This video was made for the Feelings International Videoart Experience. Artists were randomly assigned one of the five senses to make a short video about. I was assigned sight, which is an interesting challenge because every video is about sight.
A.B.C.O.D.E. is an ode to alphabets and an expression of the coded nature of visual communication.
What can we see? Color, shape, movement. Seeing alone is not enough. It takes cognitive power to turn a shape into a letter, and education to understand a letter’s meaning. When we read in our native language the process seems automatic, and we forget the leap our brains take between seeing and understanding, that we have to look at each letter to understand each word to understand each sentence to understand anything. We also forget that the symbols we use are not universal, that they are often hyper-local systems that have replaced other systems that were once as widely understood. People who write in a different language may have a similar symbol with a different meaning. People who speak the same language may not have the education needed to decipher it in written form.
In this video we can see letters and other symbols, but we cannot decipher their meaning. Removed from their cultural context, letters become optical illusions of sorts, as the shapes we perceive diverge from the reality of their meanings. Another subtle optical illusion plays out in the background, as moving lines illustrate another subtle gulf between seeing and understanding. We can tell the lines are moving, but can’t as easily discern in which direction they move.