Karien van AssendelftAlumnus
(thoughts on movement and perception)
I am looking at an old grey lady in a black and white wheelchair. She sits still, her hands tightly clasped around the wheels of her chair. On her wrinkled face a look of expectancy. Pictured in a postcard, the old lady quietly waits for something to happen. The postcard is bound to a pat together with a hundred other pictures of the lady-in-a-wheelchair.
I'm holding the picture book in my hands. My left hand supports the carton backbone as the other hand takes the pages between two fingers and starts flipping them, like playing cards.
Slowly, the old lady comes to life. She starts to move, turning her wheelchair in circles, at first unsteadily, then more fluently, until she's turning around super fast, her spiky hair blowing in the wind. Then, all of a sudden, she comes to a full stop_. jumps_. and reappears from a different perspective in an altered landscape. And there the turning starts again_
My teacher told us a story about a man who could only recognize faces while in movement. He couldn't even recognize his own face in front of a mirror.
How fast will he have to move his face in front of the mirror to get to the point of recognition? Would he recognize someone sitting opposite the table, by rapidly moving his eyes back and forth in their sockets? Is he aware of his deficiency and would he know there is somebody to identify in the first place?
In photography you'll find the opposite effect: the faster your subject moves, the more it becomes out of focus and less visible, until it moves so quickly that all that will remain is a streak.
'The painter asks us to, next time, please, not fall so quickly, but prolong our falling, because he cannot paint it on the canvas so quickly.'
After Der Blindersturz, Gert Hofmann after Parabel van de Blinden, Brueghel from article Wat flikt de schilder mij door Cornel Bierens, NRC Handelsblad 13/3/98
Perception and motion verbs
Perception is schematised by language. Whatever you wish to say has to fit within the categories of your mother tongue. For perceiving, for making a mental picture, your mother tongue is of considerable importance. So your language may affect the way you observe and perceive the world.
Regarding movement, Dan Slobin, professor in linguistics, distinguishes two types of language:
1. Verbs regarding manner of movement _ e.g. Germanic languages have many verbs for movement.
2. Verbs regarding path (pad) of movement _ in Roman languages describing movement is context related.
The way different cultures look at motion is influenced by the difference between their 'path' en 'manner' languages. For instance: a Spaniard, sitting in a bar, will focus upon where everything is situated instead of how people move. While a native speaker of English _ when asked to describe images a text evokes in him- will vividly portray it, even adding information concerning motion. In (vision)tests regarding moving images he will score considerably higher than a native speaker of French, who simply does not notice the nuances in movement, because his language falls short to describing motion.
I stare into the dark. In the distance I hear a rattling sound like a running film projector. I shuffle towards it. Suddenly I bump into a metal construction, which by closer examination turns out to be a bicycle. I climb it and start peddling. Since the bicycle is pinned to the floor, I'm not moving forward. But I can hear a machine being set in motion and from the darkness slowly an image emerges. It represents people, painted in primary colours, gliding through the space, like sunlight moving through the stained-glass windows of a church. The moment I stop peddling, the image gradually fades away and a complete silent darkness surrounds me.
Karien van Assendelft