Notes on “Perspective”

7.Mar 2021


Art, Politics and Development: How Linear Perspective Shapes Policies in the Western World

  • C1 Perspective 
    • This first chapter is about the history and the making of that we now regard as Linear Perspective, most commonly used in the arts and architecture, but can surely be found everywhere as it is seen to be a tool to visually represent the three dimensional objects on a flat surface.

      Lippenies identifies that, builds the context of the realities of The Middle Ages:

“The Renaissance was the most medical thing the Middle ages invented. The same can be said ” 10 

During the Middle Ages “The artist did not strive for “scientific naturalism” but perceived art as “the expression of spiritual power”” 11

  • Lippenies breaks down the history of the linear perspective first by revealing the ethnology of the word “perspective”:

“The term perspective was in use even before the invention of linear perspective. But in its original sense, the term described solely the theory of vision…Until the sixteenth century, both meanings of the term coexisted, perspectiva naturalis  being reserved for optics and pespectiva artificialis for the artistic method. Incidentally, the Latin term perspicere, from with the word perspective is derived, has two different meanings. One is “ to see clearly”; the other is “to see through ”11 

  • The accelerated adoption of linear perspective as the definitive and most “neutral” way of presenting information, has ties with a tumultuous period for the Christian belief system: 
    • “Brunelleschi’s invention came in a time of deep religious insecurity in late medieval Europe…Linear perspective therefore served as a novel visual tool to present the Christian message more convincingly.”17
    • “perspective grew out of a “longing of medical Christians to feel that God and his holy works be more palpably present and immediately concerned with the problems of their daily lives, assuaging their feelings of spiritual emptiness caused by the loss of Jerusalem” it was “a very medieval solution to a medieval problem””17
  • Lippenies asserts that the works of mathematician Alahazen, who is known to be the “father of modern optics”, has been misconstrued. Leading to a distorted understanding of his theories of optics and perspective: 
    • “For Alhazen, images were constructed in the imagination of the spectator in the brain behind the eye. They were not an issue of optics but of psychology and could not be measured or visualised. Yet when the writings of Alhazen were translated and interpreted by Western scholars, the terminology that was used to describe his ideas was invariably that of images. This led to a significant reinterpretation in which Alhazen’s theory of optics was suddenly combined with the question of image formation” 13
  • “This idea of the painting being a window explains why the Latin term perfidere in its sense as looking through  was later adopted to designate this new pictorial method and why the older meaning of perspective was gradually lost.” 
  • Art historian Michael Ann Holly’s take on perspective: 
    • “the system of perspective is not just a form of representation, a representational device, but is rather a representational device that possess a thematic content, It is part, or a symptom, or a cause, of a particular visual culture. It affects other cultural products as much as it is affected by them…Perspective exemplifies not just the physics of the eye, but the metaphysics of Renaissance culture, for it is an expression of the desire to order the world in a certain way: to make incoherences coherent, to objectify subjective points of view, to turn the flickering world of visual experience into a richly fixated construct” – 29
  • “perspective attempted to uncover the “underlying geometry in nature”. Consequently, the whole picture world succumbed to mathematical laws. Space not only became a “systematic space”. It became completely measurable, adding to the illusion that what perspective depicted was objective reality . Perspective not only elevated “art to science” (and for the Renaissance that was an elevation): the subjective visual impression was indeed so far rationalised that a very impression could itself become the foundation for a solidly grounded, and yet, in an entirely modern sense, ‘infinite’ experiential world…The result was a translation of psycho-physiological space into mathematical space; in other words and objectification of the subjective.” 33 
  • “To travel toward the horizon, to explore nature and other continents, is full of uncertainty, simply because we do not yet know what is behind it. This uncertainty and superstitious fears kept the people of the Middle Ages from developing similar “appropriative” stance toward the world. Although what lay behind the horizon in the year 1500 was still just as uncertain, the mathematical structure of the picture up to the horizon and the clearness and rectilinearity of the perspective construction supported the anticipation that the world behind the horizon would probably continue to be guided by the same ordering principles of the visible world depicted in the picture and that no mystical fear could stop humankind from exploring” 43 

The Atlas of Cartography 

poem from Jai Sen 

Maps are pictures 

Maps are self-portraits 

Maps are manifestations of perceptions 

Maps are portraits of the world in the manner 

in which those preparing them would 

like the world to be understood 

Maps are subjective 

Mapping is…an act of power 13


To See without being seen: contemporary art and drone warfare 

  • “The contemporary art drones are not just used as tools to create aerial views and // hard-to-reach sites; art plays a critical role in reflecting on ethical and political concerns arising out of drone warfare.” 11
  • “they(*drones) makes it possible for countries such as the United States, United Kingdom and Israel to strike potential targets without having to tae responsibility for violating another state’s sovereignty or having to account for extrajudicial killings that have caused a significant number of civilian casualties already. Investigative journalist, political activists, and artists aim to counter this secrecy, and one of their preferred means to do so is to make visible- to give form to- what has been hidden from the public eye ”11-12
  • “Bridle’s  Drone Shadows and DeLappe’s In Drones We Trust address the drone both as an object and as an image. Their concern is the absence of drone warfare Western discourse, which they counter by smuggling the image of the drone as an object into everyday encounters and circulates. Hence their approach in-audes a strong impetus of making visible as a political counterstrategy. A similar notion can be found in Trevor Paglen’s photographs of drones in the American // and of secret US military installations. Yet Paglen’s works focus as much on making visible as on making invisible, thus scrutinising vision and perception in a /f-reflexive way. For his series Untitled (Drones) (2010-ongoing), for example, choreographed Predator and Reaper drones in the sky over the Nevada and other places” 14  
  • “Because the image’s object is opaque and withdrawn, we have to fill in the gap and imagine what could be there. In that sense there is potential in these images to function as an aesthetic level of manifest violence but also on the level of a mental threat of what could happen next” 15 
  • “Being above the enemy topographically changes the way the enemy is seen. Given the asymmetry of the means of destruction, the superior is led to a completely different take on the inferior. In The Nomos of the Earth, Carl Schimitt has formulated a fascinating hypothesis: “The victors consider their superiority in weaponry to be indication of their just a cause, and declare the enemy to be criminal, because it no longer is possible to realise the concept of justus hostis” Byung-Chul Han 18 
  • “Our traditional sense of orientation- and, with it, modern concepts of time and space- are based on a stable line: the horizon line. Its stability hinges on the stability of an observer, who is thought to be located on a ground of sorts…a ground that can be imagined as stable, even if in fact it is not.” 72 
  • “The stable horizon mostly remained a projection, until artificial horizons were eventually invented in order to create the illusion of stability.”72 
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