Bottom-Up Processing, Entoptic Vision and the Innocent Eye in Stan Brakhage's Work

in Projections
Paul Taberham

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The artist Stan Brakhage drew creatively from the habits, limitations, and thresholds of human visual perception. This article examines how Brakhage compelled viewers to attend to their visual perceptions in a unique way when engaging with his films. The article begins with an outline of John Ruskin's concept of the innocent eye, and its relevance to Brakhage's creative aspirations. Next, by placing the concept of the innocent eye within the context of existing theories on visual perception, the article suggests two ways in which Brakhage was able to retutor the eyes through his films: the first was by paying special attention to entoptic vision (visual impressions whose source is within the eye itself) as a source of inspiration; the second was by developing a series of techniques that compel the viewer to attend to the visual information on the screen in a way that subordinates semantic salience, and emphasizes the surface detail.

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