visual protocol index

Boundary Language (BoLa) is a graphic notation system that incorporates contradiction, multiplicity, imaginary values, and intransitive as well as transitive divisions of space and time. The visual protocol explains how boundaries work in perception to incorporate intransitive (iconistic) values along with transitive visibility ("sense data"). The visual protocol generally views the viewer/audience of art as the "victim" who must split identity into two parts. The "flip" of the "inside frame" typically involves an element that is "iconistic" – a sign that represents the process of viewing or the role of the viewer in some direct material way.

Visual protocol uses the metaphor of "rotation." This compares transitive space to the echelon expression (ABC) where one thing is adjacent to and capable of concealing or being concealed by another. Intransitive space, in contrast, is comparable to a 90º rotation of this echelon. It is as if 3-dimensional space were flat, and that rotating it 90º permitted the viewer "backstage" into the production area. This metaphor permits the viewer to behave in two opposite ways: first, as a "consumer" of the visible as such, a part of the echelon of foreground, midground, and background; and as a "creator-explorer" of the visible, capable of vanishing within the artifactual dimension of the world as work.

A is typically the authority of the visible, tangible world. C can be the artist/viewer who is immobilized in the act of gazing and divided in his/her interests. B is most often the gaze, glance, or enhanced prohibited view that becomes the means of discovering a structure concealed within the superficially visible.

B is frequently associated with a gleam, glimmer, shine, or small point of light. It is often a jewel or prismatic element that suggests the logic of a combination lock. B is the "lucinda" in Dürer's engraving of "The Artist and Model in the Studio," exemplifying both an invisible crystal of vision and a key to the visible's hidden treasure.

The identification of C as the viewer, voyeur, or voyeur's agent (Lisa in "Rear Window") makes the visual protocol a powerful narrative structure, and narrative forms that emphasize witnessing, hiding, and disguise make use of this. The viewer is both "dead" (Sartre's account of the voyeur in "Being and Nothingness") and transcendentally alive, capable of seeing "into" reality. This intransitive power is usually paid for through motility deficiency (Jeff's confinement to a wheelchair in "Rear Window") or scale dysfunction (being a fugitive or captive).

Velàzquez's "Las Meninas" is the paradigm-exemplar of the visual protocol, as if the painter wished to "paint the rules" by which painting could be inverted into its double. The creation of an invisible pocket of space (the canvas turned away from the viewer) makes its appearance in the jewel-like mirror reflection at the back of the room. The complex relationship between this exaggerated (scale-dysfunctional) image and the various people who must have had occupied the front of the canvas at some point (the painter, the royal couple, the present viewer) forms a classical "rotation" of the transitive echelon. Motility is fixed by the tight grid of geometric relations controlling the angle of the canvas, the view, and the purported reflection. Scale is disrupted by the mirror's oversized/undersized contents. Semblance is, of course, the center of the painting's mystery: literally "who dunit?"

© 2012, Donald Kunze, all rights reserved