Sector C: Art Practice and Technology
Gary Hatfield (PHIL), Ellen Reynolds (FNAR)
Perceiving Presence: Exploring Gaze in Two-Dimensional Images
“Perceiving Presence” investigates how depictions eyes can engage predispositions in viewers to evoke a sense of presence—the feeling that the subject co-exists in time and space. From an analysis of the representation of gaze in several cultural contexts—namely Byzantine and Hindu iconography and a subset of contemporary fashion and fine art photography, I define a “visual thread” of recurring formal traits in the representation of eyes. A review of scientific research on human eye gaze suggests that enhanced depictions of the eyes activate biological mechanisms associated with eye contact in the natural world. Cultural knowledge inflects this biological response. In particular, our belief about the origin of a picture informs our opinion of what it presents. I propose that a contemporary acceptance of photographic images as presenting reality enhances this medium’s ability to evoke presence. The visual component employs a current consumer technology to explore the theme of seeing and being seen. Through obstruction, the work reveals our assumption of the video as reality and our desire for direct eye contact. The limitations of the interface become apparent, suggesting that developments in online face-to-face communication should prioritize the gaze.