Escape

Myopia is a vast place, a whole world apart from ours, composed of apparently endless levels of details. It would seem that it is always possible to look closer, to go further down the winding paths of a given area of study. By the sheer vastness of myopia, the myopic practice becomes an excellent means of escape – a way to occupy one’s time and energy in order to practically remove oneself from other aspects of life. Wishing to flee from the grittiness of reality, from social expectations and the projected judgement of others, from difficult relationships or societal responsibilities etc., the myopist may retreat to his or her practice, the privacy of which holds great relief. One becomes lost in the vastness of myopia, in its ceaselessness and details, adrift, as it were, in a sea of solitude. Here, the myopist disappears not only to others, but also, momentarily, to him- or herself – and that is the greater relief; the forgetting of one’s desire to escape at all, the forgetting of that which one seeks to escape from. Yet, the losing of oneself to oneself is achieved only with great difficulty and patience and is easily disturbed, and the devotion that it thereby commands of the myopist can, not without some irony, lead to a self-transformative process – the formation of the strengthened resolve of the myopist. In order to really run away, the myopist must attain a good physique, so to speak. So, the myopist whose object of desire was the losing of him- or herself may accidentally end up achieving the opposite – the becoming of his or her self.

Difference

Since the scope of the myopic gaze is necessarily very small it can only be directed at very specific objects of inquiry at a time. We may say that there are many different kinds of myopia – different kinds of narrow, focused gazes pointing in all sorts of very specific directions, each its separate world of experience that is different from the rest and from the general, non-myopic realm. The archaeologist does not spontaneously understand the language of software engineering, the software engineer does not automatically know the workings of precision mechanics, the precision mechanic is not intimate with the knowledge of the biologist, and so forth. However, the isolation of these worlds from each other is not necessarily a source of personal alienation; it can, on the opposite, lead to a most enticing kind of sociality. The myopist who possesses exclusive knowledge and does not care to share it – perhaps does not even care to reveal possession of it – establishes a social variation, an experiential dissimilarity between him- or herself and others. What the myopist thereby seeks to avoid is the experience of social flatness, of personal transparency, which, fears the myopist, make for dull and predictable social realities. The perspective required for such an implementation of myopia in a social realm is indeed very non-myopic.

Recognition

Of all the reasons to be involved with myopia, one of the most obvious is the desire for recognition. Myopia offers a pedestal, a base on which to reach apotheosis. Through myopia, through specialization, it is possible to become “the best” at something, the most talented person within a given field or the most knowledgeable on a given subject. Myopia is home to geniuses. A particular type of myopic practice lends itself very well to the desire for recognition – namely, the competitive game in which there is little to no other product than the satisfaction of winning or the disappointment of losing. Only one champion at a time can stand on the myopic pedestal; the champions of yore are either relegated to oblivion or ridicule – or they are transferred to a “hall of fame” in which their reputation becomes virtually untouchable since they are no longer participants in the game and therefore cannot be directly challenged. This prospect of immortalization thrives very well within myopic practices – and for a particular reason. In the narrowness of myopia, it can at times be hard to justify the purpose of the myopic practice; immortalization, then, serves as the idea of an ultimate purpose – a projection of the myopist into eternity and unquestionable virtue.

Masochism

To the self, myopia can be a harsh environment. Myopic practices often entail the intense study of some external phenomenon and so tend to leave little space for self-examination (except in those cases where the object of the myopic inquiry is the self itself). Yet, the myopic practice is, of course, initiated by the self, by the person, and to the myopic practitioner there may indeed be certain self-interests invested in the repression of the self through myopia. Elsewhere we have described the desire to escape through myopia – from others or even from oneself – but in certain myopic practices, the repression of the self may serve as a direct and intended route to its location. In such practices, we find that the self is initially repressed – that is to say, regardless of the myopic demand for self-repression – that its confirmation is only permitted through its punishment and its becoming only following a process of formidable exertion. The workaholic is rarely content with his or her effort, and only when that effort leads to a state of exhaustion. To this extent, myopia serves as an excellent vehicle; it never depletes of toil. To describe the process in more myopic terms, we may say that the practitioner arrives at the self by looking very, very closely at something other than the self. The self is located underneath the object of inquiry, underneath the work, through an effort of excessive myopism. There is also a more extrovert side to masochism in myopia: namely, when it used to display the myopist’s effort through its visible toll on his or her well-being. This effort can indeed be difficult to display by any other means, since the myopist is often working in isolated conditions and with a subject that is more or less incomprehensible to others. Through extrovert masochism, the myopic practice can be linked to a certain bravado, one of its most extreme examples being that of the medical self-experiment. In pain quantification experiments, for example, medical researchers have used their own bodies as testing grounds for measuring inflicted pain – torching and freezing themselves, crushing body parts, receiving bites from poisonous insects, etc. Admittedly, such self-experiments also result from a lack of other willing research subjects, but the endurance they require of the researcher in question is nonetheless basis for boast; only the strong and devoted can bear to conduct them. Likewise, by stressing the harshness of the myopic environment, the myopist can create a frame for his or her self – one in which the self is presented as stronger precisely because it is threatened.

Eroticism

The situation in which the myopic experience occurs is one of privacy, of isolation – either complete, when there is no-one with whom the experience is shared, or partial, when it is shared with a small community consisting, typically, of other myopists. It is completely or partially hidden, taking place out of sight, under the blind eye of all or most others. In the refuge of the myopic experience, one is allowed the pleasure of non-surveillance, the joyful sensation of being uninhibited. It can surely be a most erotic experience; the lack of surveillance may in itself inspire a certain degree of improperness, of safe disobedience, since what takes place in myopia stays in myopia (as when the myopic experience is mediated it is also transformed and easily censored). But the eroticism of myopia also lies in the myopic gaze – in the looking at details, their captivating intricacies and exactitudes – as well as in the performative myopic practice – the ability to create and/or control such details. The myopist constantly shifts between these two modes, between looking and doing – always going back and forth. Think, for example, of the writer of a thesis who puts every new sentence, every word and every letter, on the scales, repeatedly weighing the nuances and discarding terms until finally arriving at the very most suitable, and the most pleasurable, phrasing. If the pleasure derived from this back-and-forth movement is mainly the result of the myopist’s checking his or her ability to exert control, we may call it masturbatory – a taking pleasure in oneself and one’s ability to fulfill the image of one’s desire. Yet, perfect control is hard to achieve; in striving for mastery over the written language, for example, there is always some trace of imperfection, some flaw that escapes the writer’s control – a clumsy word or an unintentional connotation, for example. In this lack of mastery lies another form of erotic pleasure, which is more subtle and less self-indulging: the pleasure in the elusiveness of the myopic object. The attraction towards the elusive, towards that which is hard to get, is a common occurrence, but when turned towards the myopic object it is many times amplified. In myopia, we get as near to the object as possible – it is never more closely within our grasp – but even so, our mastery over it is still incomplete. We are unable to fully reveal the object – to strip it bare, so to speak – and so are left all the more to wonder about its exposure.

Destruction

A curious phenomenon may be observed in some myopic practices: namely, when the practitioner puts a suspiciously generous effort into the act of mediation. In general, mediation is the opening up of the myopic experience – a process of enlargement, so to speak, in which the myopic experience is shaped into commonly accessible forms. The ability to mediate is often called upon as the justification of myopia; the researcher might be afforded his or her exclusive, myopic practice only if it is at some point made accessible or useful to others. Thus, the ability to mediate is generally seen as valuable – it is what allows myopic knowledge to diffuse into the realm of shared experience. However, in some practices we find that the desire for the ability to mediate becomes so significant as to successfully repress the myopic experience, since mediation is also the leaving of myopia – its abandonment by enlargement. Therefore, when a myopist aims at excellence in mediation, we shouldn’t necessarily hesitate to consider an underlying motive of a more sinister character: that is, the destruction of myopia by example of abandonment – an example that may, not least, be aimed at the incompetence in mediation as shown by other myopists. The situation seems conflicting: why make threats against something of which one is also representative? This apparent conflict covers for a rather unsporting method of self-identification: being involved with myopia, the myopist has an easy, immediate reference for identity (myopism), and by displaying his or her apathy towards myopia defines him- or herself by what he or she is not. In a sense, the image of self that is hereby produced is extremely vague – the image of the non-myopic myopist, which, as the self-negation of the words imply, hardly signals anything at all, save for one important detail: that this myopist is different from, and implicitly superior to, the myopic myopists.

