Toronto Metropolitan University
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In the woods: pathways of perception

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posted on 2022-10-05, 17:38 authored by Michelle Hannah
In the Woods: Pathways of Perception is a companion piece to my MA project (a series of photographic collages of trees) which was presented as a solo exhibition at the I.M.A. Gallery in July 2012. This paper examines the disconnection between human beings and the natural environment. It argues that this disconnection is caused by the importance the Western culture accords rationality over other, more intuitive modes of perception and experience. My project aims to remedy this problem by targeting perception and reworking it through a more demanding of the audience approach in my compositions. The all-over composition of my photographic collages encourages the eyes to scan around the entire image. This scanning of the image, I strongly believe, disrupts the dominant mode of visual perception in the modem Western world, in which the figure is viewed as a distant isolated object that can be grasped immediately rather than engaged with and contemplated. I argue that this scanning attention encourages unconscious participation, allowing viewers to find their own connections and visual paths through the forest I have created. In this way the viewer is given space for contemplation and reflection; an experience that is often undervalued in our society. This paper asserts that by employing unconscious scanning attention, visual perception can be retrained, thereby destabilizing the dominant modes of thinking and experiencing. I argue that the unconscious modes of perception, intuition, and imagination play a key role in the re-connection to nature, for when we are unable to connect and empathize with the natural environment, our capacity to connect and empathize with others also diminishes. Therefore, the path towards a more ethically aware society is through the arts and the unconscious. This paper emphasizes that the desire to regard, contemplate, empathize, and love another living being, whether human or non-human, is the path towards a more peaceful, connected world.





  • Master of Arts


  • Communication and Culture

Granting Institution

Ryerson University

LAC Thesis Type

  • Thesis Project

Thesis Advisor

Izabell Pruska-Oldenhof



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    Communication and Culture (Theses)



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