Art as Eye Movement

by Kenneth Hemmerick with notes by Fred Herscovitch

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I have noticed when two people are looking at each other, and there is considerable dislike between them, there tends to be little eye movement. We sometimes say we stare in disbelief, meaning there is very little or no eye movement. I have also noticed that severely depressed people exhibit very little eye movement.

The relationship of subject and object is discussed in The Sense of Beauty by the American philosopher George Santayana. He discusses beauty as a system of values. "Beauty is a value, that is, it is not a perception of matter of fact or of a relation: It is an emotion, an affection of our volitional and appreciative nature. An object cannot be beautiful if it can give pleasure to nobody: A beauty to which all men were forever indifferent is a contradiction in terms."

I have also noticed two people "madly" in love "cannot keep their eyes off each other," and there is considerable eye movement. This leads me to wonder if what makes an object "beautiful" is neither the object nor the subject per se, but rather the relationship between subject and object expressed as eye movements.

"...The object, as the eye brings it to the centre of vision, excites a series of points on the retina ... every visible point becomes thus a point in a field and has a felt radiation of lines of possible motion about it. Our notion of visual space has this origin since the manifold of retina impressions is distributed in a manner which serves as the type and exemplar of what we mean by a surface."

George Santayana
From The Sense of Beauty

There is the saying "beauty is in the eye of the beholder." Perhaps this should read, Beauty and art are in the eye movement of the beholder defined by the number of relationships between events or eye movements of the beholder in the perception or experience of the beholder.

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© 2006 Kenneth Hemmerick with Fred Herscovitch