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Artful visions

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image of Spatial Vision
For more content, see Multisensory Research and Seeing and Perceiving.

Visual artists and visual scientists are often concerned with examining the same spatial phenomena, but the methods they adopt differ radically. Scientists try to discover new facts regarding old phenomena; they rarely discover new phenomena but different conditions under which the old ones operate (perhaps using some novel apparatus for generating stimuli). Artists are concerned with arranging phenomena in a manner that has not been seen before, or perhaps to increase the spectators' awareness of the phenomena. This typically involves complicating the effects rather than simplifying pattern elements. Thus, scientists rarefy and isolate phenomena to control them in the laboratory, whereas artists embrace complexity and manipulate phenomena intuitively. The differences in method have resulted in divergent vocabularies for describing similar effects, and the two approaches can appear more disparate than their phenomenal commonality would suggest. It could be argued that for spatial vision, prior to the advent of computer graphics, visual scientists have not represented adequately the subject matter of their own enquiry; this want was supplied by visual artists. Not only have artists provided more engaging examples of spatial phenomena, but they have also enhanced their range in ways that are scientifically novel. The opposite argument applies to motion perception, where scientists developed techniques that were eagerly adopted in the arts. The interactions between art and both spatial and motion vision were influenced by instruments invented in the early nineteenth century for manipulating the representation of space and time — the stereoscope and the stroboscopic disc.

Affiliations: 1: School of Psychology, University of Dundee, Dundee DD1 4HN, UK


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