Setting Our Sights

Well folks, this is it! We recently held our final instillation on sight, thus ending our series. For the last outing, we asked participants to create a sketch of an image based on how it is described to them. We took turns describing a handful of simple pictures, including a tree, a library, and a ship at sea. Ultimately participants of this classic experiment engage in sight, but not necessarily in the conventional way. Rather than looking at the image directly, there was an intersubjective creation of the image, which still incorporated sight in various ways.

Some of the resulting pictures were surprisingly close to the originals, others not as much! It is not easy to be either the person describing the picture or the one drawing it. The ship at sea was by far the most elaborate drawing—yet we noticed that the ability of the participant to accurately depict what the other described was not about degree of difficulty or artistic ability, but rather how well the speaker could depict the image to the drawer.

After a few trial and errors, one participant described the ship as looking like a “dragon’s mouth,” a cue that helped the drawer better understand how to align her picture with the original image. None of the pictures looked exactly like the original. Yet in every case, the resultant drawing depicted the same subject or scene, even though the drawer had never laid eyes on it.

After drawing, our participants were kind enough to answer some final questions about the senses. When asked to rank each sense in order from most important to least, every person took a moment to think about, perhaps for the first time, how society has created hierarchies of the senses. Why would we rank the senses, and what does it mean that they are ranked in whichever way? We even asked participants whether it is necessary, helpful, or easy to “rank” them.

“In order to rank that [the senses] and to place value [on them] I think is kind of… *pauses* … I can only speak for me personally.”

With regards to the difficulty of ranking them, one participant was quick to answer, while the next struggled to do the same. It was also exciting to be told that touch was at the top of someone’s ranking. We saw this as a departure from prevalent hierarchies of the senses that have displaced bodies, and even certain bodies.

“It’s such a personal experience to get in touch with your body and the different ways that it works or might not work and the trauma associated with that for certain people…”

We hope that everyone who has participated in our installations, and even those of you reading this blog, have enjoyed the journey. Working on this project has truly touched our hearts. We’d like to thank you all for picking up the scent and supporting us throughout the year.

See you around,

Cecilia, Grace, Jessie, Magda, Marla, and Nicole