Cartesian Luminaire

Descartes believed that the pineal gland was the organ that generated our orientation to the visual. He wrote in “Passions of the Soul” that this gland was the “seat of the soul” and was directly connected to the eyes via “strings” in the brain, and operated as chief interpreter of vision. In ancient medicine, the pineal gland was believed to the area of consciousness of the human brain. In this piece, we explored the question of visual culture, and why art has been predominantly visual in the West. Viewers were presented with an installation in a storefront window. The focus of the installation was a large painting, a diagram of the location of the pineal gland. A monitor playing video footage of an autopsy was turned away from the viewer, towards the painting, so that the viewer could only see the footage at an angle or as a reflection in the painting. Text on a sign described a near mystical relationship to the search for the pineal gland, as a metaphor for the search for consciousness literally inscribed on the human body.

Media: painting, gold leaf, video footage, television monitor, pedestal, signage

Location: ATA Gallery, San Francisco