11 – 29 APRIL 2005
Some of the earliest theories of vision proposed by ancient Greek philosophers struggled with the question of how contact might be made between that which is seen (the object), and that which sees (the eye). While certain theories suggested a process whereby particles literally emanated from objects into the eye to form an image, the reconstructed object itself as it were, others posited a theory of extromission, wherein the eye itself cast a kind of viscous net of fire and air which would retrieve a residue from the object being observed. What these theories shared was a conception of vision characterised by the collision of matter, vision as "a species of touch"1.
Ben's works seem to anticipate the retrospective primitivism of such theories towards a poetics of corpuscular vision that is somehow never sated. Vision is suggested as the eye's phantom limb, or the compulsive effluence of a beached mollusc clumsily groping in the dark. In certain tableaux visions cut loose from their moorings, glibly pursuing an uncertain trajectory, perhaps with evil intent; ghosts in search of a body once more … perhaps something to eat. Elsewhere visions blindly collide, sag, and bend, becoming deflated… tired.
While vision conceived as a tactile experience entails a degree of equivalence between the observer and the object, in these works Ben seems to explore the ostensible impossibility of ever attaining such affiliation. The eyeballs in this space at times gaze back at us unerringly (a pun?). Often these tableaux pursue their own hermetic logic; the eyes seem to reveal themselves as the desire to extend, to see beyond their own limit, expel their own insides. Vision is rendered fluid yet brittle, in a series of intense and almost melancholy encounters where doubts might be confirmed, become certainties, even …
George Huon, 2005
1. Lindberg, David C., Theories of Vision From Al-Kindi to Kepler, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1976, p.6.
Benjamin Armstrong thanks Marion & Peter Armstrong, May Armstrong, John Carrick, Marcus Dillon, Peter Fay, George Huon, Moya McKenna, James Mollison, Philip Stokes, Crystal Stubbs, Peter Westwood and Louiseann Zahra.