Now You See It, Now You Don’t brings together artists from Denmark, France, Israel and the UK in a group show where each selected artist presents a moment of critical reflection on the instability of the visible.
A magic trick performed for a child. Now You See It, Now You Don’t. The repeated reference to the state of an object’s visibility, which our visual perception denies us no access to, seems to be a blatant statement of the obvious – a tautological moment between the worlds of sight and speech. We could write it off as mundane, and maybe it is, but perhaps it is somewhere between these two mundanities that we are supposed to catch sight of something.
In Merleau-Ponty’s unfinished work The Visible and The Invisible, he develops the concept of the intermundane. Here the viewer does not only receive the visible but is busy creating it in the act of looking. We are, he argues, made of that visible flesh on which our eyes feast. A contemporary phenomenon in visual culture might help shed some light on this idea.
Think of Netflix. The VOD service currently has 137 million subscribers worldwide, none of whom communicate with each other through their accounts. Netflix has gradually phased out active user input, getting rid of the five-star rating system in 2017 and user reviews in 2018. Instead, the Netflix algorithm gathers information on our viewing habits which it uses to figure out what to show us next. We don’t need to tell anyone our views. Our view is in and of itself speaking, taking part, being political. Every Netflix user is, simply by watching their favourite shows in the particular way that they watch them and at the specific times that they watch them, not only receiving culture but simultaneously creating it.
The way we look, our very gaze is complicit in negotiating the unstable state of the visible field. This thing in front of us – say a coin presented in a magic trick and by extension, any other object of our imagination – exists in multiple states of visibility at once which lump together to form our narratives of the visible and the invisible. These lumps are not solid. They are malleable. They are plastic.