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Visual Art and Embodiment in a World of Subjectivity

©Beth Carruthers 2003

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It is only through the senses that we experience what it means to be fully human. It is only through the engaged senses that we are able to feel desire and intimacy, the great longing to be fully, wholly, and utterly in the world. But it is only through the honest and engaged senses that we will come to appreciate the living world as it truly is, both wildly beautiful and endangered. Cultivating our perceptual capacity is fundamentally related to both the quality of our personal lives and restoring the quality of life on the planet.

Laura Sewell, Sight and Sensibility


But what is Nature? From the Latin Natura, it is my birth, my characteristics, my condition. It is my nativity, my astrology, my biology, my physiognomy, my geography, my cartography, my spirituality, my sexuality, my mentality, my corporeal, intellectual, emotional, imaginative self. And it is not just myself, every self and the Self of the world. There is no mirror I know that can show me all of these singularities, unless it is the strange, distorting looking glass of art, where I will not find my reflection nor my representation but a nearer proof than I prefer. Natura is the whole that I am. The multiple reality of my existence.

Jeanette Winterson, Art Objects

Why is it important to re-embody vision – and what does art have to do with it? An introduction to the enquiry

Vision is, many say, our most dominant sense. Our eyes move constantly, adapting, monitoring, locating us in relationship with the world. Through them we experience sunsets and gardens, disasters and conflicts - a single red poppy in the sun, the terrifying sight of a runaway truck on a crowded road.

Yet, in Western cultural tradition, vision is also suspect and denigrated. From Plato, through the Middle Ages, to the 20th century backlash against a so-called ocularcentric Western culture, debates on vision have figured large in our cultural landscape. Vision, as they say in marketing, has an image problem.