Buswell’s Inscriptions

This series of animations results from research into the history of eye movement studies. The animations are made by correlating data tables with graphic inscriptions from Guy T. Buswell’s book How People Look at Pictures (University of Chicago Press, 1935). Buswell recorded the eye movements of subjects with an elaborate instrument that captured light reflected off of the subject’s cornea onto moving vertical and horizontal photographic medium. The reflected light was recorded on the medium as points of light that were made by an electronic obstruction of the camera aperture by a fan (or vibrating tuning fork–in earlier instruments) rotating in 30 to 50hertz cycles. These points, gave Buswell insight into the space and time of the visual fixation patterns.  The points were then re-inscribed onto the image originally shown to the subject, and accompanied by a fixation time table, published in his book.  Buswell recorded the eye movements of approximately two hundred subjects for almost fifty pictures (paintings, diagrams, and photographs).  This work reanimates Buswell’s data–and perhaps, can be considered as an attempt to reinscribe the subject.

Subject 12, Painting: Seurat, “Sunday…”, 42 Fixations

These animations are the first few tests that I have made using a small software tool I developed in order to redraw, correlate fixation times with fixation points, and animate the paths.  The radius of the circles corresponds to the fixation time.  This may not be the most accurate way to demonstrate the physiological realities of visual fixation, but serves as a way to represent duration.  The first three works I have decided to reanimate are Georges Seurat, “Un dimanche après-midi à l’Île de la Grande Jatte” (1884-1886); Katsushika Hokusai “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” (1829-1832); and Walter Ufer’s “The Solemn Pledge” (1916).

Subject 29, Painting: Seurat, “Sunday…”, 120 Fixations

Subject 67, Painting: Hokusai, “The Great Wave…”, 70 Fixations

Subject 142, Painting: Hokusai, “The Great Wave…”, 62 Fixations

Subject 51, Painting: Ufer, “The Solemn Pledge”, 63 Fixations

Subject 174, Painting: Ufer, “The Solemn Pledge”, 58 Fixations

Subject 163, Painting: Ufer, “The Solemn Pledge”, 65 Fixations