The shifting appearance/disappearance of holographic images: a specific visual quality emblematic of a dynamic ontology of perceptual and cognitive processes

Philippe Boissonnet
University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM), Canada

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Strangely, light places us in contact with the things of the world even while keeping us at a great distance from them. It brings these things into our sight at the same time as our gaze gives us the impression that the world would not exist without it. The French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty captured this dynamic with his idea of the intertwining of perceiver and perceived. Light is what links them. In the case of holographic images, not only is spatial and colour perception the pure product of light, but this light is always in the process of self-construction WITH our eyes, according to our movements and the point of view adopted. With respect to the visual regime of the work’s reception, holographic images vary greatly from those of cinema, photography and even every kind of digital 3D animation and are closer to the visual dynamic of sculpture or virtual reality. To a much greater extent than the persistence of vision found in cinema, this regime truly makes perceptually apparent the “co-emergence” of light and our gaze as we experience the former on a daily basis. But holography never misleads us with respect to the precarious nature of our perceptions. We have no illusion as to the limits of our empirical understanding of the perceived reality. But holography, like our knowledge of the visible, thus brings to light the phenomenon of reality’s “co-constitution” and contributes to a dynamic ontology of perceptual and cognitive processes. The cognitivist Francico Varela defines this as the paradigm of enaction, which I will adapt and apply to the appearance/disappearance context of holographic images to bring out their affinities on a metaphorical level. For it turns out that these physical and felt qualities of “co-emergence” are of great interest to artists and the contemporary world.