Art and The Conscious Mind 1

Two things that define humans – We make art and we have conscious minds

What is the point of consciousness? After years of researching and investigating we still dont know. We are able to function day to day unconsciously (i.e able to walk somewhere we know without consciously thinking about it)

It is suggested that consciousness is mainly for attention, awareness and social aspects. That we use it to negotiate and react to the world we live in.

Many other theories of consciousness:

  • The view that everything is conscious (panpsychism);
  • That there is not really any such thing as consciousness at all (eliminativism);
  • That it is so mysterious a phenomenon we will never be in a position to explain it (mysterianism);
  • That it is something distinct from physical processes (dualism);
  • That it is entirely derived from physical matter (materialism/physicalism)

Visual Consciousness – Consciousness brings the world into being for us

  • Everything we see is scenes and interpreted in the visual area of the brain
  • When or where do we become conscious of what we see ?
  • Nothing we see is actually there in the way we see it (purely created in our minds)

Internalims/ Representationalism – All objects that are viewed dont exist its all created in our heads (standard current scientific view of how we see the world)

“…the objects at hand in space seem to us clothed with the qualities of our sensations. They appear to us as red or green, cold or warm, to have smell or taste, etc., although these qualities of sensation belong to our nervous system alone and do not at all reach beyond into external space. Yet even when we know this, the appearance does not end, because this appearance is, in fact, the original truth…” (Helmholtz 1876)

Visual Agnosia – Occurs when an object or scene is full of visual information that defies easy or immediate recognition

Look at pictures because of what we are looking to see/ find – We see what we expect to see. Perception is not determined simply by stimulus patterns rather it is a dynamic searching


Reasurch into visual indeterminacy – “Our findings indicate that this seemingly effortless process occurs not only with familiar objects, but also with indeterminate stimuli that do not contain real objects. It therefore seems that the primate brain is a compulsory object viewer that automatically segments indeterminate visual input into coherent images.”

‘Pictures which are interpretable, and which contain a meaning, are bad pictures.’ A good picture, on the other hand, ‘…demonstrates the endless multiplicity of aspects, it takes away our certainty, because it deprives a thing of its meaning and its name. It shows us the thing in all the manifold significance and infinite variety that preclude the emergence of any single meaning or view.’ Gerhard Richter (visual indeterminacy in art)

Perception and distinctions

  • Do objects have boundaries?
  • If so, where are they?
  • Can you imagine nothing? (no boundaries no distintions) We need devisions to understand the world
  • Can you imagine nothing?
Through separation we come into being – we have to know we are separate in the universe
Making a circle on a page creates its own universe – what is inside is separate from what is outside
The observer separates themselves from the world and so ring the world and themselves onto existence
We have to know we are separate from each other
The world we perceive is essentially formless and objects it is indeterminate
We impose boundaries seperations on that indeterminate flux



  • The world we perceive is essentially formless and objectless, it is indeterminate
  • We impose boundaries, separations, on that indeterminate flux and pick out objects and forms that are meaningful to us
  • This does not mean, however, those objects and forms are there in any permanent or absolute sense, independently of our perceiving them
  • The most primordial object we determine from this perceptual flux is our own being, out sense of self, from which all other distinctions flow




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