The 8th Annual Conference of the University of Antwerp’s Centre for Philosophical Psychology
Pictorial Representation and Visual Experience
Thursday 6 November 2008
10.00 – 11.00 Johan Veldeman (Antwerp)
“Medium Specificity and Artistic Value”
11.15 – 12.15 Rob van Gerwen (Utrecht)
Pornography as a Pathology of the Gaze. Art and Sexuality”
12.15 – 13.30 lunch break
13.30 – 14.30 Robert Hopkins (Sheffield)
“Factive Pictorial Experience: What’s Really Special about Photographs”
14.30 – 15.30 Michael Newall (Kent)
“Is Seeing-In a Transparency Effect?”
15.30 – 16.00 coffee break
16.00 – 17.00
Derksen & Monica Meijsing
Pictorial Space as Testing Ground for Perceptual Theories”
Stadscampus – Hof van Liere, Prinsstraat 13, 2000 Antwerpen
Entrance is free, but registration required.
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Lars De Nul (Antwerp), Hans Maes (Kent), Monica Meijsing (Tilburg)
Scientific Committee Members:
Ton Derksen (Nijmegen), Derek Matravers (Open University UK), Mohan Matthen (Toronto), Erik Myin (Antwerp), Jean Paul Van Bendegem (Brussels)
Organizing Committee Members:
Kathleen Coessens (Brussels), Tim De Mey (Ghent), Erik Myin (Antwerp), Monica Meijsing (Tilburg), Peter Reynaert (Antwerp), Johan Veldeman (Antwerp)
Medium Specificity and Artistic Value
What do we value in pictures when we value them as art? On an influential view, an artistically valuable work is one which exploits the unique features of its medium. Thus media such as painting, printmaking, photography, or video art, are taken to be distinct modes of representation with unique characteristics. Such characteristics determine the artistic value of an artwork and direct its proper appreciative response. I shall argue that such a view is radically mistaken and defend a view of artistic media as complex systems that resist an analysis into basic components. I will propose an alternative view on artistic value which includes aspects of the history of the making of an artwork as an important ingredient.
Rob van Gerwen
Pornography as a Pathology of the Gaze: Art and Sexuality
We are confused today about pornography, not knowing whether we should be liberal towards it, and acknowledge the freedom of expression or should censor it on account of how we often feel offended and, perhaps humiliated by pornography. The confusion is due, I think, to the fact that we have come to identify pornography with sexuality. But they are worlds apart. Paradoxically, it is not difficult to see why, as I hope to make clear in this paper. A clear distinction between pornography and sexuality also supports my suggestion to introduce themes from pornography in art, so as to seriously address them in art practice.
Factive Pictorial Experience: What’s Really Special about Photographs
What is special about photographs? Traditional photography is, I argue, a system that sustains factive pictorial experience. Photographs sustain pictorial experience: we see things in them. Further, that experience is factive: if such and such is seen in a photograph, then such and such obtained when the photo was taken. More precisely, photographs are designed to sustain factive pictorial experience, and that experience is what we have when, in the photographic system as a whole, everything works as it is supposed to. In this respect photographs differ from handmade pictures, and from other information-preserving tools, such as the readings on a geiger counter. This distinctive feature can be used to explain what is epistemically special about photographs, and also to give an account of the distinctive phenomenology of looking at a photograph rather than a handmade picture. In both respects, photography turns out to be interestingly analogous to perception, but without the implausible claim that to see a photograph of something is one way to perceive it.
Is seeing-In a Transparency Effect?
Like seeing-in, the perception of transparency involves a twofold experience. That is, both involve the visual perception of different objects occupying the same part of the visual field. The perception of transparency is an extensively studied topic in perceptual psychology and it is generally accepted that its phenomenology is governed by a law of ‘scission’. I explore the idea that seeing-in may also be subject to this law, and that seeing-in can be understood as a kind of transparency effect. In the process I examine how such a proposal could account for apparent differences between seeing-in and transparency perception – in particular, the fact that we are inclined to report picture surfaces as seeming opaque rather than transparent. I also consider how this proposal, regardless of whether we accept it, could prompt us to develop a more nuanced account of the phenomenology of seeing-in.
Anthony A. Derksen & Monica Meijsing
Pictorial Space as Testing Ground for Perceptual Theories
Pictorial perception has properties which have to find a place in every perceptual theory. Pictorial space thus constitutes a testing ground for these perceptual theories. Pictorial space, or rather, someone’s pictorial space, seems a private space – not to be found in the objective world of science –, but remarkably enough it can be studied experimentally. It turns out to have fairly stable phenomenal properties of its own. They have to be recognized for their own sake. They cannot be watered down to sensorimotor contingencies. Thus pictorial space constitutes a serious problem for the enactive approach, as Gibson already knew.
Pictorial space has also subjective features, which constitute problems for Hyman and Hopkins's (different) attempts to analyse depiction (pictorial space) in objective terms. Even in the pictures which are ideal for objective resemblance-theories, i.e. in linear perspective pictures, the same occlusion sizes or outlines shapes in picture space and in the actual word do not guarantee that we see a (perfect) resemblance between the picture and what is depicted in the world. A philosophical depiction theory based on (experienced) resemblance needs to bring in psychological mechanisms and cannot remain purely philosophical.