BLIND SPOT investigates a sensory phenomenon at the gravitational center of all material knowledge. The project researches the implications of the “blind spot” to artists in the visual and performing arts concerned with the implications of perception in human experience and society. The term “blind spot” stems from medical research into the optics of the eye. “The natural blind spot is due to lack of receptors where the optic nerve and blood vessels leave the eye. Blindness is absence of seeing. It may be experienced as blackness, or very differently it may be nothing. The sudden blindness of switching off the light is blackness (and black is a colour); nothingness is lack of visual sensation, as for the world behind one’s head.” Prof. Richard Gregory and Prof. Patrick Cavanagh (2011), Scholarpedia, 6(10):9618. The term is also used in photography, describing the nodal point of a camera. Beyond its’ technical significance the blind spot is of course a metaphor for a multitude of juxtapositions, between the visible and invisible, the static and fluid, the known and unknown. Blind spot is that which is uncannily present, and at the center, but remains unseen and undescribed. The project works from the artistic potential of the blind spot and its fuzzy surroundings. The research unfolds between 2016 – 2019 in working groups, residencies and seminars. Blind spot as a topic is activated through performing arts processes, leading to three main productions: one performative production for stage to be toured nationally and internationally; a second research production will result in an exhibition to be presented nationally and internationally; and thirdly, a publication, reflecting upon the artistic and academic process of the research project. The publication also constitutes a collection, a sourcebook of the most diverse artistic material on the subject. The artistic research and production will be accompanied by investigations into the topic through the academic eye of scholarship in contemporary and media archaeology, history, sociology, technology, literature and philosophy. The research is led by Prof. Karen Kipphoff of Norwegian Theatre Academy at the University College Østfold in Fredrikstad and partner institutions in Berlin and Bucharest, also including students and research fellows as well as commissioned artists and scholars.


Through artistic investigations the aim is to fall into the void and reflect on the implications of the seen and unseen in our methodological and practical perception.  The blind spot itself is an ethical void as much as it is a call to ethics. Conflicting projections of what global problems we are told can be solved, if only we could acquire the knowledge and exert enough control over material, are exacerbated by the everyday experience of not even being able to control access to personal data on devices, nor in our collapsing ecological network. Exponentially and ever increasing amounts of perceivable knowledge at once confuse and detract us. We become and are repeatedly blind to the “big picture” by necessity, sometimes even blacking out access to compassion or responsibility for the most vulnerable beings around us.  Naturally, the blind spot in its different shapes is also the place of the uncanny, the scary gaze into the rear mirror. It also constitutes the space for our boldest fantasies, a refuge, a place where our visions are able to unfold, uncontrolled and out of reach. The blind spot is a site of utopia, a projection of an ideal, as much as an unopen door to apocalypse. One of the questions the project seeks in light of these assumptions, is if the blind spot is as closed to us as we think? Can we “enter” it?

The research will unfold over three years 2016 – 2019 in form of working groups, residencies and seminars organized by the partners, also including students and research fellows and commissioned artists. The artistic research and production will be accompanied by investigations into the topic through the meeting of disciplines. The intention is to circle, like a zoetropic machine, into and beyond the subject from different methodological angles, as we are both inside and beyond the center of the “blind spot”. The work groups will uncover, activate and develop aspects of the topic leading to three related productions informed by choreographic, visual, sonic and spatial practices. The first is a production for stage, reflective of the transitory, the fleeting and fluid of the more physical and literary aspects of the subject matter. The resulting performance is to be developed and presented nationally and internationally. The second production, an exhibition, aims at a more visual and object oriented practice, spanning critical and discursive as well as technologically oriented expressions with the intention of presenting these nationally and internationally. A sense of fluidity and synergy between the two productions will bring forth different forms of presentations at different stages of the project: from the workshop to seminar to exhibition, lecture and performance. Finally, the publication will constitute a reflection, documentation and collection: a source book of diverse material on the subject. The publication can become an uncanny space itself, an artist book-object of unexpected forms of publication and dissemination. In all three strands of the research the static quality of the blind spot as we have imagined it is questioned. “The entire city revolves around a place that is both forbidden and indifferent, an abode masked by vegetation, protected by moats, inhabited by an emperor whom no one ever sees: literally, no one knows who does ever see him. Its centre is no more than an evaporated ideal whose existence is not meant to radiate any kind of power, but to offer its own empty centre to all urban movement as a form of support, by forcing perpetual traffic detours. Thus, it appears as an image that unfurls again and again in endless circles, around an empty core.” – Barthes, Roland, “L’Empire des Signes”

The panorama seeks to present everything: the sum of all possible details to be seen, while at the same time keeping an overview, giving a general impression of that which is represented. Of course this has caused all sorts of problems due to the sheer technical impossibility of showing everything in detail as well as in a general frame. How to transpose and represent that which is seen? One early attempt to show a complete and true panorama of the object of interest took the shape of the folded 60 foot long Panorama of the Thames from London to Richmond, published by Samuel Leigh in 1829. It covered both sides of the river, all prominent buildings and other details. From then on, the panorama in all its variations became a spectacular and entertaining way to perceive of the world known to us. The brochure Panorama of the Hudson Showing Both Sides of the River from New York to Albany was sold in many editions on the Hudson River Day Line Steamers for 50 cents from the early 1900s on. In the same street-view-style Yoshikazu Suzuki’s Ginza Haccho was published as an accordion foldout book in 1952. It showed both sides of the street with the buildings of Ginza in Tokyo. Ed Ruscha’s famous 1966 artist book of the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles is preceded by many examples of spectacular photographic representations of attractions. Apart from exploded variety of contemporary, sometimes immersive media art examples, the contemporary pan-optic spectacle has taken on the revealing and controversial form of Google “street view”. Zooming in, we see images overlapping, some of them more detailed than others, at times we even see ourselves. But this is no longer intended for pure entertainment, the many functions connected to “street view” and mapping stand for a new era of information unlimited connection, seeing, and surveillance: perhaps in place of relation or understanding.

Evermore accessible information and close ups cannot patch over the quintessential misunderstanding, that information accessible is not equal to filtering, reading, understanding let alone acting upon that information. Today’s very clean, perfectionist and pure, spectacular 360-degree spherical panoramas still carry the flaw of the blind spot, although it is well hidden away – at the bottom point of the line straight down from the nodal point of the camera to the ground the tripod stands upon, which still remains impossible to fill with imagery. As a metaphor this is the imperfect that needs patching over, the edge that becomes fuzzy, the boarder to the unknown, to the void and scary but also to the fantastic visions and illusions that might lie within that unknown. The photographic panorama and the popularity it again enjoys today doesn’t reflect the fact that we are moving in transitional spaces and living in transitory and conflicted societies, that our paths in general are fluid in time and space. We have not lost the blind spot, as we constantly and inescapably are at the center of it in more than one sense through our seeing eyes, listening ears, touching hands, knowing bodies as well as our processing yet misunderstanding minds. However, the blind spot has transitory and multi-faceted aspects as can be easily heard when conducting 360 degree surround field recordings. The sound recorded at one site will vary vastly not just from one minute to the next but also from one location to another one, just a few meters to the side. Nonetheless they maintain something which again can be called auditive blind spots, something perceivable yet inaudible. Or, perhaps, it never was static, as our view of the world does not so much depend on what we see but rather how we perceive it.