Monday, 10 September 2007

The Golden Eyes Have it

A couple of observations have made me curious about our perception of other people.
During a typical commute, people retreat to the safe bubble. They might read a book or listen to their personal music device, or hide themselves behind the person on the other end of their mobile -
An anti-community of individual spaces.
It's rare that eye contact is made between these strangers.
(This morning I watched as a young man approached a middle-aged woman and asked her for a light. They made no eye contact and made no attempt to smile. It was a perfunctory and soulless encounter.)
So when I smiled and asked the person beside me to excuse me as I stood to alight, her eye contact with me kinda made me think.
In that moment, I saw only her eyes and whatever I discerned from them (windows to the soul eh? Hard to find the origin of that phrase - seems to be a mid c16th proverb). I was aware of her mouth too, but the eyes caught me and in that moment I felt something personal.
The next day, perusing my digital music catalogue, I became aware of the sheer numbers of songs about eyes.
There's two on the Boards of Canada album Campfire Headphase: Oscar See Through Red Eye, and Tears From the Compound Eye.
I won't list them all; suffice to say that you can test this yourselves.
Think back through all the character descriptions you've ever read. I'll bet that eyes figure as the most popular, most oft mentioned feature.
It's kinda weird to think that who we are is peeking through holes in a skull, transported around on this tangle of legs and arms and bits and bobs of flesh and bone and slushy organs.

'... peering into someone else's eyes is not unlike seeing into the brain itself.'
[Source: here.]

I'd guess that part of the attraction of eyes is proximity: in their way, eyes are symbolic of closeness and connection, and even intimacy. I can see you in there. Hello.
(N.B. You ever checked out the eye theme in Bladerunner?)
We see somebody from afar and we take in their movement - the way they carry themself.
That's the first impression and we subconsciously read so much into it.
But we miss out on this perception when a person is close to us.
So, whilst we might find a power in introducing a person through their movement, there is a second, more intimate power in focusing on their eyes. The movement offers a unique fingerprint of that person's inner self. The eyes, likely generic affairs, provide a universal bond - a personal empathy.

André Breton, father of the Surrealist movement, said 'the eye exists in its savage state.'
His movement exposed the subconscious - the imagination - and presented the emotional and psychological truth behind the perceived.

Apparently, the human face is based entirely on phi.

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