prism #25.2: 'Paracosm' by Annie Briard

by Annie Briard

In the not so distant past, there was a beautifully poetic vision theory that proclaimed the eye to contain a small crystal, carefully shaping the light so that it may bring us illumination.

Much is still left to our imagination when determining what we see. Our vision captures as well creates, fills-in or otherwise completes what we perceive; one need only look for the blind spots in the center of the sightline. Like crystals, our eyes mediate light and what we see.

This work blends science history with psychology. The concept of the “paracosm” is a complex imaginary world, usually created in childhood but sometimes sufficiently compelling and detailed to persist into adulthood. In children, paracosms are often seen as attempts to create agency and thus as signs of high intelligence or creativity.

Briard developed the project during a 2016 residency in Cadiz, Spain, taking photographs from the city’s many strategic watchtowers. Cadiz has long been well known for its watchtowers: in the 1800s, it had 160 such towers; today, 126 remain. From these vantage points, Briard photographed the city’s surroundings using prisms and handmade lenses fashioned from the disused optical components of military materiel (gun sights).

Briard’s photographs seem as though they could be digital errors, with recognizable natural and architectural features bumping up against sunbursts, geometrical shapes and swooshes or scribbles of bold colours. The images are paracosmic, suggesting an extended world of daydream. The purpose of the watchtower is toppled, as the visual data becomes confusing, inviting questions as to what is and isn’t reality. The viewer finds herself in the impossible condition of a daydreamer seeking to differentiate real worlds from paracosmic ones.

Text from the exhibition “Paracosmic Sun”, written by Edwin Janzen

Paracosm © Annie Briard 2017

Paracosm © Annie Briard 2017

Paracosm © Annie Briard 2017

Annie Briard is a Canadian artist whose work challenges visual perception. Through video, photography and installation, she explores the intersections between perception paradigms in psychology, neuroscience and existentialism. Her inspiration is drawn from strange encounters with the visible and a desire to explore these with others.

Annie Briard’s work has been presented in solo and group exhibitions across Canada, notably at Back Gallery Project, Charles H. Scott Gallery, Art Souterrain and The Rooms. She has also participated in international festivals, shows and screenings at the Lincoln Film Centre New York, Three Shadows Photography Centre (Beijing), Matadero Madrid, and the Switzerland Architecture Museum, among others. Briard holds a BFA from Concordia University, and a Master's from Emily Carr University, where she currently teaches.


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