following the eye

These days a link to the thesis of It’s in Your Eyes – Gaze Based Image Retrieval in Context got sent out via mailinglist and going across this tiny publication made me again think along the convictions and problems behind these developments. I just want excerpt some parts of the text and put it into context with comments on newer developments and its accompanying symptoms to reflect on these thoughts.
The line “the invisible is made visible by means of a trace” [MAN, Augenzeichnungen] calls up both the famous paragraph of Deleuze / Guattari’s ‘make a trace not a map’ and equally the tricky question about the unconcious and inherent strategies to cover those from oneself as laid out by B.Latour . (Pandora’s Hope):

… Make a map, not a tracing. The orchid does not reproduce the tracing of the wasp; it forms a map with the wasp, in a rhizome. What distinguishes the map from the tracing is that it is entirely oriented toward an experimentation in contact with the real. The map does not reproduce an unconscious closed contact with the real. The map does not reproduce an unconscious closed in upon itself; it constructs the unconscious. It fosters connections between fields, the removal of blockages on bodies without organs, the maximum opening of bodies without organs onto a plane of consistency. It is itself a part of the rhizome. The map is open and connectable in all ot is dimensions; it is detachable, reversible, susceptible to constant modification. It can be torn, reversed, adapted to any kind of mounting, reworked by an individual, group, or social formation. It can be drawn on a wall, conceived of as a work of art, constructed as a political action or as a meditation. .. (link)

There is for sure a certain attraction in the fragile imprints of tracing lines as picked up in the thesis argument and explanation, and as well in these GPS drawings and the discussion occuring around them (link). The comment posted by A.Galloway points towards the overlooked interpretational attitude:

I think GPS drawings are more event than duration. Put another way, they are representation and not performance. They lock movement and kill the potential to re-read socio-spatial practice. Once elevated to the level of ‘art’, they can be recontextualised in, say, exhibition space, but they are no longer about the movement of the people they traced and instead shift our focus to the movement of the tracings themselves. In that sense they tell us more about ourselves and our desire to art than they tell us about the spatiality and sociality they seek to represent. In contrast, the walking that Andrew describes is all about duration and all about performance. Rather than being about maps, it is about mapping. Even a structured (algorithmic) walk is open and multiple in ways that traces can never be.

.. .. further reflection on these points at this post.

The missing factor – and this gets introduced through the Deleuze/Guattari quote as well – is the action of the observer. The question is just not so much if this is art or not, but what can be read out of it and how it is interpreted – as not to overlook this fact of putting and reading it. Thus I think the comment of A. Galloway is the closest to point to accompanying circumstances, as well as the importance of the processual (as mentioned on rodcop). Consequently I am not sure if I want to support entirely the quote of Kittler, which has been put in front of the thesis:

In case of those scans of the famous eye movements […] I almost would assume that man is not the observer anymore but for the first time becomes the observed. […] Eyes and mouth, which widely are considered the last hideaways of so called intimacy, are hence fed into a logic of feedback which is not ours but that of the machine.
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