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Seeing with Eyes Closed

Video: Ivana Franke Studio.

Seeing with Eyes Closed

2011. Wooden construction, polystyrene panels, white LED-lights, micro-controller, pillow. 122 x 60 x 110 cm. Frequency range of flickering lights: 12 – 50 Hz. Each flash duration 6 mins. Duration of the sequence: 3 mins 18 secs.

Visitors are invited to sit on the floor in front of a semi-circular object that holds a screen of numerous LED lights, and close their eyes. They are exposed to flashing light of different frequencies, which gives rise to a visual experience of flowing images with eyes closed; spiders, a flight above the Earth, a city scene, stripes, squares and lines of intense colors dancing in the space, spirals, or something entirely different. These images might be a reminiscence of something long forgotten.
The installation concerns the visual experience of quasi-hallucinatory flowing images, induced by stroboscopic light behind closed eyes. It consists of LED lights that are programmed to flicker simultaneously, at a frequency between 12 and 50 hertz and for an entire duration of 3 minutes and 18 seconds. Each flash of light lasts for 6 milliseconds, and the dark pauses vary in duration.

Being aware that the images seen have no foundation in external reality, one experiences them as hallucinatory. This ‘conscious quasi-hallucinating’ challenges our sense of the real in its alternation and its permeability with the imaginary. Each person’s experience is different while ascribing different dimensions to the perceived space, in constant transformation. Communicating the content of this ephemeral flux of unpredictable percepts extremely stretches the limits of acquiring a subjective report, and challenges the scientific aspiration to precisely measure the timing of conscious phenomena. With the unpredictability of visual responses to the light stimuli, participation in the art installation raises the question of subjectivity and authorship. The final “work” happens in our body and depends on our experience as well as on the boundary between the public and the intimate space.

Installation views: Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice. Artist's studio, Berlin.
                             The immeasurable realm of subjective reality, Deutsche Gugennheim, Berlin, 2012.
Photos Ivana Franke Studio

An (almost) 200-year time-line of scientific studies into flicker-induced hallucinations
Depiction of primary patterns (left): honeycomb structure,
and secondary patterns (right): snailrectangle(Schnechenrechteck) and eight-beam (Achtstrahl), in Purkinje (1819)
Figures from: Ida Momennejad: Seeing with Eyes Closed: the neuro-epistemology of perceptual reality. In „Seeing with Eyes Closed“, Ed. Eena Agudio, Ivana Franke. Association of Neuroaesthetics, Berlin, 2011.

In conjunction with the exhibitions of Seeing with Eyes Closed, several symposia were organised at different venues.
Neuroscientists, artists and historians of science, among others, convened to discuss various issues connected to the project.
For the first symposium that took place in Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice publication was produced (Seeing with Eyes Closed,Edited by Elena Agudio and Ivana Franke, AoN, 2011).

Strobe and hallucination event, Institut fur Raumexperimente, UdK, Berlin, 2010 Participants: Jimena Canales, Matthias Sohr, Laura McLardy, Julius von Bismarck, Ida Momennejad, Ivana Franke
Experiments: Experiment with Intermittent Photic Stimulator (IPS) – a strobe lamp with programmable frequencies of flashing that is used in medicine for diagnosing photosensitive epilepsy, in conjunction with VEEG (video electroencefalogram) (Ivana Franke)
Strobe light experiment in dark cellars of the building complex (Julius von Bismark)
Re-created Dream Machine by Brion Gysin (Laura McLardy)
Talks
Jimena Canales, History of strobe light, lecture
Matthias Sohr, History of hallucinations
Photographs courtesy of Institut fur Raumexperimente

Seeing with Eyes Closed, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, June 2011
Participants: Carl Michael von Hausswolff, Olafur Eliasson, Jeebesh Bagchi (Raqs Media Collective), Semir Zeki, Vittorio Gallese, Moran Cerf, Ida Momennejad, Ivana Franke Curated by Elena Agudio, co-curated by Anton Burdakov, (Association of Neuroaesthetics, Berlin).
Initiated and conceptualized with Alexander Abbushi.
Photographs courtesy of AoN, platform for Art and Neuroscience

Seeing with Eyes Closed – The immeasurable realm of subjective reality,
Deutsche Gugennheim, Berlin, 2012 Participants: Fernando Vidal, Carsten Nicolai, Daniel Margulies, Ida Momennejad, Ivana Franke Talks by Fernando Vidal, Carsten Nicolai, Ida Momennejad.
Lecture-performance by Ivana Franke, Exhibition of Seeing with Eyes Closed.
Moderated by Daniel Margulies
Photographs courtesy of Deutsche Gugennheim

Waking Background, Lauba, Zagreb, 2012
Participants: Ulrich W. Thomale, Suncica Ostojic, Ida Momennejad, Ivana Franke
Exhibition included the installations Seeing with Eyes Closed, Waking Background and Distant Feeling.
Photographs courtesy of Lauba.