Izidora l LETHE

undermining ocular-centricity. centering sense-ual epistemologies in the visual arts.

SKOTOS (               is an art-in-practice PhD work cycle that develops the concept of scotopic vision via critical cultural production by valuing theoretical, essayistic and artistic textualities equally. SKOTOS (             aims to trace the history of ocular-centricity and the hegemonic role of the gaze that formed in the West, aiming to mobilize more subtle and responsible embodied epistemologies, while stressing active endurance through obscurity.

Scotopic vision [1] is the vision of the eye under low-light levels. Scotopia is the ability of the eye to adapt to dim light or darkness [2]. Today, we are facing the highest concentration of artificial light in history. Our scotopic vision, a primal technology, is progressively being lost. This loss is one of countless examples of erased, lost or undervalued embodied knowledge as the consequences of Enlightenment logic and its imperial and capitalist drive. This drive is ridden by an imposition of full vision and notions of full transparency – while obscuring its own epistemic mechanisms: a double-fold logic of visuality, both uncovered and obscured. The Oxford reference dictionary defines ocular-centrism as „a perceptual and epistemological bias ranking vision over other senses in Western cultures. Both Plato and Aristotle gave primacy to sight and associated it with reason.“ Colloquially, the link between seeing and knowing is re-affirmed by naturalized declarations such as „seeing for yourself“ when needing to find approval for something or believing something when „seeing it with one’s own eyes“. When we understand, we say, „I see“. Yet, in spite of such primary value-attribution to sight, we are continuously reducing scotopic vision while haunted by ‚fear of the dark’ which has been analyzed in psychoanalysis, theology, histories of coloniality and patriarchy and other disciplines.

SKOTOS (             asks how this reduction of fundamental embodied knowledge has been impacted by imperialism and globalism, while ocular epistemologies are still fundamentally centered, still.

During my PhD, I will engage in a ‚training‘ to enhance scotopic vision – historically, auto-theoretically and via transdisciplinary interventional art-practice. An „attentive looking“ [3] is exercised without the preposition of „full vision“ or „fully seeing“ in dimness – which, of course, also (willingly) opens me up to the critical possibilities of failing and of not achieving „new“ insights or „more ability“[4]. So, instead of asking for recognition/representation/visibility it is my goal to engage in a knowledge-production that counters hegemonic regimes of visuality and possibly re-develops sensory skills that are being lost.

SKOTOS (             aims to contextualize and develop concepts of obscured visuality through historic-theoretical discourse in the first part, engaging in essayistic writing in the second (not writing from the in the essay mostly avoided „i“, but from the experiences of the „eye“, investigating and experimenting with epistemologies of looking without fully seeing), and in the third part, examining obscured visuality through installations and intertextual interventions of the “semi-lit”. My hypothesis is that such a practice holds the potential to (re-)learn both attentive encounter and cultural production and consumption that diverts from the normative (white, Christian, cisgender, heterosexual, imperial) impetus of „en-lightenment”. SKOTOS (             seeks to engage with and bring forth historically-overlooked embodied knowledge that sustains attention towards enduring that which is not not clear, that which is not immediately recognizable or instantly legible.

State of the art leading research questions are: What is possible if we engage in attentive looking instead of following the tradition of “full transparency” or “complete understanding”? Does this obscured visuality center the oculus even the more, or can it pull away from it, and even create moments of transgress acts and re-enactments of hegemonic gazing?


Izidora l LETHE Songs to the Suns, Cabaret Voltaire at Monte Verità, TI 2021 – Photo: Diana Pfammatter – 3.jpg
[1] Night Vision: Scotopic vision is used by rods, take a while to adjust (ca 5 minutes to get bearings, and about 20min to fully adapt to night vision). Most of scotopic vision is in the periphery, outside of the center of the field of vision. Vision is not best in the periphery of one’s vision, our scotopic system doesn’t have very good resolution, however the rods are highly sensitive to light, as it only takes a little bit of light as to pick up on our visual field. Link here
[2]  Oxford reference link
[3] See: Pauline Oliveros’ concept of attentive listening;
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