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Sensory Deprivation & Augmentation: Helmets & Arrays

February 27, 2011

Left to Right: Periscopes I made for Living Art,

AR goggles utilized in the VEP Project (Virtual Poème électronique:,

and Animal Superpower Apparati by Chris Woebken and Kenichi Okada (

Tone Poem Helmet from Living Art (,

Diving Helmet, Globular Helmet Eye with Hexagonal Photocell Array.  Addressing based on hex color space mapping.

Regarding the periscopes: I wanted to play with our assumptions about stereoscopic vision, and made two quick periscopes out of mirrored plexi and cardboard.  I believe that more scientific experiments have been done along these lines to see how long it takes the brain to reprocess the information being gathered by the two eyes and reestablish “normal” vision that relates to and accounts for other sensory input.



They weren’t as far out as I had hoped.  More charming, on the order of a 60s film depicting an acid trip.  The videos are kind of like these photos without a lot of commentary beyond “whoa” and “trippy”, but they’re fun.

I showed these to Molly Schwartz, to which she commented, “Does it give you a headache?  For myself, I’m nearsighted (-9) and when I have one contact in and one out, its a weird seeing two things at once sensation.  Most people have a dominant eye and that one usually wins when there’s a struggle.  Did you notice that?”

I don’t think we tried them long enough to get headaches, so I am merely guessing that the brain would eventually normalize the disparate images, and I’m not certain what the space would look like.  The point about the dominant eye is interesting, and I’d be interested to know if the brain would opt for monocular vision and shut out the data coming in from the subordinate eye.  On that point, I recently saw an old wall chart showing eye-brain nerve connections, and it claimed that the left side of both eyes is wired to the right side of the brain, and the right side of both eyes to the left side of the brain.  I had never heard that before, and need to look into that.

With the contact lens issue, I think it is hard on the eye muscles to try to focus on two depths at once–that’s the criticism I’ve heard of 3-D technologies, and why it’s head-ache inducing.  My periscopes didn’t mess with depth of field.

One Comment
  1. I’m graduating from FIT in about a month with a BFA in Fine Arts, and had never seen your work on sensory deprivation. I myself made a series of periscope helmets which give the viewer stereoscopic vision either from a higher vantage point, lower vantage point, or in one construction looking at the back of the viewer’s head from a third person perspective. They’re being shown in my thesis show as of now, and I’m hoping to get some good images of them very soon, but I was super excited to hear I wasn’t the only one obsessed with stereoscopic vision, or the forced reconsideration and relearning of boundaries and sensory tools. I would love to have the opportunity to speak further.

    Eric Gottshall

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