PELL LUCY: GLANCE GANDER GAZE
Over the last four years Pell Lucy artists have collectively explored ways to see, perceive and comprehend art. Even when an exhibit of their work appears in digital form, a quality viewing experience is the primary concern. In the words of Henry David Thoreau, “It’s not what you look at, it’s what you see.”
Perhaps that statement might also be expanded to include how we look as well.
Recent visual cognitive research has unveiled the intricate nature of the act of seeing. In Western culture, heavily shaped by Cartesian dualism, emphasis has been placed on the gaze—a detached, analytical and objectifying manner of observing the world. This ocularcentrism relies on preconceived ideas to then scrutinize and assess, positioning the viewer distinctly outside the world being observed.
Freud highlighted “the blindness of the seeing eye,” addressing how the obvious often evades notice. Thoreau was aware of this problem as well: “Many an object is not seen, though it falls within the range of our visual ray, because it does not come within the range of our intellectual ray, i.e., we are not looking for it. So, in the largest sense, we find only the world we look for.”
The limitations of the gaze have rendered it a derogatory term, evident in phrases like the “male gaze” or the “colonial gaze.” Other modes of visual perception are now being explored and considered. In his book, The World at a Glance, phenomenologist Edward Casey argues that glancing holds far more significance in human perception than previously imagined. He distinguishes between ocularcentrism--favoring the gaze--and visuocentricism, where no priority is given to the gaze over the glance.
Glancing is an instinctive, automatic action—a survival mechanism that continuously monitors our ever-changing surroundings. Unlike the detached nature of the gaze, glancing links us more intimately with the world we inhabit, collecting a wealth of information. Peripheral vision and bodily sensations are both acknowledged in this process. “Glancing discovers whole colonies of the to-be-seen world,” writes Casey. “Places where sight has never before been—or if it has, it now sees differently. The glance guides the eye as it comes to know the perceived world, leading it out of more staid and settled ways of looking.”
Gander occupies a middle ground between the glance and the gaze. It is a willingness to wander without intention, to explore what is often overlooked. Gandering can take us into disorientation, perplexity and the undiscovered. The benefits of letting the eye meander can be surprising.
Glancing, gandering, and gazing are visual perception skills. Used with intentionality, they expand and enrich the way we look and see. These skills also have great value to artists and to art making, enhancing that ongoing effort to bring something new into existence with a more “full spectrum” approach. For Pell Lucy artists who share a belief in the profound eloquence of images, this is yet another way to encounter the innate intelligence of form.