Speaking in Denmark in March

I am pleased to announce that I will be presenting a paper at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts’ symposium, What Do Images Do?, in Copenhagen. It is taking place March 19­-21, 2014.

Below is the abstract for my presentation and some of the paintings I will be talking about. The expanded version of this paper will also be the third chapter of the book project I am currently working on. I like having the pressure to write for a conference because it gives me a deadline to work towards.

The Incipiency of Images: Experiencing the Imperceptible in Bridget Riley’s Paintings


To see is to actively participate in, what I call, the incipiency of images. It is to engage in a process with the about to become visible, encountering the not yet seen. For this paper, incipiency will be conceived as a fluid and generative activity that unceasingly shifts and changes, making it impossible for images that are seen to actually remain static. This is because images are always in the making. They are perpetually emerging events, a series of becoming occurrences. Even when a particular image appears to be still, I will contend, incipiency is taking place in the form of minute adjustments that are constantly being made during the activity of seeing. These subtle modifications, which are felt as sensations in the Deleuzian sense, may not register perceptually and in all likelihood will not actually be seen when encountering a particular “still” image. The sensational adjustments to an image, experienced as force, may be too quick, too faint, or in some cases too abundant to register above the threshold of visibility.

Although these forceful sensations are for the most part imperceptible, they are a key component of the seeing experience and are necessary in order for images to actually be perceived. As sensations are experienced and forces are felt, they begin emerging into visibility through the incipiency of images. This incipient process, as I will argue, enables a seeing in which viewers are constantly encountering images that cannot be known prior to their being experienced. It is the activity occurring among these invisible sensations that drives the coming into themselves of images. This seemingly imperceptible, yet active, process of incipiency, which generates the images that come to be seen, is the focus of this paper. Always on the edge of seeing, the following will explore how images emerge into perception, how the activity occurring among the imperceptible sensations is experienced, how this incipient activity that occurs below the threshold of visibility is able to generate seen images, and how the felt experience of emergent images exceeds actual perception in the midst of incipiency.

Bridget Riley’s paintings will be the conduit through I will explore these inquiries into the incipiency of images. This is because, as I will argue, her works enable viewers to perceive the incipient process, opening their perception momentarily to the plethora of sensations they actually experience in the midst of the seeing moment.

Bridget Riley, Horizontal Vibration (1961)

Bridget Riley, Fall (1963)

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