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Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Marie Wintzer: Sight


Marie Wintzer: image and text from The Six Senses According to Mila -- Part II: Sight: in Marie's Mail Box, 13 April 2013

aEtheR: photo by Marie Wintzer, 25 April 2013 

-- A colourless volatile highly flammable liquid with a characteristic sweetish odour
-- The element believed in ancient and medieval civilizations to fill all space above the sphere of the moon and to compose the stars and planets
-- An all-pervading, infinitely elastic, massless medium formerly postulated as the medium of propagation of electromagnetic waves
-- The regions of space beyond the earth's atmosphere; the heavens

blessing / fallen / I miss...: textured photo and poem by Marie Wintzer, 11 April 2010

The day you left
Will never come back again
And yet it does
Day after day
That day I knew
You would never come back again
But I wish you would
Day after day 


-- M. W.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden -- Japanese Garden (polaroid): photo by herman.seoane, 1 May 2013

Untitled (homemade pinhole camera, Polaroid type 669): photo by WorthingtonJ (Worth James Goddard), 1 May 2013

Untitled (polaroid spectra / expired impossible film): photo by hippy urban girl (Darlene Kreutzer), 1 May 2013


TC said...

The top image and poem here are lent us by their generous and gracious as well as multiply talented creator, Marie.

This is an enthralling series, in every sense.

Here is the original post.

The Six Senses According to Mila -- Part II -- Sight

Marie W said...

Tom! I am still trying to find words but all I can say sounds something like 'wow' (mouth open in disbelief). Which is really not appropriate on this fantastic blog. Thank you so much! I would never have imagined back then (walking the paths of that cemetery - one of my favourite places in Tokyo) that those shaky naive lines and photos would make their way to Beyond the Pale! It is such an honour. And I am thrilled you like Mila's six senses.
I am very fond of the Brooklyn Japanese Botanical Garden shot (the vermillion shrine gate in a sea of blurred pastel in particular) and of polaroids and analog photography in general. That last picture with expired film, hmmm, I had several expired films but I threw them all away. I now regret having done so. My Holga toy camera is calling me stupid right now. Look what you could have done, it says.
Thank you so much...

TC said...

Marie, the pleasure is all (or anyway huge) at this end. It's an inspiring poem... a bracing reminder that advanced poetics can actually be an instrument of acquiring knowledge, a kind of extra sense informed in the moment by all the others.

It reminds me that the brain has more tricks and sleights than an army of Ricky Jays.

Among the more curious of these (when one comes to think on it) is the trick of making us take for granted the quick assumption that the information gathered by one tiny spot no larger than one-fifth of a millimetre, at the center of the retina, can be magically multiplied into the more or less convincing picture of a whole visual field.

As the long day closes, I want to know more and more about the world -- realizing I am seeing less and less of it every day... and that what I do see is cloudy, cloudy.

So more than ever am I disposed to want to know about the fovea, a small pit that contains the largest concentration of cone cells in the eye and is responsible for central vision, and also contains the parafovea and perifovea.

And this helps.


Tom (and Marie),

Thanks for these beautiful sightings -- "I still have seeing to do" . . .


light coming into sky above black plane
of ridge, white half moon beside branch
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

“soon, I hope” consequently
response to a glimpse

of something, knows what is,
in the midst of which

silver of sun in clouds at top of ridge,
waning white moon by clouds above point

TC said...

Steve, thanks for bringing the morning news from our visual field, keen contrasts this time as the sun blazes up o'er yon hill and burns that soft waning white moon away...

Wooden Boy said...

The wet, lit up street behind the woman with the umbrella.

"never lies nor lies" - there's something to hang on to.

Marie W said...

You are so right. The way visual information is conveyed to the brain is fascinating. There is a lot of imagery going on there (of course, I hear you say, this is about sight). The use of relays, stations and maps, crossings, for instance. I now imagine those tiny particles of light trekking along entangled neurones with a roadmap in their hand, asking their neighbour 'is this the right direction?'

