I recently submitted a proposal for the Canadian Communications Association’s annual conference. This paper extends the work I did in my dissertation on images and experience by furthering my work with Gins and Arakawa’s notion of “landing sites.” You can find my initial work on landing sites and images here in the journal Inflexions.
Here is my proposal. Enjoy!
Apple claims that their recently introduced Retina display for its portable computing devices, such as the iPhone, iPad and MacBooks, has a pixel density so high that the eye cannot distinguish the millions of individual pixels. These colourful compositional elements, which generate the emergent images that come to be seen, actually remain hidden from sight. Yet, as I will argue in this paper, these invisible pixels are still felt below the threshold of perception. Each flicker or subtle shift in colour generated within the pixels is felt experientially in the seeing as landing sights.
The term landing sights is derived from architects and philosophers Arakawa and Gins’ notion of landing sites. Landing sites generate conditions enabling compositions of space-time to become actualized. They are neither stable places that can be mapped with any sort of precision, nor are they an array of points that together produce a specific event. Rather, they constitute a composition of an experienced encounter, as they are being experienced. Landing sites are continually shifting compositions that actively modulate an event while that event is occurring. Arakawa and Gins’ own architectural works, such as their Bioscleave House, foreground the activation of landing sites, thrusting them to the forefront of perception, through the use of undulating floors, windows at unexpected angles and heights, and a very diverse use of colour.
Because this paper deals with a specific type of event, the visual image, I am proposing a slight alteration to Arakawa and Gins’ conception of landing sites towards a notion of “landing sights.” The term landing sights still embodies the modulating eventfulness of Arakawa and Gins’ concept but tweaks it slightly. Rather than focusing on the actualization of all potential compositions, landing sights specifically focus on the faculty of seeing and the images that come to be seen. Landing sights constitute all the elements that compose images. They can be the fleeting flickers caught in the midst a moment of seeing that grasp our attention; or they can be the minute colour changes that can occur unbeknownst to us.
As visible as a digital glitch or as indiscernible as a pixel on Apple’s Retina display, all landing sights have to potential to continuously affect our encounter with images as they enter into perception. Landing sights are the eventful conditions that enable the perception of images to constantly change, forcing images to be in perpetual state of emergence or individuation. The constant alterations landing sights induce may not be perceptible but they are felt at a subtle level of experience. There is a sense of uncertainty and instability to images as they come to be seen, whether we are able to see what composes them or not. Landing sights generate this felt precariousness in images.
This conception of landing sights will show how encounters with images are always more than what is actually seen. What is perceived is always precariously composed of experientially felt elements that undergo a constant state of modulation: landing new sights, sighting new landings.