Thoughts on Mzerleau-Ponty
How are Merleau-Ponty’s ideas on perception helpful in understanding our surroundings?
What topics from the reading do you currently apply to your own work?
Merleau-Ponty believes that we are innately connected with body and mind and that one cannot exist without the other. The only way we can perceive reality is with our senses and the only way that we can interpret reality is with our mind. Communication with those two are absolutely important to understanding our world. The only way we understand the world that we live in is through the five senses we have developed as a species. Using those senses in combination with our mind, we can understand our surroundings as whole pieces. To give an example, It is impossible to understand what a lemon is without tasting its acidic, sour juice, touching its leathery skin, smelling its puckering aroma, and hearing the sound of your mouth sucking the juice out of a slice of the fruit. If you isolate the individual senses, then it becomes difficult to understand an object in it entirety. You could break it down into its individual molecular properties and describe what precisely makes a lemon a lemon, but it requires the usage of sense to make any real connection with the fruit. There are things out there that we physically cannot sense because we have not adapted a need for them, but I am sure that through sensory implants that hook up to ones brain, we may be able to physically sense things beyond normal human perception. For instance, wifi or radio waves, if an implant were created that could stimulate our brain, suddenly we’ve opened up a whole new sensory range, and of course new emotions or behaviors might develop along with that new sensory perception. I image people would be so over stimulated within a city that they might go insane depending on what sort of stimulation they receive from surrounding wifi waves. In fact people might begin hating the internet because it is everywhere they go. Places they normally consider boring, like a train ride, might provide them an oasis that provides relief.
Everything anyone makes takes advantage of perception and the senses, unless of course what they create is able to evade all human sensory functions. Art created at the microscopic level, art created outside of the visible spectrum, music created at such a high pitch that it is impossible for humans to perceive, anything created outside of the bounds of human sensory perception essentially would not exist unless certain technologies were invented to reveal, in another form to our senses, their existence.
In my own work, I often like creating things that augment human perception, emotions, life, or experience. I think finding ways to extend human experience beyond what is normal makes life more interesting because it gives us new ways to think about and contextualize our existence.
The images bellow are from Asif Khan’s Sochi Winter Olympics installation. This installation takes an image of a visitor and creates a 4D depth map of their face on a massive hydraulic-actuated screen. Whats interesting about this beyond the enormous size of the screen and the technical challenge of manipulated hundreds of hydraulics, is that it gives an ordinary visitor the chance to manipulate the environment and become a participant and put on a show for other observers, at least for a few seconds.