In the context of an ongoing research programme the art cooperative Radical Reversibility organises in collaboration with Looiersgracht 60, the exhibition and symposium Seeing without a Seer. The programme explores alternative ways of looking, thinking and image-making that evade the central position of the viewer. Seeing without a Seer is set up as a cooperative, imaginative and speculative exercise to grasp what is at stake in the act of seeing. In this (post)digital era new imaging technologies call the very concept of ‘being human’ into question. In which ways will ‘machine vision’ influence our worldview? What is ‘seeing’ and where is it located? Can we imagine how nonhumans like plants, stones or bacteria ‘see’ their surroundings? Since the Renaissance, human visual perception has been transformed into an allencompassing mathematical structure based on the laws of optics and Euclidean geometry. The development of linear perspective established a clear distinction between viewer and viewed, each situated on opposite sides of the ‘picture plane’. This seemingly objective system of representation also constituted the technological origin of lens-based devices such as photography and film cameras.
As an alternative to this model of representation, the exhibition embraces the concept of ‘seeing without a seer’ developed by the Japanese philosopher Kitaro Nishida (1870-1945). “This idea describes a ‘place of nothingness’ which envelops not only the object seen, but also the seeing action and that in which both are established. ‘Seeing’ is not a subject’s act defined in opposition to an object, but is an event prior to the distinction between the two.” * Seeing without a Seer presents artistic strategies that playfully challenge visual representation in our post-digital era. Delving into the barely visible and the microscopic the participating artists introduce alternative concepts of seeing: polyperspectives, machine vision, a self-seeing world, or vision attributed to nonhuman agents. They attempt to reverse the construct of anthropocentric vision, aiming at a radical expansion, if not the full reformation, of our habitual ways of seeing.