• Perspective is a Latin word which means “seeing through.”… “foreshortening,” …  into a “window,” and when we are meant to believe we are looking through this window into a space
  • Panofsky explains that the aim of perspective is to “guarantee a fully rational – that is, infinite, unchanging and homogeneous – space, this “central perspective” makes two tacit but essential assumptions: first, that we see with a single and immobile eye, and second, that the planar cross section of the visual pyramid can pass for an adequate reproduction of our optical image. In fact these two premises are rather bold abstraction from reality, if by “reality” we mean the actual subjective optical impression. For the structure of an infinite, unchaining and homogeneous space – in short, a purely mathematical space — is quite unlike the structure of psychophysiological space: “perception does not know the concept of infinity; from the very outset it is confined within certain spatial limits imposed by our faculty of perception. And in connection with perceptual space we can no more speak of homogeneity than of infinity. the ultimate basis of the homogeneity of geometric space is that all its elements, the “points” which are joined in it, are mere determinations of position, possessing no independent content of their own outside of this relation, this position which they occupy in relation to each other. There really is exhausted in their reciprocal relation: it is a purely functional and not a substantial reality, because fundamentally these points are devoid of all content, because they have become mere expressions of ideal relations, they can raise no question of a diversity in content. … hence homogeneous space is never given space, but space produced by construction; and indeed they geometrical concept of homogeneity can be expressed by the postulate that from every point in space it must be possible to draw similar figures in all directions and magnitudes… visual space and tactical space [tastraum] are both anisotropic and unhomogeneous in contrast to the metric space of Euclidean geometry: “the main direction of organization – before – behind, above – below, right – left – are dissimilar in both physiological spaces.” (28)
  • Exact perspectival construction is a systematic abstraction from the structure of this psychophysiological space… indeed its intended purpose, to realize in the representation of space precisely that homogeneity and boundless foreign to the direct experience of that space. in a sense, perspective transforms psychophysiological space into mathematical space. it negates the differences between front and back, between right and left, between bodies and intervening space (“empty” space) [not sure what this mean?] so that the sum of all the parts of space and all its contents are absorbed into a single “quantum continuum.” (30)
  • Panofsky goes on to argue that “this achievement meant… for not only did it elevate art to a “science”: the subjective visual impression was indeed so far rationalized that this very impression could itself become the foundation for a solidly grounded and yet, in an entirely modern sense, “infinite” experiential world. the result was a translation of psychophysiological space into mathematical space; in other words, an objectification of the subjective. “ (66) and “the formula.. perspective was bound to become all that much more of an artistic problem. it enables light to spread out in space and in a painterly way dissolve the bodies. perspective creates distance between human beings and things… thus the history of perspective may be understood with equal justice as a triumph of the distancing and objectifying sense of the real, and as a triumph of the distance-denying human struggle for control; it is as much a consolidation and systematization of the external world, as an extension of the domain of the self… the problem of how to put this ambivalent method to use.. whether the perspectival configuration of a painting was to be oriented toward the factual standpoint of the beholder; or whether conversely the beholder ought ideally to adapt himself to the perspectival configuration of the painting. … the “claim” of the object confronts the ambition of the subject. the object intends to remain distanced from the spectator (objective); it wants to bring to bear, unimpeded, its own formal lawfulness. it does not want to be referred to an eccentric vanishing point, nor certainly, as in the oblique view, governed by a coordinate system whose axes no longer even appear objectively in the work, but rather exist only in the imagination of the beholder. … antitheses of free will versus norm, individualism versus collectivism, the irrational versus the rational; modern perspectival problems that provoked epochs, nations and individuals to take up especially emphatic and visible positions in such matter.” (67) and “when art won the right to determine for itself what “up” and “down,” “front” and “back,” “right” and “left” should be, it was essentially only giving back to the subject something that already belonged to it by rights, that antiquity had only unnaturally claimed as objective attributes of space. the arbitrariness of direction and distance within modern pictorial space bespeaks and confirms the indifference to direction and distance of modern intellectual space; and it perfectly corresponds, both chronologically and technically, to that stage in the development of theoretical perspective when… it became a general projective geometry.” (70)
Posted by:Liyang DING

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