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The art of seeing

A visual text


Ecce homo
See that human being.
See that particular
human being.
See ME.
Please.
Everybody sees - and wishes to be seen.
We see with our brains, not with the eyes.
We see by our concepts, and our language.
We see through feelings, emotions and culture.
We see with our imagination, through our belief
and religion. Spectacles. Of the kind we can’t take off.
We see through science and philosophy, not with the eyes.
We see what we know. What we don’t know,
we don’t see. We see with the heart,
and by our will. We see with a third
eye. The other two are mirrors,
filters and doors. They
focus on chosen items.
Sometimes we close
our eyes to see.
Sometimes we
only see what
is lacking.
We spot
absence.
Sometimes
we don’t
see what we’re
looking for, because we’ve seen too much of it already.
Sometimes we don’t appreciate what we see – then we choose to see something else. Sometimes we pretend we haven’t seen what is there, alas it is gone. Sometimes we hope or fear to see something – and see it everywhere. We see the beauty in the detail. We look for the bigger picture. We see something that symbolizes something else. Signs, logos, flags.

The original meaning of to see is ‘to follow someone with the eyes’. It is derived from the Latin ‘socius’, meaning companion, and from the Ancient Norwegian ‘seggr’, meaning man, warrior.

I see something is going on. I look up to, down on and into yours.

A few years ago, Gallery F15 of Moss, Norway, arranged an exhibition with graduates from different Norwegian art academies. In the corner of the first floor in the main building, a young, male artist had put up his work: a lot of, almost similar paintings portraying a crocodile. The paintings were in strong colours and in a childish and naive style. These paintings contained his collected efforts to catch an inner image of a toy he used to play with as a boy. A green crocodile, he recorded. The various paintings presented the crocodile from different angles, some full-sized and others of the head only. The artist had worked on this for quite some time, but he was never able to recreate in paint the inner image of his childhood crocodile. He ended up asking his mother who informed him that the ‘crocodile’ really had been a dinosaur, looking altogether quite different from what the artist had remembered. His image of the toy had been made before he was able to differentiate between crocodiles and dinosaurs. In other words: he saw what he had the vocabulary to describe, and tried later on to paint something coloured by his adult language. The two did not go together. As a child he had denoted all crocodile-seeming things with the same linguistic term, and his mature language was limiting to the memory of all shapes and forms a childhood crocodile may have had. It was therefore impossible to capture the child’s vision with the grown man’s mind.

Children are minimalists. They draw what they see, and what they see is synonymous with what they are able to give names to. My son’s drawings of a lorry consisted once of two wheels, a truck, a steering wheel, the drivers compartment and, for some obscure reason, a huge pair of windscreen wipers clearly marked onto the front window. Later on he added an exhaust box, an antenna (!), mirrors and so on. Once the different parts were identified linguistically, they became visible to him and subsequently important for him to add to his drawings. As grown-ups we have too many words – and we are too familiar with the world – to see it.

Sometimes we see through our fingers.
Sometimes we see sharply, or
look into the matter and see to it,
that it does not happen again.
Sometimes we don’t believe our eyes
- and strictly speaking, there’s no reason to.

We draw your attention to the fact that some of the following scenes may be disturbing to people of a sensitive nature.
People of a sensitive nature may wish to turn away.
We draw your attention to the fact that the following scenes may cause people of a sensitive nature to act.
We draw your attention to the fact that to act upon strong feelings is a matter for The State only.


I see you suffer.
I see you’re scared.
I see you need (my) help.
I see you’re asking me to help. ME           Not The State

Does seeing this text make you recognize the words and meaning?

Normative ethics – following the rules – is not possible without an ability to see from the moral point of view. To recognize the situation and the applicant rules. It’s no help knowing the rules if you don’t see when and how to use them. A special skill is required to see other people suffering. What do we see when we see other people suffering? Do we see ourselves? Is what we see limited to what our personal experiences are?
Is what we are able to recognize limited by our imagination?
Do we see the worst scenarios imaginable?
Can we see something unimaginable?
Are we able to recognize suffering if we have not suffered ourselves?
Are some blind to others hurting?
Is compassion possible?
Do we become compassionate by watching someone else’s pain?

One needs a special skill to be moved by someone else’s pain.

It’s never images only. Who says seeing happens only with the eyes? Listen to the screams, smell the degradation! Feel the heat! Sense the cold!




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