Frames of viewing: How the evolution of science and technology has altered our visual world

Lawrence KRUGER
Getty Research Institute; and Department of Neurobiology, University of California, Los Angeles


The limitations of seeing are largely shaped by biological factors regulating the time domain of visual events but the scale and absolute dimensions of art can be traced historically initially to socio-political determinants, until the advances in photography in the early 19th century. The human visual scanning apparatus operates in a large series of temporal frames, and if the eyes and head are immobilized we quickly can detect little more than luminance. Oscillatory, saccadic and voluntary eye movements and enduring blinks impose temporal and spatial framing but we have only succeeded in overcoming the blurring effect of after-images and the disappearance of stabilized images through the development of "shutter" devices that have enabled visualization of the unseen. Technological advances in controlling the duration of image exposure on the retina and in the production of photosensitive emulsions and spatially distributed digital detector devices, has reshaped the degrees of freedom accessible for imaginative expression and consequently has become a key determinant of the course of modern art history. This presentation examines how the impact of quantification in physiological science and the birth of photography led to new art forms tied to the inventive spirit of technology that has expanded and refashioned our understanding of the human visual apparatus and how we examine and display our visual world.


Session VIII -- Frames of Viewing: Photography and Cinematography in Neuroscience History
Tuesday, 4 June 2002, 9:00 am - 12:30 pm

Seventh Annual Meeting of the International Society for the History of the Neurosciences (ISHN)

Los Angeles, California, USA