Friday, 7 May 2010

Presentation and write up.

Digital Imaging and Photography Project 1: The Irritated Gaze.

Key aims and objectives



  • To create visual metaphors that explore migraine auras and migraine experiences.

  • The migraine auras are studied via personal experience and research.

  • To produce work that explores the condition of seeing within the migraine experience.

  • To explore the hallucinatory nature of the migraine aura.

  • The imagery inspired by the migraine experiences are not attempts to produce medical illustrations of the auras.

To explore a range of technologies and media:

  • Drawing

  • Paint

  • Collage

  • Photographic

  • Digital imaging

  • Digital montage



The process was an attempt to compress technological and media history into a series of images: from drawing, painting, collage to photography, montage, the digital image and digital montage. Elements of the work look like photograms, solarization, abstract expressionist paintings and Daguerreotypes: see Current Developments 4, 5, 6, 8 and 9. See this discussion of Robert Rauschenberg's Retroactive I (1964). I do not believe that the digital montage fully achieves this kind of compression of technological history as seen within Retroactive I, but seems to represent it in more ambiguos ways.

Migraine aura visual distortions.

Migraine auras often include visual distortions, while other symptoms include “faintness, decreased levels of consciousness..., sleepiness….Twinkling and scintillating effects…” accompanying “visual auras” (Grossinger, pp.6-7). Accounts describe “small angled” spheres or disturbance suddenly appearing within the field of vision. This is described as a scotoma (plural: scotomata), while “the term scintillating scotoma is used to designate its peculiar luminous pulsation” (Grossinger, p.10). Where there is a blind spot within the field of vision this is called a negative scotoma (Grossinger, p. 11).

The psychological experience of migraine aura


"The variety of psychological experiences associated with the migraine aura include: negative (a guided tour of aura's hell) and positive emotional and cognitive reactions (a glimpse of aura's heaven)mystical, spiritual and magical interpretations as well as appreciation in terms of psychic experiences, zoomorphic and anthropomorphic interpretations, likening migraine auras to animals, humans or human-like formsthe experience of an increased creativity during varying stages of the migraine attack" (Podoll, Klaus 2007).



Digital Collage: Zoomorphic and Anthropomorphic Forms




Hudson, J Untitled 2010.





Modernist Experience and the Migraine Aura




  • Not everything which looks like a migraine aura - e.g. Pablo Picasso's Cubist paintings - actually must have been inspired by a migraine aura.
  • Likely sufferers: Italian painter Giorgio de Chirico, who founded the metaphysical school and the surrealist Dali.

  • Doubtful sufferer: Dutch Post-Impressionist Vincent van Gogh.

  • Migraine auras do not fully account for or explain Modern Art


    Sofia Greene, Migraine aura, 2005. © 2005 Sofia Greene

    Anonymous, from Podoll, K and Robinson, D (2008) Migraine Art: The Migraine Experience from within, Berkley: North Atlantic Books Ch: 1 p. 1.


    Grossinger: “spontaneous visual distortions have been described throughout history”, but observes, interestingly, that “the association of a class of them with migraines was not recognized until the late nineteenth century” (2006 p. 5). What do we see in the 19th Century, but the birth of modernism and psychiatry?



    Is there are parallel between the migraine aura symptoms and modernist experience as described by Baudelaire and others?

  • Modernism led to a new emphasis on the "fragmentary and fluid nature of experience" (Ward, 2003 p. 123).

  • Baudelaire: “modernist consciousness is dominated by a sense of the "transitory, the furtive, the contingent", an image of the city and identity as being fragmented (Baudillaire, C 1863 p.23 and Ward, 2003 p. 123).

  • Georg Simmel too commented on the "fragmentation of modernist consciousness" (Ward, 2003 p. 123).

  • "Seurat had grasped that there is something atomized, divided and analyzed about modernist experience" (Hughes, R 1991 p.118)

  • Gilbert-Rolfe in his essay "Edouard Manet and the Pleasure Problematic" paraphrases T. J. Clark's description of the décor in A Bar at the Folies-Bergère. Clark suggests that the décor in the Folies' as garish, "but the painting's prettiness is the prettiness of black and white punctured with intensities which signify softness or impalpability" (1995 p.3). It struck me that the migraine aura has similar intensities and this description of Manet's picture seems to resonate with my own imagery. See also here.

Clement Greenberg: In Picasso’s Collages the various elements, the lettering, the charcoal lines and the coloured papers "begin to change places in depth with one another, and a process is set up in which every part of the picture takes its turn at occupying every plane, whether real or imagined, in it" (Greenberg, 1958, p. 106).


The process of digital montage is also an attempt to achieve this. See this early version of Deepest Autumn (2010).

Pablo Picasso Guitar, Sheet Music, and Wine Glass 1912


Modern Art: Surrealism and Film


Still from Bunuel and Dali’s Une Chien Andalou 1928












Stills from Hitchcock’s Spellbound 1945, featuring a dream sequence by Dali.






Stills from the Irritated Gaze Part III, The Irritated Gaze 2010, montage: photography and wallpaper.




The connections between the above imagery is fascinating. Bunuel's imagery is sadistic, Dali seems to reference Bunuel and both seem to problematise sight and punish the act of seeing. Bunuel's action is extremely visceral and sadistic, while Dali plays out symbolically a sadistic act: the eyes transform into patterns onto curtains which are then cut out. Visual examples are also to be found here.

The connections to migraine's auras are not concrete or fully explored here, but much of the symbolism and re-presentation of hallucinations and dreams seem to suggest the experiences of the migraine and it's aura.


Works Cited:

Baudillaire, C (1863) "The Painter of Modern Life" in Frascina, F. and Harrison, C. (1987)Modern Art and Modernism: A Critical Anthology New York: Harpers and Row pp.23-27.

Entwistle, E.A. (1954) The Book of Wallpaper London: Arthur Baker

Frascina, F. and Harrison, C. (1987) Modern Art and Modernism: A Critical Anthology New York: Harpers and Row.

Futurism and Dada Reviewed, LMT Publishing 1988/2000.

Gilbert-Rolfe, J. (1995) Beyond Piety: Critical Essays on the Visual Arts 1986-1993, New York and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Greenberg, C (1958) “On Collage” in Frascina, F. and Harrison, C. (1987) Modern Art and Modernism: A Critical Anthology New York: Harpers and Row pp.105-108.

Grossinger, R (2006) Migraine Auras: When the Visual World Fails, Berkley: North Atlantic Books.

Hamilton, J (1983) Wallpaper London: Victoria and Albert Museum/HMSO.

Hudson, J (2009- incomplete) Digital Imaging and Photography MA Blog:
http://www.digitalimagingandphotography.blogspot.com [Last Accessed 7 May, 2010].

Hughes, R (1991) Shock of the New, London: Thames and Hudson.


Podoll, K and Robinson, D (2008) Migraine Art: The Migraine Experience from within, Berkley: North Atlantic Books.

Podoll, K Migraine Aura Foundation (2007) http://www.migraine-aura.org/content/e27891/e27265/index_en.html [Last Accessed 7 May, 2010].

Ward, G. (2003) Postmodernism, London: Teach Yourself, Hodder Education.

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