Scopic Regimes Of Modernity Essays

Jay exposes the problems established by the dominant scopic regime, Cartesian perspectivalism (Jay 5-7).
--Eye = Mind
From Richard Rorty's Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature
"In the Cartesian model the intellect inspects entities modeled on retinal images. . .  In Descartes' conception--the one that became the basis for 'modrn epistemology--it is representations which are in the 'mind.'"
Cartesian optics fits a scientific world view and becomes the means of thinking about ourselves and the world around us.  It establishes "a harmony between the mathematical regularities in optics and God's will."  See Descartes and Linear Perspective.

--Space becomes isotropic, rectilinear, abstract, and uniform.  With the visual pyramid between view and the painting then another between the painting and the vanishing point, the object of study and the viewer are subjected to Cartesian persepectivialism.
Sight is assumed to be monocular, static, unblinking, saccadic (jumping from one focal point to the next rather than panning), and disembodied.  The viewer is outside the viewed scene and captures an eternal moment.  

What is Lost in such Perception? (Jay 8-9)
1. The withdrawal of the painter's emotional entanglement
2. de-contextualization.  "as abstract, quantitatively conceptualized space became more interesting to the artist than the qualitatively differentiated subjects painted within it, the rendering of the scene became and end in itself."
3. The visual field shown on the canvas becomes a portable commodity.

Assumptions about the Viewer (Jay 11)
All sight is the same.  Sight is a universal and transcendental quality which we hold in common.  Any error is sight is an imperfection of the particular viewer who does not match the ideal.  As a universal, all people should see the same.  Both how and what they see is in accord with God's desire to match humanity with the world he created.

If we throw out the idea that sight is universal and transcendental, as Nietzsche did, then we are left with only individual viewers, each stuck in his/her own camera obscura (each in his/her own dark room looking out with his/her own peephole).

Other Ways of Seeing (Jay 12-20)
Jay provides other ways of seeing so as to disturb the notion that Cartesian perspectivalism is a "natural" way of seeing.

--Apler and The Art of Describing
"The nonmathematical impluse of this tradition [Dutch 17th century painting] accords well with the indifference to hierarchy, proportion, and analogical resemblances characteristic of Cartesian perspectivalsim.  Instead, it casts its attentive eye on the fragmentary, detailed, and richly articulated surface of a world it is content to describe rather than explain" (Jay 13).   
In giving a part of a picture and from one of many perspectives, the fragmentariness of Dutch art anticipates photography.  (More on this when we read Galassi's Before Photography.)

--Baroque
Distorts the visual image, revealing the conventional rather than "natural" quality of "normal" specularity.  Shows how sight is dependent upon material objects.  The baroque with its elaborate folds and irregular shapes is tactile or haptic as a way of disturbing the visual.
 

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