Sussex Downs: a photographer's gaze
“The tract of country in view may have no obvious structure, but its form is not therefore a matter of chance. In point of fact, every landscape is a highly developed mechanical system, the forms and curves of which are obedient to strict mathematical laws. The buttresses of the hills, the levels at their feet, the corrugations of the valleys—all these have, with the passage of time, assumed forms perfectly adapted to their internal structure and materials. The rambler is not in the least concerned with the mathematics of physical processes, but he is with their results, and every detail he observes yields up its story to him. For him, 'the hills, rock-ribbed, and ancient as the sun,' are no haphazard heaps of stone and earth, but the very framework of scenery.Their individual forms give life and meaning to the landscape as a whole, and it is in the landscape as a whole that it is the ramblers art to perceive”.

Walter Shepherd ‘The Living Landscape of Britain’.

The big question facing people dominated by a material world is whether there is a philosophical compatibility between religion and science in making an holistic knowledge system which links culture with ecology. Or, does the empirical method of science contradict the revelatory nature of faith? Are the gaps between them so great that the two institutions must be considered essentially antagonistic?

Nature lives in our surroundings, in ourselves and in the molecular connections and spiritual links we imagine between the two. How people manipulate, write about, and picture their surroundings gives valuable insights into the intimate relationships people have with the environment, where the gaze complex is part of human cultural ecology which links the spiritual with the material, The link is expressed in landscape and figurative art.

On inauguration day 2009, President Obama announced the goal of "restoring science to its rightful place" while, in the same speech, acknowledging that nonbelievers are citizens of the nation in the same way as followers of religion. Thus the debate has already begun as regards the formation of different selfhoods required for the New America.

Is "belief in belief" a good thing? Is there merit in Stephen Jay Gould's assertion that religion and science form a "non-overlapping magisteria" (NOMA) which address two independent ways of arriving at truth? Isn't it now time for a discussion about whether science and belief are indeed compatible? The debate is best organised within our perceptions and understanding of nature.This means it has to be within the personalised spaces of the urbanised world we distinguish from all others and describe as 'landscape', whether such spaces are gardens, parks, nature sites or wilderness.

Taoists in the landscape

The Taoists wrote about unobstructed rivers and streams as a model for harmonious living.The development of the typical Chinese garden with its full yin-yang symbolism was essentially Taoist in origin. The Han Emperors had earlier created vast artificial landscapes or parks with mountains, ravines, forests, rivers, lakes and open spaces to provide a habitat for hordes of game for hunting.

During the time of the Six Dynasties and the T'ang, Taoists developed the quiet intimacy of the small-scale garden, intended to reflect heaven on earth. It became a symbol of Paradise where all life was protected and sheltered. The Imperial parks had been given over to the grandiose, the artificial, extravagant and luxurious, to the hunter and aggressor; the Taoist gardens were created as places of naturalness and simplicity.They were havens for the sage, scholar and rambling nature lover. In a well-designed Taoist garden it should be difficult to distinguish between the work of man and Nature and pass smoothly from nature to man's Inner Universe of the Human's Body.The Inner Universe shows Taoist practitioners in a very abstract way, all of the necessary points in the human's "inner" body, and the roles these areas play in the practice of Taoist Internal Alchemy. The Inner Universe is seen by the Taoist Adept as one of mountains, rivers, streams, lakes, pools, trees, sun, moon and stars -- a complete microcosm of the vast outer macrocosm we call our Universe. Taoists follow the art of "wu wei", which is to achieve action through minimal action.It is the metaphorical practice of going against the stream not by struggling against it and thrashing about, but by standing still and letting the stream do all the work. Thus the sage knows that relative to the river, he still moves against the current. To the outside world the sage appears to take no action - but in fact he takes action long before others ever foresee the need for action.The European Romantics, many centuries later, found in the idea of nature as wilderness an important corrective to the distorted values that had infiltrated society through the application of science for a better life. Sitting still and staying quiet in a wilderness can be a hard test. But the Taoist saying, “I have nothing to do and no place to go,” may be applied. When you sit quietly for extended periods of time you begin noticing things. Birds swoop in, fluttering from bush to bush looking for the scarce berry or two. Squirrels move cautiously from branch to branch betrayed only by the twitching of their tails. And if you’re lucky a deer will suddenly appear from nowhere. These are sights, sounds, odours and natural movements that have their place in the turbulence of nature.Like the Taoist thinker standing against the stream.you can stand and let nature do the work.