Marie W said...

Maybe you will like this video, if you have the patience to sit through it. D.H Hubel and T.Wiesel's pioneering work on the visual cortex in the 50's. It can also be seen as an audiovisual poem. They were recording from individual neurons in the cat's visual cortex, and mapping their unique visual fields, their borders, and the kind of stimuli they respond to. Amazing and very elegant work.

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

The BBC video memorable not only for the visuals but for what it says i.e. "We can't remember how clearly we could see things." That about says it all.

TC said...

With this poem, as with several of Marie's, the complexity and daring of the leaps had me lost at first... and then with each successive reading I found more of those "things to hang on to" (WB).

Well, Vassilis, me, I can't remember whether or not I ever saw anything clearly.

Marie, very helpful to have your gentle guidance down the cortical pathways, that's a fascinating ride for our unknowing lost little poet neurons and heaven knows they do need all the direction their kind friends generously provide. I see that the Hubel / Wiesel work has become a foundation of this science of cerebral mapping. I have been thinking about cerebral mapping, indeed perhaps more than can be considered healthy, since that night we talked about, the long night of the four CT scans. When there's all that laminal slicing going on, there's nowhere to run from the experience of being mapped. Perhaps it's this line of reflection, or merely an overactive sympathetic imagination, that's the source of certain misgivings concerning research on living sentient creatures. We haven't asked them how they feel about all this, I don't think. And it's as Wittgenstein said, If a lion could talk, we could not understand him. So I'm thrown into an odd state when I think about my brain, our brains, and the things that had to be done to other brains not ours, in order for us to know these things. Maybe there is a sort of tipping point with brain scans, one too many and you can never untangle your neurons again (if they weren't hopelessly tangled already). And in the lead-lined tube one hears that sort of electronic static soundtrack as well, as in the Hubel / Wiesel video (the most, dare I say painfully "realistic" part of the video, for me) -- though of course in the lead-lined tube it's the grey music of one's own brain, and not the brain of a waking monkey or a paralyzed anesthetized cat.

Marie W said...

There's nowhere to run from the experience of being mapped. That is so beautiful, Tom, and can only come from someone who had the experience of being mapped himself. When I posted the link to that video it didn't cross my mind for a second that the topic might be a little tricky to post on someone else's blog. Poking electrodes into cats brains, in a nutshell. Maybe in my daily world I got so used to it (I truly hope that this is not the case) that I am not thinking that some people my have a different feeling about it. It wasn't until a few hours after posting it that I thought oh, hmmmm, maybe the poetic side of this video is quite difficult to see after all, maybe this poem is a little too tough and rough and has offended someone. So I apologise if this has left even a hint of bad taste in one's mouth. It wasn't my intention in the slightest. Tom, you seem to see the music in everything, even in the most difficult of experiences. This is priceless.

TC said...

Marie the poem is neither rough nor tough but very taut and fine and the taste it has left lingers on and gets more savoury with each fresh experience -- which is for that matter true of all the pieces in this terrific series of yours. The "old-fashioned" typewriter format is perfect for the work, bringing the microscope back home to the cottage, as it were.

The issue of research on living animals is a bit of a sticky wicket for me in several respects, primarily having to do with the fact that the nervous systems of animals were evolved over a long time as ours were, and like ours were not evolved in order to serve as a test object (like, say, a robot) whose value is to mimic the behavior of other species (that is, specifically, ours). While accepting that the "higher end" of the most conscientious and dedicated researchers (and I am sure you are among them) is the prevention and amelioration of illness and pain in humans, it remains questionable for me whether the sum total of pain in the universe (counting in all the creatures, that is) is actually reduced by what goes on in the labs. Here there was a century-old grove of botanical "introductions" -- exotic tree species from all round the world -- that was sacrificed, some thirty years ago, so that a massive concrete pile could be built. There's a massive (and of course massively-funded) brain-imaging research facility there now... and six storeys underground, in hardened bunkers, the test animals, with their electrodes wired-in. It's a heartache, frankly, to go past the place. So there's that element -- the sympathetic imagination, a vestigial organ perhaps. My own experience of having my brain sliced and diced for no particular reason other than the fact that the technology exists and as an accident victim and thus helpless I was unable to protest, well, that did give rise to many questions. Not least the question of the enormous expense of these procedures and the sea of red tape and bills and administrative confusion that now surrounds this weary old person who was not in any way helped by the procedures, distrusts technology anyway, doesn't drive or own a mobile phone and no longer feels at home in this wold of ours (if indeed he ever really did, but that's another long story...).

