Conscious visual experience of Binocular Rivalry
An example of a simulated mixed percept can be seen below. I.e. when the two images on the left are presented to each eye respectively, the conscious visual experience might be similar to the image on the right – but with slow morphing movements as each image appears and disappears in waves (This is my personal experience, and will be different for everybody).
Documentation of ‘Active Seeing’
If you are currently at STRP and have experienced the installation, I would very much appreciate a few words of feedback here.
You can read more about the motivations behind this work here.
“We see things not as they are, but as we are.”
(Anaïs Nin? Babylonian Talmud? Immanuel Kant? G. T. W. Patrick? H. M. Tomlinson? Steven Covey? Anonymous?)
FIGHT is a Virtual Reality artwork commissioned by STRP in which the viewer’s two eyes are individually presented with radically different images, resulting in a phenomenon known as binocular rivalry. Presented with rival signals, the conscious mind does not ‘see’ – or perceive – both images blended as one might expect, but instead ‘sees’ only one of the two images, and unpredictably alternates between them with unstable, patchy transitions. Which of the two images the viewer perceives, how and when they alternate depends on the viewer’s physiology. Everybody will ‘see’ something unique, even though they are presented with the same images. The act of looking around and exploring the rival stimulus allows the viewer to probe which sections of each signal becomes dominant and which is suppressed, further underlining the notion that seeing – and in broader terms sensing and perception in general is an active process, driven by movement, expectations and intent. The picture we see in our conscious minds is not a direct representation of the outside world, or of what our senses deliver, but is of a simulated world, reconstructed based on our expectations and prior beliefs.
The work is part of a broader line of inquiry about self affirming human biases and our unconscious tendency to selectively only see what we would like to see, and the resulting social polarisation.
There’s a few themes that I wanted to reflect in this work: i) what we perceive to be real, what we see, is a reconstruction in our minds, a simplified model of the world, limited by our biology and physiology, ii) perception, including vision, is an active process, it requires action and integration; iii) the actions that we take, affects the reality and the meaning that we construct in our mind; iv) perhaps most importantly, even when presented with the same information, the same images, everybody will experience — will see — something unique and personal, which nobody else can see or maybe even understand.
I’m interested in these ideas both at a low-level, regarding our senses and perception. But also conceptually at a higher level regarding how we make meaning and what we consider to be truth; our biases and prejudices; how we’re unable to see ‘the whole truth’, or both sides of a story at the same time; how we interact with each other as a result of this, and its impact on society and politics.
FIGHT explores these themes using Virtual Reality, Binocular Rivalry and various interaction models inspired by these ideas.
I have no idea what anybody ‘sees’ when they experience this work, even though everyone is presented with the same visuals. Of course one might point out that this is actually the case with everything. When you look at any image, or read any piece of text, or even as you read these very words, I have no idea what they mean to you — but that’s at a semantic level. Here I wanted to try and create something where the conscious visual experience itself is different for everyone.
Everybody literally sees something unique.