Gardening to selfhood

Even the least soulful among us is likely to find in nature an antidote to something - whether duplicity, or repression, or commercialism, or just plain stress. The idea of nature as a contemplative cosmos does not contradict the less spiritual concept of nature as beautiful landscape, with all its teeming non-human life. At one end of the spectrum of perception of nature, landscape satisfies the aesthetic sense; at the other end, we see it as the intricate workings of watches and clocks, and start to speculate on where and how the watchmaker has come to be. Somewhere in the middle "delightful" shifts to "awesome" and the notion of the ‘Sublime’ takes root, with overtones of humanity's littleness and ineffectiveness against a global or cosmic backdrop of endless space and time. With regards the spectrum of scale, awe is a response to landscapes whilst delight is taken in gardens.

Britain is often portrayed as ‘a nation of gardeners’ - it is the most popular national pastime. In the summer months two-thirds of adults in the UK are regular gardeners.In rural and urban areas gardens attached to dwellings are a significant, ‘everyday’ element in a range of landscapes, spaces and terrains.When gardening, people shape and co-create their everyday landscape literally, through ‘mixing with the earth’ and out of this comes both selfhood and the expression of selfhood.

Culture ecology and history

The phenomena associated with these landscapes, that lie visibly beyond the naming and listing of the plants and animals, can acquire extra significance when transformed by an imagination and skill. This is the opposite side of beauty's coin; the beauties of nature are counterbalanced by works of art expressed as pictures, literature, music, dance, design, and architecture. Somewhere in the middle is the protected nature site and the garden, which are both managed by the application of ecological science in the context of cultural history.The aim of conservation management is to maintain valued features of habitats and species because of their rarity or vulnerability to human materialistic activities.The gardener, no matter her scale of operation, also uses science, but the a pattern of colours and textures that just looks right, is the goal of gardening as art.

Between the points of the equilateral triangle that is conceived as landscape -ie self, nature and art - complex energies playfully, movingly and profoundly, interact. It is no accident that the "mystery of creation" is an ambiguous phrase. In their overtones of mood and meaning, the words succinctly encapsulate the theme of Time Memory and Place, which is perceived and analysed as the gaze complex. The aim is to make it a concept map illustrated with quotations and explanations from different regions, ages and traditions, attached to digital images of actual gazes. The latter are doors through which to travel inwardly and relish the experience of a cross-disciplinary world view of nature.

In a natural world view, there is no non-natural or supernatural. There is only the natural mysteries left to explain through natural means. Believers can have both religion and science as long as there is no attempt to make A non-A, to make reality unreal, to turn naturalism into supernaturalism. The only way to do this for theists is to position God on the outside of time and space; that is, God is beyond nature, defined as ‘super nature, or supernatural’ and therefore cannot be explained by natural causes. This places the God question outside the realm of science. Thus, there can be no conflict between science and religion, unless one attempts to bring God into our time and space, which is a violation of the materialistic principle that A is A.

The gaze complex

Martin Jay, in his 1988 essay "Scopic Regimes of Modernity," argued that the modern era was "dominated by the sense of sight in a way that set it apart from its pre-modern anticedents and possibly its post-modern successor." Certainly the scale and penetration of visual technologies, and the scope and range of visual practices and their consumption, expanded in the modern era. Authors and researchers such as Barbara Stafford, Jonathan Crary, James Elkins, and W. J. T. Mitchell, among others, have argued that we have entered a new cultural era where visual technologies, as much as the technology of visualization itself, have reached deep into our everyday lives, as they have into the sciences, architecture and engineering, the media, the arts and entertainment industries, the professions in general, and most of the social spaces we inhabit. The "visualization of knowledge," as Barbara Stafford has argued, is integral to the functioning of all advanced professional activities, and hence to the curricula of all university teaching programs:

The history of the general move toward the wide study of visualization thus has broad intellectual and practical implications for the conduct of and the theory of the humanities, the physical and biological sciences, and the social sciences, indeed, for all forms of education, top to bottom.

