Dr Issac Herskowitz Final Report
In reference to the proposal which I submitted entitled “Cultivating the ‘Faculties of Anthropomorphic Perception’ ”, which was approved on October 25th 2007, I indicated that I was seeking to prove that my method of perceiving alternate realities within any image that I beheld was one that could be taught and therefore I would demonstrate that fact by using a website. This website would serve to introduce viewer to a technique of extreme scrutiny, which would reveal in scrutinized image, possibly unintended yet recognizably plausible images. This perception could serve to enhance the viewer’s imaginative faculties revealing to him inadvertent hidden possibilities hitherto unseen by previous observers or even the creator of the subject image.
This didactic method generated much enthusiasm in those who spent the time to peruse the website and partake of this experiment by responding to the quizzes and essays built into the website. The results of the tests and quizzes produced a certain degree of success although not as much as the enthusiasm of participants reacting to their perception. There were some responses that were extremely gratifying since the experiment was based on experiences that everyone with a modicum of imagination has encountered, but never actively pursued artistically. One of the more inspiring responses was from someone (one of my former high school teachers) who did not respond to the test and quizzes due to a busy schedule, but enthusiastically expresses her personal delight in her perceptual experiences because they invoked her own similar childhood experiences.
The experiment (project) was tested with adults who, in most cases, could invoke their childhood reveries of psychic journeys of their youth to pass the time during their moments of juvenile solitude. These were people who could remember their days as poor children creating mental devices to assuage the deficiencies of their material penury. They were people who recognized the affinity of this technique to the Rorschach test and that its similarity to the playful perceptive games that everyone played when looking at the clouds or droplets of water on a table. It is therefore designed to invoke in all participants something that is latent in everyone and therefore generate interest and attention. Everyone who responded to the experiment was familiar with this type of perception, but had seldom pursued it beyond their puerile adventure. However, none had completely lost these perceptive faculties and were quick to invoke those bygone days. Many, however, acknowledged their ignorance at how far these experiences could go and the eventual products that could materialize from such a perceptive experience.
I chose to employ a website to construct this experiment because of the accessibility of the internet. A website would make it accessible in the computer lab at any school, at home on a PC, or on the move with a laptop at an airport or anywhere else with internet connectivity. It is accessible even through a blackberry or cell phones with internet access. A website can even be accessed through a PSP (Play Station Portable), as my young nephew did. Hence, through the internet, accessibility would be maximized making it available to the entire world and hopefully start a trend in art appreciation. The final product images are paintings that I have executed in the past and also some that I specifically produced for the project. They are reinterpretations of famous old-master paintings which I have reworked to create an alternate reality within the recognizable contours of the source image (the old-master painting). This method, although it has been used in the past, has not been extensively employed in art history and has not been explored, in my opinion, to its fullest potential. Although one may dismiss it as puerile games, it involves advance ocular science that has not been fully explored even by scientists to determine the full extent of the ocular pleasure that may be derived through this method of retinal reversal. So this technique of perception has a scientific component for even the erudite scientists to explore and investigate the phenomenon of such visual possibilities that can be experienced by any sighted person with a modicum of imagination.
In designing the website, I employed HTML language to create the pages. Included in this site is a Power-Point presentation which serves to introduce the viewer to the final results of this type of perception vis à vis some of the most famous and familiar iconic images in Western art. The technique revealed hitherto unseen hidden images, although probably unintended by the original creators of these masterpieces. This Power point introduction was to whet the appetite of the viewer and challenge him to learn to develop his perceptive skills through careful scrutiny of images. This is further reinforced by a parade of other famous images of Western Art juxtaposed for comparison with my production of its final result image.
My major demonstration in image scrutiny and discovery employed an array of minute details of Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic Mona Lisa. Using a piece of software called Ulead 4, I dissected the image of the Mona Lisa to illustrate what I could perceive within that famous image. I was inspired to do this after having read what Leonardo da Vinci had advised the artist to do to enhance his creative faculties. Having been taught to perceive hidden imagery by Leonardo’s writing which stated that “the artist can enhance his creative faculties by throwing a sponge full of color at a wall and therein perceive whatever he wished to perceive.” An entire page on the website was dedicated to the detailed scrutiny of the dissected parts revealing unusual hidden images that Leonardo may have consciously or unconsciously painted into his masterpiece. Most art experts may say that these images that I discovered are accidents of chance, but my belief is that if he suggested such a technique, then he might have practiced it.
