About 161!

Every act of perception is to some degree an act of creation and every act of memory is to some degree an act of imagination.

Gerald M. Edelman 

Perception has been defined as the mental representation of our surroundings.  It allows us to experience a stable world despite a constantly changing environment.  This process is critical for the survival of all moving creatures.


We begin to see when light reaches the back of our eyes.  Cells in the retina deliver neurochemical information to the visual cortex of our brain, which in turn creates a mental picture of what the eye sees.  There are regions of the brain that form memories about things we see, hear, taste, feel or smell.  There is also a specific area that recalls the emotional context of an event.  Certain objects, smells or sounds can trigger strong memories about a distant past, which can have a profound effect on emotion.  


Although science provides a fascinating insight into how our bodies work, perception remains beyond the grasp of science.  Science can peel off its layers, but it cannot get to the core of what perception is.  It cannot really tell us what ‘red’ is.  While cells in the retina and neurons in the brain can explain the biology of vision, we are no closer to explaining why we experience the world individually, in the way that we do.  How our senses are integrated with our memories and feelings remains a mystery.

161!  A digital art piece about perception & introspection

In today’s digital culture we’re inundated with information.  We are evolving to recognize and process images much faster than ever before, perhaps leading to a different type of appreciation for what we see.  A massive amount of information is at our fingertips; we appear to spend less time reflecting on things that we experience than we did in the past.


161! shows a contrast between a child playing on a beach and a woman in a modern home.  Are we perceiving the scenes of the woman and child as taking place simultaneously?  Are the events occurring on the beach a distant memory in the woman’s mind, or are they a product of her imagination?  Is it all a dream?  In considering these possibilities, the brain searches for visual and auditory clues in an attempt to create a story.


Rather than come away with a narrative understanding of the film, perhaps you, the viewer, can embrace its impressionistic quality, and immerse yourself in each individual image, in the range of colours, sounds, and sequences presented at random.  In so doing, you may find another kind of meaning, sense-based, more personal, and possibly with even greater resonance.


Max Montalvo