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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Seeing is Believing

What we observe is different than what we see. Because it's all about context. Walking down the street, for example, we notice someone's face. And we immediately recognize, yes, that face belongs to another person walking down the street. But within that moment of perceiving, we also often sense or create a context. People give off clues about themselves and we respond to those clues -- here's a business person, a student, an artist, a tourist, someone who's happy, sad, whatever. If we stop to think about how we respond to what we see, then there's a lot of additional information that kind of hangs around whatever it is that we are looking at. We only have to pay attention to how our thoughts are interpreting what we are observing.

A good example of what I'm talking about can be found in Jeff Scher's short animated video, "The Parade" Here's how Jeff describes his work in The Animated Life section of the New York Times website: We can’t help it. We are fascinated by faces and bodies alike. Every face tells a story, and the story is a mystery. The clues abound and we read them instinctively in the blink of an eye. Jeff is a painter and experimental filmmaker who sometimes uses his dreamy watercolors to animate his films. He teaches at the School of Visual Arts and at NYU Tisch School of the Arts

I like his work, it's playful, mysterious and insightful. And it reminds about how context operates like a shell around content. So you could say, seeing is believing. But the opposite is true too, believing is constantly shaping what we are seeing.

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