One of the most common functions that humans perform is ‘looking’, but how often do we regard the extent to which this simple physiological gesture defines how we see and respond to the world? This exhibition offers meditations on the concept and practice of observation.
In quantum theory the ‘principle of superposition’ states that a physical system survives in all of its possible outcomes while it is not observed. In physicist Erwin Schrodinger’s famous example, a cat is placed in a sealed box with a vial of poison, and a radioactive source. If even a single atom decaying is detected by a radiation monitor, a device shatters the vial of poison and kills the cat. While the box remains unopened the cat can be considered both alive and dead. Only upon opening the box do we discover is the cat is alive or dead. The observation itself has to be seen as an action that determines the condition of the cat. It is that gesture that collapses all possibilities into one conclusion. We all observe the world around us, considering multiple possibilities. The act of observation determines in which state the world exists, and defines our reality.
Today our technological advancement has expanded our capacity for observation, from astronomers on the grandest scale, peering billions of years into the cosmic past, to scientists viewing matter on the sub-atomic level. Increasingly we observe the world through our screens, iphones and editing apps which allow us to present ourselves and environments as we prefer them to be seen. As our modes of observation evolve, new “currencies of seeing” alter our perceptions of reality.
For artists - so often at the vanguard of noticing the changing complexion of humanity on a sociological spectrum - the act of observation can be considered their initial and primary medium.