Blindness of Seeing. On the Origin of the Images

  • Agostino De RosaEmail author
Conference paper
Part of the Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing book series (AISC, volume 809)


The purpose of this essay is to investigate on what process of vicarization the image makers (and with them philosophers, anthropologists, etc., and not only artists) subjected the traditional beholder, focusing their attention on those images that can be parastically generated by projective or natural mechanical processes. Particular attention will be given to those works that put their viewer into optical difficulties, subjecting them to retinal stress and relegating them to a situation of minus habens. This process, as we will see, will not only affect vision, but all the senses, delineating almost a pervading action of visual denigration that triggers a sinesthetic perception, with the odd purpose of accentuating the perceptual capabilities of the subject itself. An apparent contradiction, however, resolves itself in a revelation: it makes us blind, for we can see better what surrounds us.


Representation Blindness Vision 


  1. 1.
    Cfr. Platone: La Repubblica. In: Vegetti, M. (ed.) Bur Rizzoli, Milano (2007). On the subject of Plato’s cave, see also: Badiou, A.: La Repubblica di Platone. Ponte alle Grazie, Florence (2013); Herman, A.: The Cave and the Light Plato Versus Aristotle, and the Struggle for the Soul of Western Civilization. Ther Random House, New York (2013); Collobert, C., Destrée, P., Gonzalez, F. J.: Plato and Myth: Studies on the Use and Status of Platonic Myths. Brill, Leiden (2012); Vegetti, M.: Guida alla lettura della Repubblica di Platone. Laterza, Bari (1999). An interesting treatment of the theme of Plato’s cave in relation to contemporary art has developed in the doctoral thesis by Giammarioli, M.; Il mito della caverna platonica nell’arte del Novecento. Sapienza Università di Roma, AA. 2007/2008 (supervisor: prof. A. Sbrilli; co-supervisor: C. Marrone)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    The alternative line in the Euclidean optics was represented, apart from the Arab philosopher Alhazen, by Roger Bacon, John Peckham and Witelo, authors known to L.B. Alberti. Cfr. Wheelock, Jr., A.K.: Perspective, Optics, and Delft Artists around 1650, p. 5 et seq. Garland Publishing, New York, London (1977). See especially Alpers, S.: Arte del descrivere. Scienza e Pittura nel Seicento Olandese. Bollati Boringhieri, Torino (1999)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    In the same year of Ad Vitellionem parilipomena’s publication, Kepler also identified the elliptical configuration of Mars’ orbit, locating in one of its fires the position of the SunGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Cfr. De Rosa, A., D’Acunto, G.: La vertigine dello sguardo. Tre saggi sulla rappresentazione anamorfica, p. 103 et seq. Cafoscarina, Venezia (2002)Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Keplero, J.: Ad Vitellionem parilipomena…, cit., p. 153. See also Mallet, A.: Keplerian illusions: geometrical pictures vs optical images. Stud. Hist. Philos. Sci. 21 (1) (1990). From a physiological point of view, it should be noted that the retinal image is not actually an image of the external world, but rather a distribution of colored points that excites the mosaic of cones and rods present on the surface of the retina itself. See on this Gibson, J.J.: The perception of the visual world, Boston (1950); Id., Pictures, perspective, and perception. In: Daedalus, LXXXIX, 1960Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Alpers, S.: Arte del descrivere, quoted above, p. 55Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    The configuration of the retinal surface is connected by Kepler to the width of the visual cone, which the author erroneously estimates is slightly higher than 180°. See Wheelock, Jr., A.K.: Perspective, Optics, and Delft Artists Around 1650, quoted above, p. 51Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    See Heidegger, M.: L’essenza della verità. In: Volpi, F., Mörchen, H. (eds.) Adelphi, Milan (1997)Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    See also: McMahon, J.A.: An explanation for normal and anomalous drawing ability and some implications for research on perception and imagery. Visual Arts Res (University of Illinois) 28:1 (55), 38–52 (2002); Sacks, O.: Un antropologo su Marte: Sette racconti paradossali. Adelphi, Milan (1995)Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    See Gatton, M., Carreon, L.: Projecting projection: a statistical analysis of cast-light images. In: Feliks, J. (ed.) Pleistocene Coalition News, vol. 4, issue 4 (July–Aug 2012); Gatton, M., Carreon, L.: Probability and the origin of art: simulations of the paleo-camera theory. APLIMAT J. Appl. Math 4 (2011); Gatton, M.: The camera and the cave: understanding the style of Paleolithic art. In: Feliks, J. (ed.) Pleistocene Coalition News, vol. 2, issue 5 (Sept–Oct 2010); Gatton, M.: Paleo-camera, phase II: projected images in art and ritual (or why European upper paleolithic art looks the way it does). In: Feliks, J. (ed.) Pleistocene Coalition News, vol. 2, issue 4 (July–Aug 2010); Gatton, M.: Paleo-camera and the concept of representation. In: Feliks, J. (ed.) Pleistocene Coalition News, vol. 2, issue 3 (May–June 2010)Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    See Morell, A.; The Universe Next Door. The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago (2013); Morell, A.: Camera Obscura. Bulfinch Press, New York (2004)Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    See Accessed 9 July 2016
  13. 13.
    See Leonard, Z.: Available Light. Dancing Foxes Press, London, UK and Brooklyn, USA (2014)Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    First Edition: The Island of the Colorblind. A. A. Knopf, New York (1997)Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    According to the Associazione Acromati Italiani, one in 33,000 suffer from this rare hereditary disease. In Italy, considering that they suffer little more than 1700 people (out of almost 58 million inhabitants), the incidence is of 0.003%. See Accessed 14 Apr 2018
  16. 16.
    Total Visual FieldGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    See Serres, M.: Origini della geometria. Feltrinelli, Milano (1970)Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Merleau-Ponty, M.: L’occhio e lo spirito, p. 29. SE, Milano (1989)Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Descartes, R.: Dioptrique, Leiden (1637), now in Œuvres de Descartes, 12 vols., Adam, Ch., Tannery, P. (eds.). Vrin, Paris (1897–1913), vol. 6Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Focault, M.: Storia della follia nell’età classica, p. 285 et seq. BUR, Milano, (2004). On this subject, see also: Judovitz, D.: Vision, representation, and technology in Descartes. In: Levin, D.M. (a cura di) Modernity and the Hegemony of Vision, p. 70 et seq. California University Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles and London (1993)Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Merleau-Ponty, M.: L’occhio e lo spirito, p. 33. SE, Milano (1989)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Università Iuav di Venezia, DCPVeniceItaly

Personalised recommendations