Marie W said...

Tom, I am relieved we can talk openly about this, I was a bit worried about that video. I kept thinking about it all evening, worried it might have upset someone. It is a difficult topic. What is going on in certain labs cannot be regarded with indulgence. No matter how commendable the aim of the research is (curing disease etc..), there is no excuse for torturing living creatures. What I would like to think is that this is the exception rather than the rule. I know that guidelines for handling animals are now really strict in many countries and institutes and one tries to do make sure the levels of pain are minimal. I know that this might not be enough, I know it might sound laughable to say "ah, but they don't feel any pain, it's alright", and surely no animal has chosen to undergo surgery and to walk around with a microdrive implanted in its brain for the rest of its short life. At our level I know we are doing our best. It doesn't mean that it is right, of course. It might actually be really WRONG. Ah, if my mice knew I am thinking about poetry most of the day anyway... :-)) I went into science by mistake. What I actually wanted to do is to translate books. So most of the days there is this feeling of "just brace yourself". It doesn't come naturally and as my old supervisor used to say when I was working with monkey, this is NOT a routine experiment. It is not something one does mechanically. I think I am now deviating from the path because there is so much to say. Tom, I completely understand your feeling about all this, especially after all you have been through, and the long lasting consequences of it. Not being in control of what is being done to your body must be absolutely terrifying. And very unfair. I am now working on learning and memory, and these are probably the things one never forgets, in a lifetime. I hope your world treats you nice today.

TC said...


Yes, I think you were meant to be a poet, an artist, a translator, a creator of beauty!

One's own life experience of course affects one's thinking about many things, not least matters of life and death and pain and suffering. We here have experienced our share of the latter, and too, for quite a long time now, and increasingly as we grow old and lame and are perforce left behind by the busy kind of existence that people have now, there is the understanding that many of the closest relationships we have enjoyed over the years have been relationships with stray and abandoned animals we have befriended -- or maybe better to say, who have befriended us. It's been our good fortune to be their friends. Perhaps it's not too much to speak of these relationships as elective affinities. In any case, at the end of the day, we have come to regard animals as not only sentient but sensitive beings, with desires and needs of their own, and also specific affections and personalities of their own. They bring us joy, and when they suffer, we suffer along with them. So information about animals being made into test subjects is not taken lightly. We would wish to ask questions concerning the how, and the why, and the by whom, and the to what end?

The language of science, it does at times seem to me, has a way of more or less (and too often, less!) delicately evading the palpable facts of life as felt and experienced by people in common. This sometimes causes people in common to distrust science, and scientists, in their turn (and you would be the happy exception here, dear Marie), to dismiss or patronise "laymen" (!!). In the hinterland between scientists and people in common there have been those who have deployed language in its full powers of artistic articulation in the attempt to grasp the meanings science would avoid or suppress as mere human emotionalism -- forgetting that human emotions, too, have undeniably a physical source. One such text I've found compelling is a tale by the Italian writer Curzio Malaparte about a greyhound. The dog had been the narrator's loyal companion, but they are separated by aggravated circumstances of history; and when, after a long quest, the narrator manages to find his lost dog, he discovers that it has been captured and rendered over to become a subject in medical experiments. He finds it bound and restrained in a lab, its vocal cords cut to suppress its cries of pain, its brain stripped open and implanted with electrodes. The tale is a "fiction", of course, and as such consists perhaps in large part of invention; but there is the unmistakable sense, in the tale, that it has been informed by the observation of reality. Malaparte had been a war correspondent in Eastern Europe, and in that role had witnessed many atrocities. One feels that some of the witnessing of history has spilt over into this "fictional" witnessing, and that in this respect it is a kind of parable. I find the tale compelling, and worked for a long while on posting it, but in the end found that the narration of the laboratory torture was simply too painful to present: merely reading the account felt like a compounding of the transgression against nature. Unbearable, really. So I dodged the issue and settled for posting only the part of the tale that established the bond of loyalty between man and animal. Here, maybe, was a case of human emotions, those sticky things, blurring the issue?

