Sensing space: An exploration of the generation of depth and space with reference to hybrid moving image works and reported accounts of intense aesthetic experience

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Sally McLaughlin


This article draws on three hybrid moving image works—David Wilson’s Moray McLaren—We Got Time, Christoph Niemann’s bike, and Richard Linklater’s Waking Life—to explore phenomenologist David Morris’s theory that the perception of space arises from bodily processes that generate inner envelopes of depth and outer envelopes of space. A characteristic of these hybrid moving image works is that they set up spatial dynamics that interrupt dominant modes of spatial perception, allowing aspects of spatial perception that
we might not otherwise notice to come to the fore.

The analysis demonstrates that the perceiver must hollow out envelopes of space around things for these things to show up as dimensional things that occupy their own space. The analysis demonstrates that a breakdown in the capacity to hollow out outer envelopes of space around things reveals the operation of inner envelopes of ambiguous depth where things flatten out or become diffuse, and can be subject to dramatic changes in scale and position. The analysis also demonstrates that the perceiver’s sense of their own location in space can be disrupted by a breakdown in the ability to hollow out outer envelopes of space around things.

The article extends the discussion of the power of artworks to interrupt and reveal the dynamics of spatial perception through an examination of spatial aspects of reported accounts of intense aesthetic experience. These accounts include experiences of feeling unusually close to an artwork, or conversely, of feeling unusually distant from the work. I argue that these unusual spatial experiences can be explained as situations where ambiguous, plastic inner envelopes of depth have come to dominate perception.

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How to Cite
McLaughlin, Sally. 2020. “Sensing Space: An Exploration of the Generation of Depth and Space With Reference to Hybrid Moving Image Works and Reported Accounts of Intense Aesthetic Experience”. idea journal 17 (02):201-14.
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