Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Object Glances

It's book review time. I'd like to recommend a book by James Elkins entitled The Object Stares Back. It's a treatise on perception and such like stuff. If you're thinking "Aha! A scientific analysis of vision," I can only say, "Think again buddy." Elkins is an art historian, and his viewpoint is part artist, part mystical wise man, and (possibly) part nut case (but very persuasive nut case).
The reason I am recommending it is that much of what he says has a strangely compelling quality to it. I feel as if I'm at a party and being hypnotized against my will. Some of what he says is spot on (this is mostly when he is speaking against the received wisdom of the artistic community), some is tenuous, and some is out near Pluto.
He notes for instance, that there some things we just can't look at. The sun and death are two of them. And to prove it, he has pictures of a woman being put to death. He also has some other fairly grotesque photos he uses as he makes his points, so if you're easily grossed out, you might want to pass by those.
Since this is one of those books whose viewpoint is both magnetic and strange, it tends to shake up our perception of perception, and for that reason alone you ought to read it.

1 comment:

bekkieann said...

Now I'm trying to think what my perception of perception is. Intriguing. One more added to my list.