Curzio Malaparte: An Aeolian Greyhound

TC said...

And by the by -- in studying the Hubel / Wesel work on cortical pathways and human perception, I learned that their groundbreaking studies involved cats, and that, to do these studies, they (well, their assistants I suppose) stitched-together one eye of kittens at birth. And then I found photos of these "altered" cats. The photos caused grave misgivings about the "ends" that supposedly justified these "means". Where does scientific objectivity end, and cruelty begin?

A longtime poet friend, the later Robert Creeley, suffered the loss of an eye in childhood, and this trauma had a deep and long-lasting effect. In a book we did together about his life, he talked about that traumatic childhood event. Later on, a mutual friend, the artist Jim Dine, pointed to that early deprivation as decisive in Creeley's later life: ".. his sense of psychic loss clung to him like a halo".

Creeley's and Dine's remarks on this subject can be found beneath the second photo here.

Of course the Hubel / Wiesel monocularized cats did not survive long enough to experience psychic trauma -- and indeed, for that matter what do we really know of the psychic lives of other animals?

"Every particle of factual evidence supports the contention that the higher mammalian vertebrates experience pain sensations at least as acute as our own. To say that they feel less because they are lower animals is an absurdity; it can easily be shown that many of their senses are far more acute that ours -- visual acuity in certain birds, hearing in most wild animals, and touch in others; these animals depend more than we do today on the sharpest possible awareness of a hostile environment. Apart from the complexity of the cerebral cortex (which does not directly perceive pain) their nervous systems are almost identical to ours and their reactions to pain remarkably similar, though lacking (so far as we know) the philosophical and moral overtones. The emotional element is all too evident, mainly in the form of fear and anger."

-- Richard Sarjeant, The Spectrum of Pain (1969)

Marie W said...

Tom, this has again been haunting my day. In a good way, I mean. I wish we could sit around a table and chat about it. The emotional attachment, the pain of any "detachment", physical or not. And I see you have posted a great Jim Dine blog about pain. I have to read that now now now....

Marie W said...

Just in front of me now are about ten small tropical fish in a small fish tank. This is a silly thing to say, but they are a bit like friends to me. Each of them has its own "character", I get distressed and sad when one of them slowly gets sick and dies. And they are just tiny fishes.
OK, back to Jim Dine....

TC said...

I can sympathize, Marie.

I hope (!) I'm not only older but perhaps even a bit wiser now... but in my urban childhood environment there were very few animals, and certainly even fewer pets... until those goldfish, which were kept in a bowl atop the vintage-model refrigerator (the kind with the heating coils on top, sort of a bouffant-hairdo effect), and which, in my boyish detachment, I forgot to feed, and which then appeared floating one morning on the surface of their bowl... and then that pet turtle, with the American flag painted on its back (!! -- the horror!), which I also failed to feed, and which...

And by that time the war and its patriotic pet gifts were already fading into the memory-storage unit. Perhaps a mercy, when one comes to think of it.

In any case, starving one's wee pets to death out of neglect is I think a shameful form of detachment (said he, in chastened retrospect).

In fact it must be confessed I am a bit of a latterday arriviste in the Kindness to Animals department.