The Event Horizon by Christopher Sheils

The Event Horizon
Imagine if you can, a world in which we can perceive multiple realities simultaneously. Our politicians could be insane and sane at the same time. The cat could be alive and dead at the same time.
Due to the complexity behind my work it would be impossible to describe it in a few words. This being the seventh of a series loosely called Time is an Illusion, It has evolved from an interest in visual perception in the context of psychology, neurology and semiotics. Secondly, if you are expecting flowery, romanticised prose that resembles something written on the back of a wine bottle, playfully incorporating subtle hints of blackberry, molasses and a with a delicate undercurrent of surrealism, you will be sadly disappointed. Instead, it would be more sensible to explain the insights gained from my study and how they contributed to the construction of the images.
Years back, when I was reading about visual pathways, I came across an illusion called the Nekker Cube, a black wireframe cube on a white background which changes orientation as you view it. The implication of this observation is that the brain can only perceive one reality at a time and will when conflicted, switch between the possible realities. This makes sense as the experience of having multiple realities is called psychosis and hardly advantageous for the success of the species. I have since discovered a second response which is to merge the conflicting realities into a plausible unreality. This is mainly due to the nature of our vision. Our most detailed vision is in the centre and at just eight degrees from the centre we are legally blind with peripheral vision more involved in the fight and flight response. In this region the brain extrapolates the absent data from surrounding areas, movement and memory. This is the region that my images target as it is the area wherethe brain is most suggestable.
The Nekker Cube revealed one other insight. Why do we see a two dimensional ink figure on a page as a three dimensional object. The answer lies in how our vision develops as infants. Without going into detail, depth perception is learned and not instinctual. It is based on two immutable truths. Those being that a distant object will appear smaller than a closer object and that a closer object will obscure a distal object. This is how we can perceive depth in a photograph without stereoscopy. The last series called Fake Views created illusion by deliberately breaking these immutable truths.
In every series there has been a sociopolitical aspect. In Full Time, the duality derived from multiple competing images merged to create a nonsensical urban landscape which represented the absurd political outcomes that occur when opposing ideologies refuse too compromise. The last series, Fake Views was a series of photographic illusions based on depth and perspective illusions. These represented the power of misinformation and influence on populations, creating a false reality by
controlling and manipulating the source of information.
This series is called The Event Horizon which is the point, when entering a black hole that escape becomes impossible. The symbolism is multi faceted.
Stylistically this series shifts more towards surrealism than illusion, though still occurring occasionally, the illusions are subtler and moderated by proximal elements.. They are designed to resemble Escher prints, monochrome, borderline illustration and tinted but with a split tone to emphasise depth perception and thus illusion. It is also done with the deepest respect to Escher whose work I never thought possible photographically until When Escher Meets Gehry. In spite of two suspended lighting rigs with different vertical planes to prove the falsity of the image, the brain will still accept and believe the image as being one continuous space. This is a prime example of two conflicting realities being merged to create a plausible unreality.
From a personal perspective, I have a diagnosis of PTSD. My life the for most is rarely leaving the house, interspersed with the odd trip to distant lands to show some work and a life of doctors, lawyers and bureaucrats.
Apart from the Kafkaesque reality I live in, the strangeness of the images has correlated with the deteriorating socio political state of world affairs. The title The Event Horizon particularly to which countries will buckle under and descend into civil war and which countries will emerge from the pandemic ahead. COVID 19 has also influenced on a global scale the sense of unreality with the perpetual ideological wars still being played out in the digital arena.
Other insights have emerged that are worth consideration. The construction method is particularly useful for validating or invalidating Gestalt principles. Possible conclusions are that the principles are hierarchical with Focal Point being the most dominant. The images are mostly populated, more than previously as this defines the vertical plane in multiplanar images. In other words, an area of the image which is upside down, your brain will try and justify as being the right way up when proximal to the position of a person (or giraffe). The reason for this is that any person or animal standing erect will be the reference point for the vertical plane as we have learned to perceive a person standing as vertical or they would topple over when even slightly off balance.
As per symbolism, semiotics is highly cultural and even more so individual. The assignation of meaning then is so flexible then that any viewers interpretations are as valid as mine, thus the placement of the elements lead to an open narrative.
More importantly, the placement of the people in the images is because Homo Sapiens is a very egocentric species and a populated image will always prompt an emotional response and makes a perfect focal point. We did after all, make God in our own image.

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