In/Visible Light

story © Michael Betancourt, May 10, 2004 all rights reserved.


Our visual experiences of the world begin with our ability to see light.

In the case of movies, they are entirely composed from light (or its absence). We perceive three kinds of light:

	real:		projection (looking directly at some light producing source)
			reflection (light bounced off a non-emitting source)
	imaginary:	noise (light seen because of the physical properties of our eyes)
There is a tendency to ignore the role of imaginary light in optical effects and phenomena, but it is the imaginary light that can be very compelling.

Think of Stan Brakhage’s description of his hand-painted films as an expression of this non-visual light. Imaginary light is light we think we see, but is only a product of the misfiring and nerve-echoes in the rods and cones of our eyes.

This "light" is a result of the physical nature of sight. The grain in film (for example) and the artifacts produced by slowing video feedback are analogues for this physical property of our eyes [see Metaphors on Vision].

Real light can be modulated and controlled, imaginary light cannot; it can only be suggested through analogy using real light (the experience of imaginary light is the private affair of each individual).

However, there are certain experiences (flash ghosts for example) which result in imaginary light that can be predicted, suggesting that there may be ways of modulating and including such experiences in the experience of real light.

It will invariably be technologically dependent and so is of limited life-span.

Copyright © Michael Betancourt  May 10, 2004  all rights reserved.

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