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Three Dimensions from Two

“Van Eyck (early 15th century) understood that realism [in painting] doesn’t require verisimilitude but only just enough visual cues to exploit the mind’s credulity.” ~ Peter Schjedahl, New Yorker mag 11/10   Perhaps realism, in a two-dimensional surface, is better served by visual cuing than for instance by the plethora of detail in a photograph, since cuing ‘suggests’. A cue makes room for consciousness to add associated non-visual information making the flat surface spring into three dimensionality. I look a Van Eyck’s painting and feel the temperature of the scene, and almost smell what it depicts. My being wants the total sensorial array and, if given a cue, will rescue bits of experience from memory, cobble these together, and so I may enter my own pastiche.

I often wonder, then, what a viewer adds to seeing three dimensional movement, and this brings me to the doorstep of Witness Dances — being watched and watching. I witness someone move and much of my effort goes to seeing what she is  doing. But in recent times this has felt entirely forced, not so much a practice of visual focus and undivided attention but rather a blinder to ‘what is’. In my new phase I turn toward finding my breath as I watch others and let my attennae go to work gathering impressions. My mind spreads open, clears, the way a rumpled patch of water settles, and finally I see what I am looking at. But how can I know if it is reality? It is at the very least my reality. My view. I realize, for me, being seen in Witness Dancing is no issue. I am entirely comfortable in the role. All my growth has been during the aspect of witnessing. I had no idea when I began this practice, that this aspect would require such a long unfolding and challenge so much of what I understand in myself.

New Yorker Article

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