“The image itself is the mode of acquaintance - the ‘way in’ that
reveals the life of the city.”
105 Kleinhüningerstrasse 3 views
The walking explorations conducted in the first phase of my research revealed a complex, multi-sensorial and layered urban space and accordingly, the question of how to visualize this space is no less complex. “How is it possible to show an experience which occurs not only as a visually perceived image but also as a mental image? Is it possible to represent a moment of perception experienced by one person to another person?”
In the next section of my research I consider this question of how images can communicate an urban space in both a theoretical manner and also in a practical manner using the method of practice-led research again. I begin here with an overview of images and perception as well as distortions in images and perception, and then in the proceeding sections, I discuss the visualization of specific qualities of the urban space alongside related image experiments.
IMAGES AND PERCEPTION
The research question of "How can we visualize an urban space?" encompasses many elements and discussions within image theory, not the least of which an understanding of images and how we form or create them. Fundamentally, images live in the world, but they also live in a more fluidly in our minds. Aristotle claimed that the soul never thinks without a mental image. In my research, I am not only concerned with what is visible in the image or picture, but I am also interested what is not visible, what was sensed and what existed in the mind and subsequent perception and interpretation of these images.
"Images are neither on the wall (or on the screen) nor
in the head alone. They do not exist by themselves, but they happen... they
happen via transmission and perception.” – Hans Belting
Mulitplle Viewpoints, Gartnerstrasse
If images are indeed a form of language or have the ability to transmit messages, then an understanding of how images communicate is important. W.J.T. Mitchell has put forth several theories related to images. In his book, Iconology: Image, Text, Ideology., He broke down images into five categories graphic, optical, perceptual, mental and verbal Graphic images are what we usually think of when we think of pictures: they are drawing, marks and signs, optical images are images created with light, screens or mirrors, perceptual images are the images we sense in our' naked eye', mental images are dreams, memories or ideas and verbal images are images that arise in our mind after encountering a literal term. If we consider these various categories of images it becomes clear that an image can be many things, existing in a concrete form as a picture, photograph or painting but also existing only as a potential image or as a fleeting image formed in the mind, such as creating an image of the surface of wall in your mind as you run your hand along it.
Communicating a complex moment in time, with various sensorial components becomes complicated. The creator of the image sees an image in the mind that somehow must be transmitted to another mind. “An image is a mediator - a screen between the gaze and the subject.”
Beige Car, Altrheinweg
This explains one of the difficulties with using imges to communicate, people can look at the same image and have different perceptions. Perception relates to what images we create in our mind when presented with an image. This moment of perception is akin to a filter or screen between the artist and the viewer. Everything that the viewer sees in the image will be seen through the filter of their acquired experiences and unique sensations.
In his discussion of Perception for the Chicago School of Media Theory, Chris Aque states "In this sense, perception is not only what we see, nor is it what we understand to see, but it is this balance of seeing and understanding simultaneously. As Kant demonstrated, it is not enough to just experience, but rather, there must be a set of underlying truths that enable our experience.”
“The city is a phenomenon that exceeds all our capacity of description, representation and recording and, consequently, it is always experientially infinite.” – Juhani Pallasmaa
If we consider then that the viewer of an image, the perceiver, is always layering their ideas and concepts on to the already existing image then can an image ever communicate as intended? The power of visual representations is then to be able to successfully transmit the concept of the artist or the communicator, layering over the underlying experiences and cultural influences of the viewer.
Parked Cars, Gartnersrasse
DISTORTIONS IN IMAGES AND PERCEPTION
As discussed in the introduction to this paper, the 'unending rainfall of images' as Calvino described it, is distorting our perception of what we are seeing and experiencing in our urban spaces. Images of urban space viewed on Instagram, google maps or computer-generated renderings of space layer over top of our lived experience. "Our physical world, cityscapes and natural settings, as well as our inner mental landscapes area all colonized today by the image industry." I consider these distortions here to understand how they affect the viewer's reception, trust and ultimate perception of images.
Within this rainfall of images, photography gives an initial impression of pure objectivity and exactness, as Ruskin stated upon first seeing photographs: "Daguerreotypes taken by this vivid sunlight are glorious things: It is very nearly the same thing as carrying off a palace itself- every chip of stone and stain is there - and of course, there can be no mistakes about proportion.'”
Photography though is alien to the human eyes; our eyes see perception in an entirely different way than the camera and what we see in a photograph is never how the real lived world is seen with our eyes.Photography, then which seems so real is, in fact, an alternate type of reality which not only changes our idea of how things look but distorts our impression of time, freezing it and allowing us to repeat over and over a single moment. The distorted nature of photographic images is something experienced daily in our image-saturated world. The angle that a photo is taken from, or the degree to which filters and corrections are applied, can also distort photographs. In my explorations of the virtual space, I found many examples of photographs which did not represent the actual space.
The vast number of images circulating in the physical world and online means that our understanding of an image as being a representation of the real is being challenged. "Our contemporary period is starting to dismantle the power of the image. Images are not anymore the carriers of truth, because digital and cyber technologies allow manipulating images that seem objective, simulations that seem to reproduce reality […] Images are not referential models for perception anymore, because the copy of the copy, the constant revival of the past in to the present, dislocates memory and meaning, and destroys cultural visual stereotypes and a collective memory.”
This brings back to mind the images of future urban developments as first referenced at the beginning of my research, these images somehow function purely as beautiful photographic images. It questions whether the design of spaces is being driven by the image more so than the use. Pallasmaa speculates on this ‘architecture of the image’, "purely retinal architecture that is deliberately conceived to be circulated and appreciated as instant and striking photographic images, instead of being experienced slowly and gradually in an embodied manner through a physical and spatial encounter."
 Scheppe, 2010 p.8 (From the introduction to Done.Book by Liza Fior, a British Architect and Designer.)  Moya Pellitero, A.M., 2007 p.xi
 Belting, 2005 p.302
 Mitchell, 1987 9-10
 Nielsen, 2003
 Aque, 2007
 Aque, 2007
 Pallasmaa, 2012 p.163
 Pallasmaa, 2011 p.14
 de Botton, 2002 p.223 (Here de Botton is quoting John Ruskin)
 Amundsen, 2018 (Pallismaa discusses this in a response to Amundsen’s interview question)  Moya Pellitero, A.M., 2007 p.7
 Pallasmaa, 2011a p.53