The Industrialization of the Eye
In his “Eye Lust” chapter of Open Sky, Virilio argues we are not seeing the way we used to, and proclaims we have been afflicted with a “perceptual disorder” that makes us visually challenged. Thus, this has led, or will lead if it has not already, to the industrialization of vision. As a result, we are no longer “eyewitnesses of tangible reality.” This industrialization of the eye according to Virilio is affected us in the physical sense, but, more importantly, the ethical sense.
Virilio discusses a myraid of modern innovations that have altered the way we see. Now, we have more than just glasses to transform the way we see. He exemplifies this with the recent creation of the laser scanner. “This system uses lasers employed in eye surgery that can safely scan low intensity beams directly onto the back of the retina and modulate colour images.” Therefore, science has changed the way our eye operates, and has allowed us to easily obtain an artificial vision.
Kafka says innovations like cinema are like “pulling a uniform over our eyes.” So, just as the technological innovations have altered the physical nature of our eyes, it changes the way we percieve the world. Mass media now seems to dictate what we see. Virilio claims we are clearly not truly free to choose what we see—do you agree? Have modern innovations changed our vision for the worst? In the 1920’s, artists agreed with Virilo that the way we now see is not sufficient. I may have mentioned this in a past post, but the eye became a dominant symbol to show their disdain for the modern mechanized eye. Salvador Dali‘s The Painter’s Eye depicts an eye on crutches, worn down by the fast paced modern world. The fact that the eye holds a myriad of paintbrushes implies that, in the modern world, there is only one eye, one machine, working. Our vision has become mechanized to the operate according to one machine. Dali therefore implements modern elements, such as the phone, the car, and the brick man with the clock on his face in the background, to represent the effect of mechanization on vision. Like the brick man in the background, our eye ticks along with modern society. Through this representations, the eye symbolizes the vision as a mechanized aspect of society as Virilio seems to also infer.