Constellation 1 – Dr Jon Clarkson: Post-Perspective

Every Thursday brings about a “Constellation” lecture along with a “Study Skills” session. In Constellation we are driven to explore varying topics so that we are encouraged to think about our subject in a more academic way and in Study Skills we learn more applicable techniques, such as efficiently analysing texts and managing data.

Our first lecture was by Dr Jon Clarkson on the topic of post-perspective. Clarkson describes post-perspective as not quite anti-perspective, but something that searches to stretch and extend perspective beyond the purpose of its design. One of the first images we were shown was a local piece at Cardiff Bay called “3 Ellipses for 3 Locks” by Felice Varini.

Felice Varini – “3 Ellipses for 3 Locks” 2007

“3 Ellipses for 3 Locks” detail

Now this isn’t exactly a place that I’ve been to a lot, I’ve maybe walked along this specific path 4 or 5 times when I was younger. I remember acknowledging the lines but never really questioning their context; thinking of them as some sort of obscure road markings that I didn’t understand.
The idea that a casual observer could pass these lines multiple times and not notice anything out of the ordinary, but at the same time another can witness them converge by complete accident is really intriguing to me. It makes me question: What else have I passed without noticing? How many times have I done so? Will I see it from the “right” perspective?

We then looked at 4 techniques in which artists work with post-perspective, which were;

  • Multiplication of views and viewpoints
  • Adopting a non-human viewpoint
  • Doubling and repetition
  • Historical perspective

The technique that I found most interesting was “adopting a non-human viewpoint”. Now this doesn’t just involve viewing something from the perspective of an animal, but simply going beyond what the normal human eye can see.
For me the stand out example that we were shown was Marilene Oliver’s “Family Portrait”.

“Family Portrait” detail

Marilene Oliver – “Family Portrait” 2003

Oliver has created this work from MRI scans of her family’s bodies, which were then printed actual size on layers of stacked acrylic. The figures have an eerie ghost-like appearance which is emphasised by the way they fade in and out of reality depending on your distance from them. The piece plays with our perception of portraiture; by not distinguishing the between the outside and the inside of the body, the figures could be described as being more explicit than a standard nude portrait.
We were challenged to think about whether Oliver’s work is actually a more accurate representation of a person or not. I’m not sure if “accurate” is the right word, whilst we are able to see what would otherwise be obstructed from our normal vision. Apart from gender, the figures are barely distinguishable from each other. Although, this could be because I’m still trying to use human vision and our normal identification methods to try and make sense of these forms. Perhaps we need to come up with a new method to distinguish between these types of figures?


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