Jaimey Hamilton-Faris

Contributor: Jaimey Hamilton-Faris, Associate Professor of Critical Theory and Contemporary Art, UH Mānoa.


The Eyelid
Mirror and diagram of eyelid

Eyelids frame the way we look — literally and metaphorically. They play an important role in our processes of looking and perception. Yet, it is difficult to actually view this essential work. As part of the complex mechanisms of the eye itself, the eyelid functions like a shutter to let in light that is regulated further by the pupil’s aperture. We open our eyelids when we are surprised, we scrunch them to shield what we do not want to see. We also gently close them so we can rest. When our eyes are closed, we can sometimes see “phosphenes” (the phenomenon of seeing light, even though light hasn’t entered the eye); we can create mental pictures, dream, and allow the images to be processed and recede from our consciousness.

Japanese artist Akasegawa Genpei of the Neo-Dada and Hi Red Center Collective (1963-4) wrote a surrealistic essay called “Thesis on Capitalist Realism” in 1963 in which he encapsulated the philosophical conundrum of looking at the process of “looking” with the following metaphor: “… a man cannot see the inside of his eyelids clearly. In order for him to take a straight look at them, he needs to cut off his eyelids.”

-Jaimey Hamilton Faris

maier book DOC080515-001 1940_scoringkey 1940_directions

The Meier Art Judgment Test Book, 1940

 Developed by Norman C. Meier, a Professor of Psychology at the University of Iowa, the Meier Art Judgment tests were used to quantify creativity in the higher education system. It was developed through his study of 100 artists from eight countries and based on his dissertation “The Use of Aesthetic Judgment in the Measurement of Art Talent” (1926).

The Meier Art Judgment Test stands as a reminder of how art education has and hasn’t changed over the years. An obviously absurd test, it indicates very little about the complexities of the creative process and the social and political underpinning of “quality.”  It is also operates under the assumption that Western (and occasionally Japanese) aesthetic systems of composition are correct measures of aesthetic aptitude. Are there contemporary versions of this kind of testing that reinforce “correct” ways of looking?

-Jaimey Hamilton Faris

Special thanks to the University of Iowa Libraries Special Collections, Iowa City, Iowa for providing information from the Norman C. Meier Papers.