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Publication Detail
Seeing-as Thinking
  • Publication Type:
    Conference presentation
  • Publication Sub Type:
  • Authors:
    Cammack J
  • Date:
  • Status:
  • Name of Conference:
    Imagining Imagination
  • Conference place:
    Royal College of Art
  • Conference start date:
  • Conference finish date:
  • Language:
  • Keywords:
    imagination, film, early vision
  • Addresses:
    Dr. Michael Schwab
    Royal College of Art
    Kensington Gore
    SW7 2EU

    Dr. Sabine Flach
    School of Visual Arts, New York City
    209 E 23rd St
    New York
    NY 10010

    Dr. Aikaterini Fotopoulou
    King's College London
    Stamford Street
    SE1 8WA
It is generally accepted that the process of visual perception is an exercise in ‘hypothesis testing’, a dynamic search for the best interpretation of the available information. Ambiguous figures prompt the brain to flip between distinct, plausible interpretations as the viewer attempts to make sense of the image, seeing it first as one aspect, then another. This process of ‘seeing as’, first identified by Wittgenstein in the Philosophical Investigations, is a form of imaginative perception and has been thought to lie at the heart of aesthetic perception. This paper considers the role of imaginative perception in film viewing through an investigation of the aesthetic and neurological mechanisms by which ambiguous, filmic moments elicit their effect. Two lines of enquiry are referenced: firstly the work of avant-garde filmmakers, in particular those interested in destabilizing the viewer’s relationship with the screen in order to expose and penetrate the perceptual mechanisms on which film viewing depends. Works by Peter GIdal, Stan Brakhage, Guy Sherwin and Robert Morris, among others, will be considered, as a means of uncoupling and examining the relationship between what we see and what we think we see when encountering visual information that is not readily resolvable. The second line of enquiry considers the neurological models of uncertainty (Zeki) and pre-attention (Rensink) which could be recruited to account for these phenomenal experiences. Set within the broader context of cognitive film theory and Sartre’s phenomenological approach to the imaginary, the presentation fosters a dialogue between the philosophical, aesthetic, and neurological frameworks by which unstable images elicit their effect on the viewer and thus provides the basis for further investigations in the emerging field of neuroaesthetics.
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