Installation, 2009

Madi Boyd (UK)

The Point of Perception is a collaborative project between artist Madi Boyd and neuroscientists Mark Lythgoe and Beau Lotto. The project is an immersive art installation that probes ambiguity in perception. It uses illusion in space to disorientate; providing the viewer with just enough visual information to be on a ‘tipping point’ for perceptual understanding. It is an uncertain, abstract but spectacular environment designed to engulf the viewer. The installation consists of a controlled environment with a visually uncertain space in the centre, a space with just the right amount of visual material so that people are on the brink of comprehending what they are looking at, but are unable to resolve it entirely. The hypothesis behind this is that this would be the most interesting place for the mind as it would continually search for certainty. The Point of Perception seeks to identify when and how form emerges from formlessness in the visual field. The work is designed to be absorbing, so that people lose themselves for a moment - some viewers have described feeling as if they themselves were invisible.

The work itself is a large, mirrored, pyramidal box filled with hundreds of metres of horizontal and vertical lines of string. The projection moving along the lines creates an array of changing points of light in space. The positioning of the mirrored surfaces and the choreographing of the film make the space appear to expand and shrink as the points of light travel through and fill up more or less of the space and the grids appear to move between ordered regularity and chaos. The aim is to allow people to witness the ambiguity inherent in their own perception. The interest in this confusion and the emotion that uncertainty produces in the viewer is partly how and why this puzzle for the brain was created.

Artist's Statement

The work is visually appealing and creates an exciting experiential moment for viewers in addition to allowing them to reflect on their awareness of their own perception. Therefore it is not simply an illustration of illusion or a scientific experiment, but provides an artistic experience that people of any age can enjoy and participate in. Illusions remind us that what we see is not a reflection of what is ‘out there’ but shows us what has been useful for humans to see in the past, and confirms how robust the human visual system is. The installation questions why we enjoy illusions, and what feelings they generate. The abstract nature of the work allows individuals to experience a range of feelings and create their own narratives, and thereby understand something more about themselves.

Sound by Nye Parry