity. The very act of engagement with such an object was one of remembrance: of our remembering the more subtle matters of our vibrant, scintillating world. The experience was enriching, enabling ordinary, everyday function to incorporate the mystery of life itself: its feelings, its enchantment. - see: The Spell of the Sensuous David Abram  Vintage Books  1997.

Pewter Duck Jug

The idea of matching forms has not been forgotten, but the symbolism has. Take for example the Japanese artist who saw a similarity in the form of her vagina and the kayak – see:  She seems to want to claim some originality for her ‘creative’ vision unlike the traditional artist who saw no role for personality in any work. Our modern era seems to want to highlight the unique characteristics of each individual and seeks to promote these with the same exuberant hype that is used with an equivalent false intensity in the advertising of a washing powder and the performances of men and women in sport and athletics. One of my favourites was the screaming voice of the commentator who yelled out with apparent uncontrolled excitement: “If that ball had gone in it would have been a goal!” - as if the definition of a goal might be something different; as if this close call could add some nationalistic credence and pride to a poor performance that is never named ‘defeat.’

One wonders why such delights in resemblance make any claim for originality. They are fascinating as such alignments and allegiances tell us more about qualities, functions and forms. There is no difference in the chance seeing of a image and its naming in a certain massing of clouds. These things just are - an ordinary ‘seeing as.’ Maybe our whole world is a ‘seeing as’? Such readings occur regularly, frequently in the happenstance of shadows and smoke. That the image might get formalised more substantially only anchors this delight for us in time. The lens cup is a wonderful example of such an outcome that has appeared without any claim for the genius and originality of great art. Here a standard lens, (in this case a Canon L series lens), has been cast as a perfect reproduction to become a plastic sheath to enclose a coffee cup. The lens form and detail works beautifully in this surprising role that one discovers with use requires the same finger grips as the lens adjustment to lift the cup. The textured rings accept the fingers with much the same physical comfort in each role. The whole is a visual delight and an intellectual game. The lens cup is a perfect, full-size reproduction of the lens, needing no modification for this new role. One is shown how a lens cannot only be seen as a cup, but also how it can indeed become a cup with very little distortion or manipulation. It becomes an item that plays a simple but delightful role in ordinary life. There is no need for any art gallery performance or hoohaa. There is just the making of this thing to be enjoyed by all. It is a little gem.

We need more such delights in our lives, wonderful little things that make no claim to individuality or self-importance or specific creative genius: but this rather mechanical transformation of matching forms can be much more. Our era makes boasts about its rational substance, its science. The lens cup shows a little chink in this armour that isolates us from matters of feeling and symbolism. We live in an era of signs that try to tell us specific things. We have much to learn about the richness of ideas and references - this ambiguity. Let the little lens cup constantly remind us of these possibilities that will need to be rediscovered if our lives are truly to be enriched by the things we make, for these can echo subtleties to constantly remind us of our feeling for and the mystery of this world that we are a part of. To claim blind dominion over it, (and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.  Genisis 1:26), seems to be a rather dull self-asserting beginning that has changed our understandings - limited them with the brash certainty of assumed superiority. In the same book another writer considers our world differently, more poetically; more modestly; more enigmatically, with a latent wonder:
When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
What is man, that thou art mindful of him?
Psalm 8:3-4

The real Canon 24 - 105 L series lens

Architecture seems to struggle with this twin situation. There have been attempts to adapt images and forms to fit different functions, but these turn out to be crass and crude tourist attractions or mere quirky oddities: see -
for the logic of these strange extremes.

Even the apparently more sophisticated attempts at 'seeing as' in architecture appear as blatant as the tourist 'big thing' promotional building - bold and singular, lacking the delightful ambiguity of the graphics. The buildings reveal a degree of intellectual effort to achieve the outcome rather than displaying any native necessity.

28 January 2015
for interesting beer can/chilli nut tin.

12 June 2015
I among all of the E-mails one receives, there are the endless jokes and frustrating promotional messages that intersperse the relevant messages. Then there is the occasional odd one that intrigues. The following E-mail was received today. There is a duality in this experience that leaves one perplexed. Has it anything to do with 'seeing as'? One might call it 'Cambridge Guessing.' The piece about those who can and those who cannot, and 'great minds,' may be mere an indulgence, boastful hype to encourage one to pass it on with a proud 'YES,' somewhat like a chain letter.

 Here's another trick of Doctor Dementia to test your skills...

Can you meet this challenge?

We've seen this with the letters out of order, but this is the first time we've seen it with numbers.  Good example of a Brain Study: If you can read this OUT LOUD you have a strong mind.  And better than that: Alzheimer's is a long long, way down the road before it ever gets anywhere near you.

7H15                    M3554G3
53RV35                    7O PR0V3
H0W                    0UR M1ND5 C4N
D0                    4M4Z1NG 7H1NG5!
1MPR3551V3                    7H1NG5!
1N                    7H3 B3G1NN1NG
17                    WA5 H4RD BU7
N0W,                    0N 7H15 LIN3
Y0UR                    M1ND 1S
R34D1NG 17
W17H                    0U7 3V3N
7H1NK1NG                    4B0U7 17,
C3R741N                    P30PL3 C4N
R3AD                    7H15.
PL3453                    F0RW4RD 1F
U                     C4N R34D 7H15.

To my 'selected' strange-minded friends: If you can read the following paragraph, forward it on to your friends with 'yes' in the subject line. Only great minds can read this. This is weird, but interesting!

If you can raed this, you have a sgtrane mnid, too.
Can you raed this? Olny 55 people out of 100 can.
I cdnuolt bliveee that I cluod aaulclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg.  The pnhaoamnel pweor of the hmaun mnid, aocdrncig to a rrcscaheeh at Crdmabige Uienvtisry, it dsneo't mtaetr in waht oedrr the ltrtees in a wrod are, the olny iprnoamtt tnihg is taht the frsit and lsat lteetr be in the rghit pclae.  The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sltil raed it whotuit a pboerlm.  Tihs is bcuseae the hmaun mnid deos not raed ervey lteetr by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.  Azanmig huh?  Yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slneplig was iopmrantt!  If you can raed tihs fwrarod it.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.