Two painted flies: Improvised arts of perception in Uexküll’s Picture Book of Invisible Worlds

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

    Abstract

    Working in the early 1930s, the biologist Jakob von Uexküll and his illustrator Georg Kriszat create a series of improvised pictures that speculate how different eyes see – a village street scene, the scene re-photographed through a screen, and then painted for the eye of a fly and a mollusc. The series is reproduced in their 1934 book Streifzüge durch die Umwelten von Tieren und Menschen: Ein Bilderbuch unsichtbarer Welten, first translated into English by Claire Schiller under the title A Stroll through the Worlds of Animals and Men: A Picture Book of Invisible Worlds. While the conventional science of the day took animals as objects understandable according to physical measures and laws, Uexküll argues they are embodied subjects with distinct viewpoints of their own. His name for this is Umwelt – a world as it unfolds for “animals themselves” (Uexküll and Kriszat 1957, p. 5). We cannot fully know or experience the Umwelt of another animal but might “gain an intuition” – to this end the collaborators combine a knowledge of comparative physiology with experimental photography and watercolour painting (Uexküll 2010, p. 63).
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationDistributed Perception
    Subtitle of host publicationResonances and Axiologies
    EditorsNatasha Lushetich, Iain Campbell
    Place of PublicationLondon
    PublisherRoutledge
    Chapter13
    Number of pages12
    Edition1st
    ISBN (Electronic)9781003157021
    ISBN (Print)9780367743017
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 30 Dec 2021

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