Placing Practice Report, May 10th 2016


Placing Practice – Report – May 10th 2016

  • 1:  Overall trajectory of the research and why it is important to my work

I am investigating concepts of light, sight, perception and cognition and whilst some of my pursuits are scientific in nature, my work attempts to draw in the viewer to offer a sense of alternate reality and to subtly nudge  them to examine his or her senses are pre-conceived norms.  I do this primarily through playing with and manipulating light with various lenses and optics.  I work with, among  other media, video and sound, as well as photography sculpture and installation work.

The overall trajectory of my research is to gain different view points on Light, Sight and Perception.  I have contacted the following :

  1. John Justice – Photonics expert in Tyndall, Cork
  2. Dr Marcin Szczerbinski – lecturer of Psychology in UCC
  3. Neuroscients Dr Andrew Allen and Dr Annalisa Setti , UCC
  4. Blackrock Castle Observatory (for a astronomical and physics aspects of light as well as their views on the role of cognition and perception in cosmology) – various staff members.
  5. Optometrist Derbhla Murray, Vision Express, Cork
  6. I also contacted Dzogchen Beara in regards to meditation and the ‘inner eye’. I sent a letter of introduction and await their reply

I am interested in such visually based phenomena such as Charles Bonnet Syndrome, synesthesia, hallucinations and occurrences that gives the feeling of slippage from stable perception to a realm of the unusual.  I am particularly interested in how a ‘healthy’ brain can be ‘tricked’ or forced to evaluate their notion of the ‘real’.  I have chosen to do this primarily through the visual, as it can be considered to be our dominant sense in our ocularcentric society.

As such, I am meeting with the various professions mentioned above in order to gain a greater understanding of the various aspect of vision – light, sight and cognition/perception.  As the artist in this grouping, I hope to make the connection between these various professionals and ask them evocative questions that may not be directly involved in their field, but that will facilitate a cross fertilisation.  Thus I have prepared questions for the various staff at Blackrock Castle that will encourage them to give thought to the cognitive aspect to their scientific work.  I probed the psychologist about neuroscience and I hope to draw the neuroscientist out on aspects of light properties and aspects of meditation.  The optician is very interested in cognition and neuroscience and gave me some vital information to my research.  Of course, I have also gleaned information from these professionals in their area of expertise.

I am hoping that the information that I obtain from the various professionals will give me a strong foundation for a creative translation of their input.

  • 2:  How are the interjections informing my work – outline briefly what stage the enquiry is at


The research to date has already informed my work and has focused my research and practice.  I started with a scientifically based enquiry into the properties of light in a physical way and it has developed into an exploration about perception/cognition, primarily through the sense of sight.   I am also drawn to explore work and phenomena  that gives the feeling of slippage from stable perception into a realm of the unusual/unusual.   John Justice has informed me on the practical side of working with lasers and we brainstormed various light based ideas.  The meeting with Dr Marcin proved to be a great source of the idea of slippage and neurological shift.  Optometrist Derbhla Murray was very knowledgeable on sight based phenomena such as Charles Bonnet Syndrome and research into the link between depression and Ophthalmology


What stage is the enquiry at:

I have had several conversations with John Justice and I had one site visit to Tyndall in February.  John has also visited me in my studio April 10th to discuss my work and the possible use of photonics, holograms etc. (see Attachment A).   We also discussed cognitive elements, which John is very interested in and is informed in his own right in the area.  John would like to keep the collaboration going and enjoys the artistic/creative side of ‘playing’ with lasers etc, as well as discussions on cognition and perception.


I have had a meeting  in my studio with Dr Marcin Szczerbinski  on April 14th.  I had emailed him a list of questions which he researched.    This was audio recorded and transcribed (see attachment B).  As well as giving me valuable solid information, Dr Szczerbinski also conveyed personal stories of affect in art and described moments of slippage when his sense of perception was interrupted and he was transported to a place of awe.  I hope to use these stories in some way (on gaining his permission, of course), either in an auditory way or by visually emulating the situation and emotions he expressed.

Dr Szczerbinski  is keen for further interventions.  He is away on business at the moment until June.  We are in email correspondence in the interim.


I have had an initial meeting with Clair McSweeney (centre manager), Alan Giltinan (Systems Manager), Dr Niall Smith (head of BCO) and Denis Walsh (astronomy outreach worker and micro-biologist) on April 22nd.  This was a very fruitful meeting and they are very keen to continue a collaboration.   I also had a brief impromptu meeting with Niall Smith (Head of BCO)  (Please see Attachment C)


I had an impromptu discussion with Derbhla Murray, an optometrist with Vision Express, while getting a routine eye check-up.  I briefly described my project and she was very interested in my enquiries into perception and cognition.  She has a keen personal interest in the field and is willing to help me with my enquiry, in terms of passing on information on  Ophthalmology and neuroscientific articles she has read.  I plan to revisit Ms Murray soon in order to firm up this connection.


I have emailed neuroscientists Dr  Andrew Allen and Dr Annalisa Setti and both are very keen for a collaboration.  I sent them a link to my college website and they are interested in the aesthetic of my enquiry.   I recently sent them a follow up email with a list of questions  attached.  I will have a meeting based on these questions with Dr Allen on Friday, May 13th.  It is hoped that Dr Setti will also be able to attend this meeting.


I have also contacted Dzogchen Beara, Buddhist retreat centre, outlining my practice and the parameters of a possible collaboration.  Included in this email was a list of proposed questions for an interview.  I await their reply.



  1. Summary of how this enquiry will unfold during the summer. What are the key activities
  2. I will meet with neuroscientists on Friday 13th May. I have emailed them a list of questions and hope to interview them broadly based on this.  This initial meeting will be in UCC but I intend to invite them to my studio so they can gain a better insight into my work practices
  3. I would like to have a meeting with a member of staff at Dzogchen Beara, more than likely in the retreat centre. I would like to gain permission to audio record the Buddhist chantings to include as part of my work.  I also would like to create an installation in their Buddhist prayer room based loosely on my end of semester studio practice piece.  I will ask for feedback from participants on the meditative quality of this piece, especially from a ocular point of view.
  4. I would like to have follow up meetings with John Justice and Derbhla Murray in the near future. These meetings would be informal and, particularly in the case of John, hands-on exploration and experimentations with lasers and lenses.
  5. I will follow up with Blackrock Castle Observatory. I emailed them a list of enquiries on April 27th and once they have had a chance to process this, I will arrange an interview based on these questions.  I also want to obtain more audio and visual recordings of their space.
  6. I envisage a situation where I would facilitate a gathering of some or all of the various participants and professionals to participate in discussions around light, sight, perception and cognition.  I would like to involve some creative activities in this workshop, which I would facilitate to explore the theme from a creative stand-point.  I would hope to video or photograph the hands-on creativity, as well as record the more formal discussions.  These discussions will be held in a round-table type scenario, probably in the project area of the MA studio space.   I would hope that this ‘gathering’ would create an atmosphere of knowledge sharing and could led to future, more formal events.  I have pencilled in August as the timeframe for this venture.


I have had several informal discussions with some of the participants in this project, as well as more formal recorded meetings.  These informal discussions are on-going and take the form of direct conversation, emails correspondence and phone conversations.

I sent introductory emails explaining my project and follow up emails with specified queries.


I have audio recorded the meeting with Dr Marcin Szczerbinski and transcribed the main findings (see attachment B).  I had initially compiled a list of questions from which we based our meeting.


The meeting at Blackrock Castle was the initial ‘meet and greet’ gathering.  I took notes at the main meeting and photographed the working offices and the environs of the observatory (see attachment C).   I also took some audio recordings of the various machines used.  I hope to revisit the observatory to gain further photos, videos and audio recordings.

I have sent Blackrock Castle observatory a list of questions.  I hope to audio record the meeting/s based on this, as well as perhaps getting written feedback.  I am going to scale back the initial proposal with Blackrock Castle Observatory and suggest to them that I could be more involved in Science week 2017, but for this year, the reprecosity would be their interaction in my proposed interactive workshop during the summer.

Some meetings happened serendipitously, such as the meeting with Optometrist Derbhla Murray, and indeed initial contact with Dr Marcin Szczerbinski was a chance meeting but was then formalised through email correspondence.


The information that I am gathering from these various professionals will feed into my practice, both in terms of ideas and gaining a firm scientific foundation on which to base my art work.  An example of this could be video  or photographic work based on synaesthesia or Charles Bonnet syndrome based on information gained from the optician and the neuroscientists.  I hope to gain some information about light and light based cosmological phenomena from Blackrock Castle Observatory.  This will also feed into my work, firstly by bringing a scientific aesthetic and also informing me of the external quality of light.  The meeting with Dr Marcin Szczerbinski has already proved to be a source of visual information and research.

As mentioned above, I would hope to cumulate this enquiry in a workshop where I would bring together all the knowledge bases.  I have years of experience in programming and facilitating creative workshops and hope to use this knowledge to create a fun and informative atmosphere for the participants.   I will also keep written reports of the various meetings and interventions.