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Discerning Subject in Spacetime

Updated on February 8, 2013

Digital Media Art Meets Merleau-Ponty

"In perception we do not think the object and we do not think ourselves thinking it, we are given over to the object and we merge into this body which is better informed than we are about the world..." Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception

Notions of perception, time and subjectivity are central to all art, where traditionally the visual arts have been understood as spatial and music as a temporal.

Audiovisual new media art proves this division to be problematic. It permeates the division of perception and allows us to build our perception anew. In this new setting the subject becomes a mechanism to articulate time and space entwined.

New Media Art may cause you to Think Different

Although perception is always subjective, here the awareness comes forth as technologically mediated, "coloured by technological lenses".

"We pass from double vision to the single object, not through an inspection of the mind, but when the two eyes cease to function each on its own account and are used as a single organ by one single gaze. It is not the epistemological subject who brings about the synthesis, but the body ..."
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception

A spectator looking at an artwork becomes simultaneously exposed to it. Within the new media this exposure may deepen into immersion, as the audio-visual scene also surrounds the spectator with moving sounds and images. Through this the mechanism of perception is brought to a new level, where the attention of the spectator becomes enhanced, exceeding the natural perception. Here the relationship between the artist and the spectator can also be more equal: the spectator is allowed to immerse into the realm of the artwork.

We no longer wish to relate with the autonomous subject, artist who would draw from his/her interiority a fully finished art-object to present to the spectators. "It is because we are through and through compounded of relationships with the world that for us the only way to become aware of the fact is to suspend the resultant activity, to refuse it our complicity ... or yet again, to put it
'out of play.'" Maurice Merleau-Ponty, idem.

Being located on the converge between art and science, new media art is privileged to map out the myriad of possibilities for points of concurrence. This convergence also benefits both of these worlds as the artists of new media constantly employ and develop new tools and philosophies in order to realize as well as convey the unforeseen, and as such accelerate the fine-tuning of technological development together with the experience of the spectator within the art of the present.

Today the majority of the artworks within the new media are either fully digitally modeled or the audiovisual material has been treated in a way that would have not been possible without the digital means. In order to bring forth a more complete spectrum of the happenings of the current new media, we should also include some more traditional film or video works, where the attention deals more with the experiments of the narrative form than experimenting with the new technologies. We could also include the angle of participatory new media where the interaction with the artwork becomes further enhanced. "I start from unified experience and from there acquire, in a secondary way, consciousness of a unifying activity when, taking up an analytical attitude, I break up perception into qualities and sensations, and when, in order to recapture on the basis of these the object into which I was in the first place blindly thrown, I am obliged to suppose an act of synthesis which is merely the counterpart of my analysis." Maurice Merleau-Ponty, idem.

'Painting does not imitate the world,

but is a world of its own.'

Maurice Merleau-Ponty

More Maurice Merleau-Ponty - vote for your favourite titles!

Maurice Merleau-Ponty: Basic Writings
Maurice Merleau-Ponty: Basic Writings

Merleau-Ponty was a pivotal figure in twentieth century French philosophy. He was responsible for bringing the phenomenological methods of the German philosophers, Husserl and Heidegger, to France and instigated a new wave of interest in this approach. His influence extended well beyond the boundaries of philosophy and can be seen in theories of politics, art and language. This is the first volume to bring together a comprehensive selection of Merleau-Ponty's writing and presents a cross-sectio...

The Visible and the Invisible (Studies in Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy)
The Visible and the Invisible (Studies in Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy)

This book contains the unfinished manuscript and working notes of the book Merleau-Ponty was writing when he died. The text is devoted to a critical examination of Kantian, Husserlian, Bergsonian, and Sartrean method, followed by one extraordinary chapter, 'The Intertwining - The Chiasm, ' that reveals the central pattern of Merleau-Ponty's own thought. The working notes for the book provide the reader with a truly exciting insight into the mind of the philosopher at work as he refines and devel...

The World of Perception
The World of Perception

In 1948, Maurice Merleau-Ponty wrote and delivered on French radio a series of seven lectures on the theme of perception. Translated here into English for the first time, they offer a lucid and concise insight into one of the great philosophical minds of the twentieth-century.The lectures explore themes central not only to Merleau-Ponty's philosophy but to phenomenology as a whole. He begins by rejecting the idea - inherited from D...

Sense and Non-Sense (Studies in Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy)
Sense and Non-Sense (Studies in Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy)

Written when Merleau-Ponty's interest had just broadened from epistemology and the behavioral sciences to include aesthetics, ethics, political theory, and politics, Sense and Nonsense is the best introduction to Merleau-Ponty's thought, for it both summarizes his previous insights and gives them their widest range of application.


'It is because we are through and through compounded

of relationships with the world that for us the

only way to become aware of the fact is to

suspend the resultant activity, to refuse it our

complicity ... or yet again, to put it 'out of play. '

Maurice Merleau-Ponty

Storytelling in the Digital Era

The fashion of how to tell a good story may have found new formalities and as such developed new techniques for telling, but the stories are only complete when the audience brings the virtual world into the actual one, combining their own reality with the one perceived from the audio-visual screen.

To read more, visit Storytelling in the Digital Era

Beautiful Promises with Laughter

In the current world of new media the instruments to realise and experience art are developing faster than ever.

Beautiful Promises with Laughter

Discerning Subject reads - also Gilles Deleuze

It may blow your mind!

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    • profile image

      DavidKnight 9 years ago

      Interesting that you give the key "Phenomenology of Perception" quite a mouthful but well worth the read. I would second this choice. I am not stalking you.... Promise

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image

      ElizabethJeanAl 9 years ago

      Welcome to The Totally Awesome Lenses Group.