Berger’s System of Early Modern Painting describes four painting modes which give a strong methodological foundation to build upon and, at times, extend art in the contexts of mind, memory and place. For Berger, ‘An image is a sight which has been recreated or reproduced ... which has been detached from the place and time in which it first made its appearance ...’. This detachment can be great or small, but all images, including photographs, involve a way of seeing by the person who has created the image. Further, when we look at someone else’s image, our understanding of it depends on our own way of seeing.

The four modes are decorative, graphic, optical and textural. His modes of painting represent a first approximation to an all embracing process that can be described as the gaze complex.

The decorative mode uses pigment, colour, light, and technique to not only give a sense of beauty but to honour the painting and the subject.

In the graphic mode, subjects are painted as they are known or thought to be, i.e., as people imagine they really are and appear. Lifelike, naturalistic imitation of 3D forms in space and spatial relations are significant in the graphic mode as well as the visualization of knowledge, for instance incorporating the knowledge from anatomical studies. Berger posits that the transition from decorative mode to graphic came as patronage changed from religious clientele to that of the merchant class.

In the optical mode, things are painted as they are seen with an emphasis on the conditions of visibility that affect, alter, or in some cases interfere with the graphic mode.

In the textural mode, the qualities of paint and the trace of the painter's hand come into play and are interposed between the eye and the image. The textural mode represents the activity of painting, the material qualities of paint and the gestural qualities of the artist’s hand become intrinsic parts of the image one sees.

Looking deeper into the optical mode, we see that this mode offers the observer a more active interpretive role than the graphic mode. Therefore the optical mode, constructs an observer who, “must bring things into focus” and “complete the image with his imagination’. The optical mode brought about a shift from "objective" to a "subjective" set of cues. The textural mode is about ‘the trace’ - the work of the brush in “real-time” and as an extension of the painter's own body. It can be seen, in some ways, as an extension of the optical mode within the use of the canvas and paint. The trace can be seen as the painter's interpretive act, which then calls for an interpretive response. Texture generates conflicting modes of observership and can be seen as a window to the graphic mode. Berger claims that the textural mode, “obscures where the graphic clarifies, loosens where it fixes, animates where it freezes, softens where it hardens”

Could it be that the textural mode can also enrich, invite, and move the viewer’s gaze via the artist’s intention, so that there is a direct connection between the artist’s trace and the observer’s perception? Is there a dance started with the artist’s hands that leads the viewer through the act of finishing the painting? In the case of figurative art, it could be said that this artistic methodology attempts to simplify, compose and leave out what’s irrelevant, emphasizing what’s important in the subject. While seemingly a qualitative task, artists have used known techniques such as relying on source tone over colour to enter into a colour temperature model, using "sharpness" to create a centre of interest, using edges to move the viewers gaze, and other techniques to filter and emphasize their varied goals. One specific technique, associated with 20th century painting, is to use painterly brushwork on the textural plane to direct and coerce the viewer’s eye gaze through a painting, thereby influencing the observer’s eye movement paths and fixation points within the work.

But what about photography, that can now apply all of Berger's painterly modes to produce images of bewildering complexity? All pictures begin with the inward or outward gaze of their maker and his or her motivation that is embedded their social environment. The Memory of Time, a photographic exhibition at the National Gallery in 2015, presented work by contemporary artists who investigate the richness and complexity of photography’s relationship to time, memory, and the history of sense of place. In the last two decades, as the world has undergone an unprecedented technological revolution, photography itself has changed profoundly. With the advent of the digital age, people around the world are recording every aspect of their lives through photography, sharing their pictures with friends and strangers online and through the burgeoning social media. Yet digital photography has not only changed the way people make and circulate photographs, it has also shattered enduring notions of the medium as a faithful witness and recorder of unbiased truths, for now everything in a photograph can be fabricated; nothing need be real. Photography — once understood as verifying specific facts, capturing singular moments of time, and preserving explicit memories — is now recognized to have a multifaceted and slippery relationship to the truth and to the past. By embracing this complexity, contemporary artists have placed photography at the center of a renewed discussion around the construction of history and memory and the perception of time as an aspect of the perception of place.

The aim of this wiki is to create an exemplified digital model of the gaze complex, using mind mapping and concept mapping software. The standpoint is that for most people, the object that was once the subject of a gaze will have been supported in time as a memory associated with a picture. For most people this picture will be a digital image,

Work in progress:

The gaze complex (cmap cloud)

Tree gazing (Mindomo mind map)

Other wikis associated with this one are: