Vase or Face
‘Rubin’s vase’ is an optical illusion. The picture is a well-known example of bistable perception: either you see the white vase or you see two black faces. You cannot see both at the same time, but you can see them alternately.
Rubin’s picture is an intuitive yet very practical demonstration of figure/background separation that takes place during cognitive processes in the brain. The separation between figure and background determines the interpretation of the details.
During human evolution, our brains developed all kinds of systems that aid our eyesight. You hardly notice this, until you see something that is misinterpreted by those systems. Many optical illusions work like this: they fool your brain by providing information that triggers a ‘wrong’ response in the brain. Other optical illusions show funny peculiarities of our eyes and brains.
Everyone sees things just a little bit differently from the other. It is unclear what causes this and what causes that difference. When several people report an eyewitness in court, everyone will agree on a few facts and disagree on a point from the rest. Ultimately, it is no longer possible to determine who is telling the truth. Or perhaps there were several truths and the situation was ambiguous.
Visual artists, writers and scientists have traditionally tended to look behind the scenes, stripped of masks, show the other side of a story, nuance it and show that things are not as simple as they seem. Straightforwardness and unambiguousness are rare in the visual arts and literature. It is the culturally and intellectually valuable ambiguity that makes use of the space between the opposites.
What would art be without ambiguity and room for interpretation? Sowing doubts. Showing the world as it is not, but as it could be. Making people think and making them aware of their prejudices, that is what makes art exciting. Especially now.
‘Vase or Face’ brings together a number of works by artists, which are not straight forward or unambiguous, but would like to highlight other sides of a story.
Participating artists: Norbert Bisky, Pieter Hugo, Pieter Kusters, Ben Merris, Marisa Rappard, Marie Reintjes, Gerco de Ruijter, Robin Speijer, Koen Taselaar and C. A. Wertheim