There are many things, no matter how hard we look, that we just cannot see. This could be an item hidden in darkness where there is no light to see it, or it could be something that is imperceptible or hidden to the human eye through some other means.
For those items that fall in between being seen and not being seen, a range of tools have been developed to help us observe. Telescopes, microscopes and cameras all magnify human powers of observation. They help us to see what we couldn’t otherwise, and cameras allow us to record it for later use or further observation.
Technology also allows us to see things that have been hidden from us in the past. X-ray machines and infrared cameras show us things that would have just been scientific theory previously. Jonathan Crary comments on “techniques that are relocating vision to a plane severed from a human observer”. Is our ability to see really being taken away from us, or is it being expedited, allowing us to see more than we could before? Perhaps seeing should be severed from the human observer, to allow a more critical and objective way of looking.
Where artists have created with an intention to make the world appear unfamiliar and strange, they have been met with a more observational and critical response to their work, as it’s not something that is immediately recognisable.
“Our eye finds it more comfortable to respond to a given stimulus by reproducing once more an image that it has produced many times before, instead of registering what is different and new in an impression.” Friedrich Nietzsche
Nietzsche’s comment in Jonathan Crary’s Techniques of the Observer illustrates why seemingly unusual images by Modern Artists, e.g. Duchamp and Dali, provoke a critical response in the viewer; they don’t recognise what they see as familiar and have to look again, observe and respond.
Ben Cuevas, a mixed media artist, has chosen “what you cannot see” as the theme for a knitted range of commissioned sculptures entitled The Anatomical Knit-Hood Series. The series shows “that which is normally concealed” within the human body in a knitted format.
“The work is intended to be at once beautiful and grotesque, disturbing yet comforting, endearingly crafted yet fetishistically sinister.” Ben Cuevas
Without microscopes, x-rays and other forms of technology we would have a limited idea of what these layers look like and they would stay in the realms of what we cannot see.