Imaging Directly on the Retina (A Progress Report)

Symposium:


Presentation Title:

  • Imaging Directly on the Retina (A Progress Report)

Presenter(s):



Abstract:

  • My intention is to keep my highly damaged visual sense alive by using the Scanning Laser Ophthalmoscope (SLO) as a seeing device to foster visual poetry as well as communication over the Internet. In 1979 I wrote:

    Things are disappearing
    Branches from trees
    Pieces of words
    Lines in faces

    As I began to lose my eyesight I developed an increasing appetite for technology including cameras, le nses and any available “seeing machine”. I used this technology both to bolster my fading eye sight and to create new kinds of visual sensations that I could use to express myself.

    At this time I was exceedingly lucky to be a Fellow at MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies. CAVS was founded by Gyorgy Kepes in 1967 as a workshop where artists could encounter scientists and engineers. It was at the forefront of a global awakening to art-science-technology as a movement. Its purposes were as humanist as the traditional values of art rather than military or industrial. New tools were being evolved that were replacing “oils” and “the violin”; transmittability of images was becoming at least as important as expression. Artists worked in groups on large-scale installations as well as pursuing individual projects, with MIT as a candy store and the large collaborative artistic projects encouraged by its longtime director Otto Piene as venues, CAVS artists working in diverse media were pioneering new genres of Art and Technology, e.g. Harriet Casdin-Silver’s solar tracked daylight holograms; Eric Begleiter’s holographic candy; Jennifer Hall’s virtual reality glove; Piotr Kowalski’s Time Machines; Shawn Brixey/Laura Knott’s Photon  oice (light and sound responsive particles levitated in a flask interacted with the movement of a dancer). It was an environment charged with new materials, experimentation, poetry, magic where, among other things, artists were attempting to render the invisible visible. We shared work and ideas at bimonthly Fellows meetings. It was here that I first saw some video synthesis techniques employed by Vin Grabill, then a graduate student in the Master of Science in Visual Studies Program at CAVS. In the ensuing months we began a collaboration that has continued for 10 years. Terrified and mesmerized by what I saw “from the inside out“ as my eyesight worsened, I was observing something remarkably akin to Grabill’s video synthesis techniques of light edged shapes, streaked and pointillist light surfaces and loose green jello movement.

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