International exhibition, symposium, screening series, net.project, publications
Budapest Autumn Festival- Műcsarnok/Kunsthalle Budapest - C3
18 October – 17 November 2002

VISION :: Related Contents

Vision: Mental Imagery
Art projects
selected by Nina Czegledy


This online exhibition presents net projects related to the theme of Vision, Image and Perception, as well as a range of audiovisual andperformance based artworks as portrayed on the internet. This selection ofcontemporary artworks and related science references offers an insight into the web representation of the topic.


The speed and magnitude of rapidly developing digital technologies have opened the door to new ways of seeing ourselves and, thereby, interpreting the experience of our very existence. The relationship between perception and visualization has been recently revisited in view of current research and has been debated inscientific literature. Simultaneously, the new visualization technologies have provided startling scope for artistic expression. From on- site installations to on-line projects, perceptual concepts as well as issues of visualization have been challenged and provocatively interpreted by contemporary artists.

One of the primary aims of the selected sites for the on-line exhibition of the Seeing, Image and Perception project, has been to survey and present international artwork and projects related to this topic. While some of the projects shown here are conceived as web projects, others are closely related to the theme but have been originally presented as performances or onsite exhibitions. A brief list of on-line neuroscientific publications related to the theme complement the exhibited art works.

The artists and scientists participating in the Seeing, Image and Perception project, are investigating perceptual processes, relationships and correlations as applied to perception and art, organic reality and artificial creation. As an introduction to the projects it is useful to briefly review the underlying scientific discourse of the topic.

Perception and visualization is closely linked to mental imagery. What do people mean when they say that they can visualize something, that they see it with their mind's eye. Where is this inner eye? It has been acknowledged by theorists that the pictorial image is a product of the mind and not only a representation of a physical object. Whereas visual imagery is a common occurrence, the question of how 'mental pictures' conform to the theory of cognition remains unresolved. Yet, visual mental imagery plays a key role in human consciousness, including information processing, memory, abstract reasoning, language comprehension and even the physical act of visualization (Kosslyn 1999). In cognitive science, visual mental imagery, or 'seeing with the mind's eye' has been the subject of considerable controversy, especially concerning the underlying neural processes. Are mental images intrinsically different from thoughts expressed verbally? Is image information represented in a spatial format? How much is a person's perception of the blue sky due to memories of early visual experiences? Does mental imagery involve the activation of representations in the brain's visual cortex? Does an ability to generate strong mental imagery contribute to creativity? While in the last two decades there has been an intense effort to resolve these questions, most of the answers still elude us. Visual mental imagery is considered 'seeing' in the absence of the appropriate sensory input. However, Kosslyn again (1995a) proposed in 1995 that mental image generation is distinct from perception, which requires and registers physically present stimuli. Visual mental images are said to involve 'depictive' representations or picture-like qualities, and when stored in memory this information can affect information processing. This suggests that knowledge may fundamentally bias what one sees. Once a visualized scene is encoded in memory it can be recalled as animage.

Visual perception, a complex process, is thought driven by sensation while its outcome depends on one's situational experiences. To be aware of an object or event, the brain has to construct a multilevel, explicit, symbolic interpretation of part of the visual scene. Crick and Koch (1995) suggested that "biological usefulness of visual consciousness in humans is to produce the best current interpretation of the visual scene in the light of past experience, either of ourselves or of our ancestors - embodied in our genes."

Do "creative" people experience mental imagery differently than others? Do mental imagery and visual perception involve common processing mechanisms? Over the last decade, the status of image generation as a functionalcomponent of the mind; the search for structural similarities between images and perceptual events; and the localization of neural structures involved in image generation, have been extensively investigated. Although it appears now that visual mental imagery and visual perception share common underlying mechanisms, there are several reports that show them to be dissociated, reflecting the basic modular organization of the visual cortex. Quoting Koster (1998) "the binding of cellular activity in the processing- perceptual systems is more properly envisioned as a binding of the consciousness generated by each of them. It is this binding that gives us our integrated image of the visual world."

Crick F, Koch C (1995) Are we aware of neutral activity in primary visual cortex? Nature 375: 121-123.
Kosslyn S.M., Pascual-Leone A., Felician O., Camposano S., Keenan J.P., Thompson W.L., Ganis G., Sukel K.E., Alpert N.M. (1999) The role of area 17 in visual imagery: convergent evidence from PET and rTMS. Science 2;284 (5411): 167-70.
Kosslyn S.M., Behrmann M. and Jeannerod M. (1995a) The cognitive neuroscience of mental imagery. Neuropsychologia 33: 1335-1344.
Koster L.W. (1998) Three little words--vision, perception, seeing. J BiolPhotogr 66: 41-47.

C3 Center for Culture and Communication