By this time, after having discovered all the possibly inadvertent hidden images within the contours of the Mona Lisa, the viewer is challenged, as I was on reading Leonardo’s suggestion, to tackle another famous image and is ready to test his enhanced faculties of perception with an interactive game of association. To create this interactive game, I employed an unusual use of Microsoft Word document, creating a game of multiple choice images hidden in maps, asking the participant to make the visual associations like the Rorschach test. The test taker would then save his results and email them to me for evaluation, so that I could ascertain whether he had acquired any of the visual skills meant to be taught. There were also two other exercises using Word document with an interactive purpose which required the viewer to recognized the source image that inspired a given final product. That task required a little internet research, facilitated by a bit of technical assistance which I incorporated into the interactive Word document. I inserted a hyperlink on the page leading to a research page with instructions included to assist the viewer in finding the research page on a target website. This was done to facilitate the search process, especially for the more challenged technophobe. He was required to simply find, among several, the image that presented the closest affinity to a given final product. He would then write a brief paragraph explain his discovery of its title and author. Again, he would save his response and then email it to me. The final exercise was a little more challenging, wherein he would be given an iconic image of Western Art and asked to find whatever hidden image existed or was perceivable in it. A successful search would really prove that he had acquired the perceptive faculties that I wished him to acquire.
This final test was deliberately intended to test whether one could acquire those skills in so short a time. Baring his success, the level of the viewer’s technical facility would lead him to the result which I had surreptitiously concealed on the same page. It was also meant to test the viewer’s computer skills. If he were familiar with web surfing then his computer skills would lead him to the hidden results that I had perceived and would save him the task of searching for the hidden images.
To my absolute amazement, I received results that revealed more than I had expected; even surpassing my own perceptive faculties. It proved to me that the didactic capabilities of the project had actually exceeded my expectation, even though with only a few respondents. While feeling confident that I was the master of that type of perception, I discovered that a few respondents were now revealing to me imagery that I had not recognized in my own final result paintings. The final test, which I was doubtful may ever be deciphered by any of the respondents, was actually returned to me with more than I had initially seen. One respondent used his computer skills to easily find the results that I had surreptitiously hidden on the page. Another actually showed me imagery that I had not seen and convinced me that it was there. But the most rewarding of the revelations was the respondent who, looking at one of my own paintings, discovered a visual pun that I had inadvertently painted in, fitting the theme of the painting perfectly, but of which I was not aware nor intended. This revelation came to me fourteen (14) years after that painting was actually executed.
Unfortunately, I had no access to a class of high school students, who were part of my proposed target audience, and so, I had to rely on acquaintances and their acquaintances to test the efficacy of my project. The responses were not as numerous as I wanted, so the total success of the project is somewhat compromised by the small sample of respondents. However, I feel that this exercise is one that high school students would enjoy, since I had tested a similar project at a staff development seminar last year, when I was teaching and the teachers whom I was instructing were thrilled by the experiment and asked me to share it with their students. Unfortunately, I never had the chance, since I am temporarily out of the classroom as a teacher.
In conclusion, I was able to incorporate much of the technology that I learned in the masters program at Touro. Having developed a facility with software, I was able to master a piece of software for the purpose of preparing the images for presentation on the website. I employed a software package called Ulead 4 with which I was able to stitch images together. This allowed me to juxtapose source images and their final product for image comparison. With Ulead 4, I was also able to dissect and magnify sections of each painting so that the viewer could perceive the minutiae of each section and see what I was able to perceive and project from my mind’s eye. The plethora of detailed images shows how the mind’s eye sees hitherto unperceived imagery coming from the developed imagination. The same piece of software allowed me to superimpose short captions that explain to the viewer what he may see and facilitate his perceptive development. These captions were used to give him incite into the way that the mind’s eye may perceive hidden imagery and thereby develop the imagination. Ulead 4 also permitted me to enhance and sharpen the colors of the images. I was able to use one image, replicate it multiple times so that I could show various parts in detail. I was then able to save each part with a slightly altered title to differentiate the various parts. These images were then uploaded to one webpage enable the viewer’s intense scrutiny. Through this medium, I was able to allow the viewer to access the machination of my imagination so that he could adopt that type of perceptive faculty that Leonardo’s suggestion had imparted to me. I used Microsoft word to maximum use in producing my final report, cutting and pasting, inserting hyperlinks that lead to the website, the Power-Point presentation and a specific page that gives the reader direct access to the experiment. Microsoft Excel came in handy to produce my Time Schedule, giving a breakdown on how much time was actually required to complete the entire project. I created this Microsoft Power-Point presentation to introduce the visual possibilities that this experiment could accomplish and to whet the appetite of the participant. It is my hope that this experiment will stimulate a novel approach to art appreciation.