Friday, 21 February 2014

The Difficulty of Making Things Out

“I can think of no good reason to deny that a tilted coin could be seen as elliptical and flat with respect to the viewer. This would be tantamount to denying the possibility of illusion.” -John O’Dea “Art and Ambiguity: A Gestalt Shift Approach to Elusive Appearances” (2013)
In the concluding paragraph O’Dea writes:
“Constancy often fails; deep shadows can make surface colour perceptually unclear; at severe angles, shapes constancy disappears; size becomes harder to judge from more distant objects; and so on. Is perceptual experience illusory in these conditions?”
A denial of illusion might be too much to ask, but perhaps we could urge that the term be used with great caution. When things recede into the distance they do not gradually become illusory, they are simply harder to make out. We see less of the far side of the table than the near side. This isn't an illusion or an inaccuracy. It's a commonplace and unremarkable consequence of the spatial fall-off of sensory input. The further away something is, the less we see of it. The process is linear and gradual and leads eventually to the complete loss of input as an object recedes into the distance.


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