Matters of Perspective

Regard this image. Lay your eye at the top of the it, and flow downwards. Un-tense your mind as you do this and allow your brain to perceive whatever the eye tells it to. When you reach the bottom, decide: Are you to the left of the ‘object’, or to the right?

Nice one! You have just performed binary computation, using a visual coding language. The direction that your eye perceives the final node as facing in determines whether it is in a ‘1’ state or ‘0’ state (0 is to the right, 1 to the left).

Developed by Mark Changizi, Escher Circuits (this one is an XOR gate) are an attempt to capitalise on the computational powers of the visual cortex, which far outstrip those achievable by the conscious cognitive labours of the typical mind. Would it be possible, he wondered, for a human to run binary operations by leveraging this highly optimised neural tool?

Let’s be honest, it’s a bit of a faff.

But it is intriguing as a concept. The idea of running software through your eyeballs is undeniably pretty funky. This coding language has fun with the definition of what a computer is, what code is, and pleasingly blurs the boundaries between science and art – which in my mind is what all science and all art should aspire to do, where possible. It also raises a point that has been of particular interest to me since starting this course: what does a ‘creative’ look like?

Many people, both amongst my cohort and the school faculty and the wider industry at large – indeed, broadly across society – are subject to the paradigm of a hemispheric dialectic. There are ‘Left Brained People’ and ‘Right Brained People.’ One group excels in creativity and the other excels in, well, ‘being smart’, to hear it from most.

“I’m awful at maths.”

“I can’t do any of that ideas stuff.”

“Has anyone seen my sandwich?”

I would tender that such statements are so much hokum. For one thing, you should know better than to leave a BLT unguarded at lunchtime. But more seriously, I believe that preserving the mindset that some people can just do certain things and others just can’t is unhelpful and simply false. On a purely biological level it would be gaspingly inefficient for us to only be using half our brains all the time; that’s a lot of needless weight and a massive glucose drain just to have some padding to round out our skulls. Moreover, it’s clear that any mental labour of proper value necessarily must draw on functions from across both logical and free-thinking nodes.

My point is, putting yourself into a left- brained box as a creative means that you are cutting yourself off from a huge range of ideas and opportunities. Mark Changizi probably looks from the outside like a right-brained person according to the stereotypes, yet his Escher Circuits are  extraordinarily creative and novel. Many people who view themselves as creatives have a fear or scepticism about the use of the scientific method or of incorporating logical schema into their ideation processes. I concede that I am just a humble student with a yawning chasm between what I have so far achieved and grounds for credibility, so I may be off the mark here, but I reckon that mindset is a hindrance in the long run. So don’t just visit art galleries, study some calculus. Watch a play about the six wives of Henry VIII, then watch a lecture on fluid dynamics. Eat at a concept restaurant, then research aeroponic farming methods.

It’s all interesting, and it’s all useful, and you can do all of it. It just depends on how you look at it.


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