Installation, 2013

Fiona Newell, Stefan Hutzler & Robert Murtagh (IE)

Something in the Way it Moves is a study that examines how illusory patterns emerge from a range of simple to complex arrangements of dots, displayed statically or dynamically on a computer screen. The study is part of an ongoing investigation concerning the processing of visual information by the brain and the role of correlations for complexity. It will invite participants to ponder how order and disorder can be distinguished. Participants will be asked to rate these according to set criteria via direct input on a computer keyboard. A subset of the results will be displayed on a screen throughout the exhibition.

The details of the movement of the dots are important. For example, the motion might be purely random (such as Brownian motion, the erratic random movement of microscopic particles in a fluid) or display strong correlations, like the swarming motion of birds, and thus may appear more or less natural. Something in the Way it Moves will look at what makes moving dots look alive.

Illusions are used in research as they help scientists understand how the brain integrates information from across the different senses. For example, the ‘McGurk illusion’ (when the auditory component of one sound is paired with the visual component of another sound, leading to the perception of a third sound) is used to understand how a speaker’s lip movements affect the perception of the sound of their speech. Another example is the ‘soundinduced flash illusion’ (when a single flash of light is accompanied by multiple auditory beeps, the single flash is perceived as multiple flashes) which is used extensively to help assess efficient multisensory integration in the ageing brain.

Artist's Statement

It is often said that all human perception is illusory, and that the brain forms hypotheses about what it sees, hears or feels. In our everyday world, we often perceive shapes and patterns in visual images where none exist, such as seeing animal shapes in cloud formations, or familiar objects in rock formations. Illusions are a very useful tool for understanding how the brain makes sense of stimulation from the external world. Here, our aim is to investigate how changes in the physical properties of a display of random dots can change the perceived interpretation of the display.