Exclusivity

In some myopic practices, we find that the process of mediation is dealt with only with an assertive, and even enjoyable, reluctance, that it is poorly executed, and that the shape of the mediated knowledge as a result remains inaccessible. The myopist performs a communicating gesture without the intention of actually delivering a message; but of course, this behavior is not without intention at all. Think of the following scenario: one person tells another that he or she has a secret, but when asked what the secret is refuses to tell it. By denying others access to his or her claimed knowledge, the attempt is to establish an image of self as being exclusive, as being special or even mysterious, while the underlying fear is that of the self being revealed, of it being perceived by others as regular or inferior in accordance with the person’s true self-image. This mechanism, which seems quite plain, works by an interesting process: the transference of myopia to a non-myopic field. The image of self, which the myopist seeks to establish by means of deliberately poor mediation, is itself extremely restricted; it allows the others, the non-myopists, to focus only on the exclusivity of it all (since the actual contents of the mediated knowledge and of the myopist’s self remain inaccessible), which is to say that their view becomes, as a consequence, narrow, becomes myopic. We may see the attempt at such a transference as a reaction to the myopic position being perceived as unjust, as misunderstood, and the transference itself as a means to force this position on others – a retaliation through a “doing unto them as they did unto me” pseudo-logic. The transference ensures that the myopist certainly will be misunderstood – a result that may prove most convenient to the myopist as it seems to affirm the general discrimination of him- or herself. This self-justification only works, however, if the myopist omits the important detail that he or she was, in the case, the very source of the discrimination, the reason for the common myopia. The overall situation that ensues is one in which nothing is achieved – a deadlock between two incompatible forms of myopia.

Simplicity

Myopia is expansive – a forest or labyrinth in which one is easily disoriented – but in spite of its size and the amount of details it contains, it is possible to enter myopia with an altogether different intention than that of becoming lost: namely, that of simplification. By directing his or her attention towards a single detail at a time – by mapping it, quantifying it, making it known, describing its properties – the myopist can manage to ignore the overall complexity of myopia. In myopia there is confidence; there is the illusion that everything is known (while only that with which the myopist comes into contact may become known) or the confidence that that which is known is known more truly. Myopia seems to offer a simpler world – simpler than the “other” world, the non-myopic realm where attention is divided and true knowing therefore may seem constantly out of reach. But the myopist is also a producer of simplicity – one whose simplified world of experience is defined by the perimeter of his or her myopic practice and by the selection of objects for simplification. Think, for example, of the naēvety of the student who recently began his or her studies and is already so engulfed by them as to notice little else. By this person, all worldly phenomena are perceived as relating to the subject of his or her studies – a subject that also seems to provide the best conceivable explanation for them. The world becomes solely a matter of economics, of biology, of aesthetics, etc. The expansiveness of the myopic field supports this assurance; due to its size, myopia is never completely explored or exhausted, and the myopist therefore does not necessarily have any reason to abandon it, to move into another field. The myopic practice is potentially a lifelong occupation. This prospect, of course, holds great comfort; it allows the myopist to know what lies ahead. It is the prospect of the self being secured, of it remaining unchallenged, but also of the self being simplified.

Play

On one level, myopic practices are characterized by their seriousness; among their most important requirements are patience and concentration. The myopist may also work towards a serious goal – for example, the advancement of medical technologies, the development of sustainable energy sources, the improvement of the lethality of weapons etc. However, such goals are not always present in the mind of the myopist; the myopic experience is defined by being cut off, by leaving the rest of the world behind and directing all attention towards its selected object. What drives the seriousness of this experience, the focus with which the work is approached, is an often necessary curiosity – a desire to discover that which is still unknown. The means to do so may be approximated, but are essentially also unknown and first have to be discovered – and to this end the myopist applies his or her patience and concentration. It is a form of play, which is approached in all seriousness and which allows for the unexpected – for hunches to be chased and for the prosperity of fortune.

Micro-Miniatures and Texts

Myopia – Through the Lens of Psychology

Exhibition with 9 micro-miniatures – sculptures that are so small they can only be seen in a microscope – and texts about being myopic/narrow-minded.


The sculptures were made by hand under a stereo microscope of 20x magnification and consist mostly of glue and/or oil paint, which at this scale can be viscous enough to be shaped into 3-dimensional figures. For tools I mostly used acupuncture needles, the points of which are very small.


The sculptures are shown further down on this page and are photographed at 20x magnification. They each measure about 0,2-0,3mm across (except for one, which is intentionally oversized).


The themes of the texts that accompany each micro-miniature relate to the experience of looking through a microscope. When looking through a microscope, one’s attention is narrowed down to focus on a tiny part of reality – that which is underneath the lens. Everything else around you may fade a bit away from attention.

Meanwhile, what you’re looking at seems to expand. Mundane objects may appear as landscapes beneath the microscope. The small becomes vast and sometimes quite fascinating. It might suck up a lot of your attention.

This zooming way of looking – this kind of narrow focus – is what is referred to as “myopic” or “myopia” in the texts and in the title of the exhibition.


Cover of publication containing texts and images from the exhibition, as well as a quick guide on how to get started with making micro art


The micro-miniatures were displayed in vitrines with built in microscopes of approximately 20x magnification. The micro-miniatures themselves were mounted on nail heads that were turned upside down to compensate for the 180° rotation of the image within the microscopes.


Installation overview