visual ecology False Mirroe

That is – the ways to perceive relations among connections seen, unseen, and revealed.


"I've come to think that most people just scan the ground in front of them. As long as that's clear and they can move forward, they don't bother about anything more.

"Looking is a very positive act. You have to do it deliberately."

David Hockney, Global Mail, Sept 18, 2012


The sense of sight in both literal and figurative expression is too fundamental to how well we think for us not to analyze in some detail the visual means by which we interpret words, art, film and nature.

Two details:

      1. Optical illusions
      2. The promise of film
        1. film as revealing
        2. film as concealing
      3. The limits of visual perception: The Way of Time, Tony and Bonnie DeVarco live on the Northern Coast of California.


"Seeing our connections to the natural world is like detecting the pattern inside an optical illusion. We encounter bodies, rocks, and stars every day of our lives. Train the eye, and these familiar entities give way to deeper realities. When you learn to view the world through this lens, bodies and stars become windows to a past that was vast almost beyond comprehension, occasionally catastrophic, and always shared among living things and the universe that fostered them."

p. 4. Neil Shubin, The Universe Within: The Deep History of the Human Body, 2013.


“We live in an age when vast numbers of images are made that do not claim to be art. They claim something much more dubious. They claim to be reality.”

David Hockney, Global Mail, September 18, 2012.


If you cannot see this sensory illusion what will we do to explain hidden patterns in the world?


five imperceptible, but significant patterns of threats


Freeze Frame is the National Museum of American History's title for the virtual exhibit of Englishman Eadweard Muybridge's work that "explores the famous photographs of animal and human locomotion that Muybridge made at the University of Pennsylvania between 1884 and 1887."

"The expatriate Englishman Eadweard James Muybridge (1830–1904), a brilliant and eccentric photographer, gained worldwide fame photographing animal and human movement imperceptible to the human eye."

As a photographer, he was initially hired by railroad baron Leland Stanford in 1872, to settle a wager about a horse's hooves leaving the ground at full gallop. Finally in 1878, Muybridge was forced to employ still-frame photography using a dozen cameras and a trip-wire to open the shutter as the horse passed to prove if there was a moment in a horse’s stride when all four hooves were off the ground at once. His sequential series of "still" photographic shots were developed and shown faster than the eye could detect their passing. By doing so the technique of showing the still photographs at such a speed gives the illusion of movement.


He spent much of his later career at the University of Pennsylvania, producing thousands of images that capture progressive movements within fractions of a second.

Person walking


The Zapruder Film and the problem of knowing.

About less than a century after Muybridge's settling the bet, an original home video of what turned out to be the Kennedy assassination was taken by a bystander, Abraham Zapruder, who filmed the event. His recording of the very moment when the President is murdered raised as many troubling questions as his eyewitness filming of the incident seemed to have revealed.

Of the film fiction writer and successful novelist Don Delillo said:

"The Zapruder film is a home movie that runs about eighteen seconds and could probably fuel college courses in a dozen subjects from history to physics. And every new generation of technical experts gets to take a crack at the Zapruder film. The film represents all the hopefulness we invest in technology. A new enhancement technique or a new computer analysis—not only of Zapruder but of other key footage and still photographs—will finally tell us precisely what happened."

In an interview the novelist responds:


I read it exactly the opposite way, which may be also what you’re getting around to. It’s one of the great ironies that, despite the existence of the film, we don’t know what happened.


We’re still in the dark. What we finally have are patches and shadows. It’s still a mystery. There’s still an element of dream-terror. And one of the terrible dreams is that our most photogenic president is murdered on film. But there’s something inevitable about the Zapruder film. It had to happen this way. The moment belongs to the twentieth century, which means it had to be captured on film.


Can we even go further and say that part of the confusion is created by the film? After all, if the film didn’t exist it would be much harder to posit a conspiracy theory.


I think every emotion we felt is part of that film, and certainly confusion is one of the larger ones, yes. Confusion and horror. The head shot is like some awful, pornographic moment that happens without warning in our living rooms— some truth about the world, some unspeakable activity people engage in that we don’t want to know about. And after the confusion about when Kennedy is first hit, and when Connally is hit, and why the president’s wife is scrambling over the seat, and simultaneous with the horror of the head shot, part of the horror, perhaps—there’s a bolt of revelation. Because the head shot is the most direct kind of statement that the lethal bullet was fired from the front. Whatever the physical possibilities concerning impact and reflex, you look at this thing and wonder what’s going on. Are you seeing some distortion inherent in the film medium or in your own perception of things? Are you the willing victim of some enormous lie of the state—a lie, a wish, a dream? Or, did the shot simply come from the front, as every cell in your body tells you it did?"

Delillo opines:

"Kennedy was shot on film, Oswald was shot on TV. Does this mean anything? Maybe only that Oswald’s death became instantly repeatable. It belonged to everyone. The Zapruder film, the film of Kennedy’s death, was sold and hoarded and doled out very selectively. It was exclusive footage. So that the social differences continued to pertain, the hierarchy held fast—you could watch Oswald die while you ate a TV dinner, and he was still dying by the time you went to bed, but if you wanted to see the Zapruder film you had to be very important or you had to wait until the 1970s when I believe it was shown once on television, or you had to pay somebody thirty thousand dollars to look at it— . . . ."

Of the Kennedy assassination Don Delillo has said:

"Our culture changed in important ways. And these changes are among the things that go into my work. There’s the shattering randomness of the event, the missing motive, the violence that people not only commit but seem to watch simultaneously from a disinterested distance. Then the uncertainty we feel about the basic facts that surround the case—number of gunmen, number of shots, and so on. Our grip on reality has felt a little threatened. Every revelation about the event seems to produce new levels of secrecy, unexpected links, and I guess this has been part of my work, the clandestine mentality—how ordinary people spy on themselves, how the power centers operate and manipulate. Our postwar history has seen tanks in the streets and occasional massive force. But mainly we have the individual in the small room, the nobody who walks out of the shadows and changes everything."

Don Delillo: An Interview with Don Delillo on the importance of this film clip, The Paris Review. p.1.

Zapruder Film Stabilized & filtered in HD.


Ann & Paul Ehrlich conclude:

"...we believe that human beings, as the dominant animal, have an ethical imperative especially to carefully consider the environmental dimensions of our dilemma, become informed about them, and start deciding."


Visual Thinking is a classic book by Rudolf Arnheim who as a gestalt psychologist had argued among many things that the eyes as extensions of the brain are responsible for sophisticated operations that are actually necessary steps in thought and memory formation. University of California Press editors say that Arnheim's book "has been the gold standard for art educators, psychologists, and general readers alike. In this seminal work, Arnheim, author of The Dynamics of Architectural Form, Film as Art, Toward a Psychology of Art, and Art and Visual Perception, asserts that all thinking (not just thinking related to art) is basically perceptual in nature, and that the ancient dichotomy between seeing and thinking, between perceiving and reasoning, is false and misleading."

The optical extension of the brain is an important biological point of departure:Visual cortex

Descarte and Visual Thinking

ecological literacy

Visual learning


Film Art