Piercing Sight: Vision as Relic


 Vision Archive (2015-….)  Is my own archive of worn, collected and preserved disposable contact lenses pinned onto mount-board presented in black timber box frames

For Vision Archive  I  explore the idea of a ‘hole in vision’ and how it could manifest as an in-depth self-portrait.  How do I materially manifest the daily conscious practice of being looked at and of looking at the self?  The result of this question was a framed archive of daily disposable contact lenses.

Vision Archive consists of a series of square black box-frames containing black mount-boards. Within each, individual contacts lenses are neatly attached in rows with small dressmaker’s pins. The first box in the series has only one pair of lenses. 

The next boxes to this current date individually contain six hundred and seventy-two lenses pinned in a grid to make the current total three thousand three hundred and seventy-seven. The last is an empty black box awaiting lenses as the archive continues to grow. It sits on the wall like an expectant coffin.  From a distance these black frames and glass fronts appear to be boxes of sparkling fragmented glass, sequins or jewels.

The lenses each contain a remnant of experience; a fingerprint, a trace of makeup. They are damaged or smooth, depending on the day. The application of a clear liquid lacquer to each lens to keep the shape and markings intact suggests a delicate botanical collection of insects, carefully preserved for museum display and study.

As each lens has been pierced, the work enacts a ritual that metaphorically suggests the piercing of my own sight or vision. 

My own sight reflects my internalisation of the ‘blind-spot’ of a culture through which I see. It also reflects how a vision of myself is pierced and held in place. The small gestures and fragments of my own existence have been elevated to the state of relic. 

My lenses have become sacred objects, like the physical remains or personal effects of a saint or venerated person preserved as a tangible memorial. In his book The Practice of Everyday Life [1] Philosopher Michel de Certeau speaks of how conscious and unconscious daily rituals mark out space defined for creative existence and when the simplest of tasks are performed with concentration and intent, they take on a sacramental character, allowing us to create our own sacred space.[2] 

This work is an attempt to stay outside of an image or digital artefact that ‘represents’ who I am and instead create a portrait of myself, and my seeing. In my other work Pilgrimage I sought to create an experience where the viewer could see me through my own eyes. In Vision Archive I continue to offer my sight as a precious object, capable of continually being refreshed.

[1] Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, 2 vols. (Berkeley Minneapolis: University of California Press; University of Minnesota Press, 1984).

[2] Andrew Butterfield, "What Remains,"  New Republic (2011), https://newrepublic.com/article/92804/medieval-christian-art-relics.