The Untrained Eye

The electrooculogram measures eye movements through a series of electrodes placed around the eye.  These electrodes can read which way the eye is facing based on polarity: the anterior pole of the eye is positive and the posterior pole is negative.  In this way it is possible to determine when Rapid Eye Movement (REM) occurs in sleep. REM is the stage of sleep most strongly associated with vivid dreaming activity.  In this video, the phenomenon of REM is used as tool to illustrate my own questions about aesthetics.

1.  Using a detailed electrooculogram, a night of my REM sleep was recorded by my collaborator Shannon Williamson.  She translated these movements into eye choreography that I subsequently performed while awake.  The unconscious gaze of my sleeping eye is recreated as a drawing.

2.  My waking eye learns to write a text.  An organ accustomed to receiving information is made to convey information.  The result is a platitude performed, read, and embodied by the eye.

What is the difference between conscious and unconscious articulation of creative activity?  Can discipline and connoisseurship elevate aesthetic comprehension, or do they impose filters on our innate sensibilities?  Can the untrained eye ever see what the trained eye sees, and vice versa?


The creation of The Untrained Eye would not have been possible without the facilities and networks made available to the artists by the University of Western Australia’s Centre for Sleep Science and SymbioticA Centre for Excellence in Biological Arts.

This piece is part of a body of work created in collaboration with the above institutions and artist Shannon Williamson: