Land of Silence and Darkness
This research investigates visual perception and the use of a camera as a research tool to observe amateur experts and technicians who have a vernacular knowledge related to the natural world, or to pedagogical institutions. In this case the research took place at the Department of Physiology and Anatomy and Genetics (DPAG) and Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art at Oxford University through a Wellcome Trust Fellowship. Experimenting with the moment of drawing, creating rules and structures to explore the balance between instinct and intellect, I have developed a technique of blind drawing from movies to capture the time, light and formal qualities of a movie. Working within DPAG generated questions about perception, and how the ‘physiology and anatomy’ of a film might be defined and captured in drawing and through the film. Focussing initially on movies connected to audio-visual perception, primarily Werner Herzog’s documentary Land of Silence and Darkness about a deaf and blind woman communicating through touch the work extended to live drawings and filming in the labs. As a parallel method of observing and recording through drawing, I also negotiated permission to shoot a 16mm film in the highly protected environment of the Anatomy Lab. Demonstration 50.15 follows the repetitive daily activities of the mortuary technician as he embalms and prepares bodies for medical students. The work reveals his quiet dignity and diligence within an environment more often recognised for scientific breakthroughs or ethical controversies. Further dialogue and lab visits with a perceptual neuroscientist, geneticists, anatomists and technicians at DPAG and a wider community of artists, art historians and writers at Oxford University, including an expert on Diderots’ Letter on the Blind for the Use of Those who can See extended my exploration. The challenges and experiences of working alongside scientists made us all question the validity of our research our understanding of the context and language through which art and science are assessed. Much of this research was shared in Land of Silence and Darkness - four days of talk and action connecting movies, blindness, drawing, perception, and neuroscience in venues across Oxford. The resulting Blind Movies is a book of “blind movie and live carbon drawings’ 2006 -2009 with an essay by film writer Silke Panse. The book and film have shown widely in UK and abroad and are distributed through LUX.
Citation : Lucas, A. (2009) Land of Silence and Darkness
ISBN : 9780953852574
Research Institute : Institute of Art and Design
- School of Arts