This was really fascinating workshop, and offered a very interesting angle on the understanding of consciousness. For me, it highlights the vulnerability of consciousness and perception to deception, that we are able to see and experience things that do not actually exist.
We discussed entopic imagery, imagery created from the body – for example, floaters. The work of Edvard Munch was given as an example – with some of his paintings depicting the blood clot that he had in one of his eyes.
We then discussed hypnagogic imagery, experienced when the brain produces its own stimuli. This can be easily triggered by depriving yourself of visual stimuli, for example if staring at an empty white space – the brain will begin to generate its own stimuli to counteract the lack of real stimuli.
Possible examples of historical hypnagogic imagery can be seen in Chamush Rock art in Santa Barbera, where it is possible that a lack of stimuli combined with the use of hallucinogenic substances meant that people living in caves were able to see and depict such vivid and distinct patterns.
We also looked at artists whose work responds to their own belief in their connection to different channels of spirituality or energy.
For example the work of Madge Gill, who draws as a way of communicating with a spirit that she believes she has been possessed by.
And the work of Guo Fengyi, who drawings are created in a trance like state, claiming that a spirit was draws through her.
During the second part of the workshop we were asked to respond visually to what we had been discussing, reflecting on something that we had heard during the lecture, or something we ourselves had experienced in our lives in relation to the discussed phenomena. I was surprised, as at the beginning of the lecture James asked us if we had ever hallucinated – my initial answer was no, but as we began to dig into what it mean to hallucinate, I began to realise that I actually had. It was this experience that I created my response to.
I was just waking up after having had a nap in the living room, when I went to sleep my Dad was in the chair opposite to me. As I began to wake up from my nap, I opened my eyes and glanced across the room and saw my Dad in the same place – a few seconds later, after waking up fully, I looked up and realised that he wasn’t actually there at all. I had definitely seen him sitting there, despite him not even being there.