Selections from this project and The Valley can currently be seen in Prediction Error, a solo exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Art that runs through October 28, 2018
Click here to read about the exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Art
ABOUT: Prediction Error
Prediction Error is an investigation into perception. I am interested how we receive and process visual data, especially in the ways this can go wrong. Using conventional subjects of still life and landscape photography, I have used simple analog and digital tools to pick apart the processes of visual perception, thinking about how the medium of photography functions as a model for this mediated experience.
Eyes receive data from the outside world, and the brain combines this data with our stored knowledge of past sensory experiences to make predictions about the nature of what we think we see. All photographs lie, no matter how realistic they may appear, and our world is not comprised of two-dimensional rectangles with crisply defined perimeters. In the same way that a camera does not document reality, we do not see reality - only a semblance of it. I am modeling the unseen processes that occur while we attempt to see. What does this process look like before and after the image?
Prediction Error has its roots in my earliest awareness of the photographic image. My father was an experimental photographer, and in the 1960s he played with non-camera images that were displayed in one of the first photography exhibitions at the Minneapolis Institute of Art in 1967. He used dyes, inks, and other substances, along with an occasional flash from his cigarette lighter, to make unusual swirls and patterns on the clear scrap ends of film, which he then printed as if they were ordinary slide images. Some of these appear figural, while others look like the cosmos. He also used the camera to shoot close up, abstracted images of actual objects, and then used color filters and darkroom chemistry to further mess with the way these reality-based images were perceived. My earliest childhood memories are of my dad’s darkroom, and my earliest understanding of the medium of photography is that all images are, by nature and definition, constructs.
Works in this project demonstrate different technical and aesthetic approaches. Several of the pieces were made by passing paper through an inkjet printer multiple times to layer different color and image separations, a technique I first used in 2015 in The Dynamic Range. Other images use manipulations of red/cyan 3D anaglyph rendering to create illusions of depth with the naked eye. Context, and Surface to Air, are two of the sculptural pieces that blur distinctions between flat and dimensional surfaces as the prints peel away from the wall’s surface.
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Wall text for Prediction Error exhibition © Minneapolis Institute of Art
Throughout her career, Dow has been invested in the dual nature of photography – the photograph as both image and object. For this exhibition, Dow creates photographs that disrupt our preconceived understanding of the objects depicted here. For example, in her series The Valley, she has replaced the sky with black backgrounds. When we encounter such an unexpected situation we may experience confusion and discomfort, caused by what brain researchers call prediction error.
Without conscious thought, we are constantly trying to predict what will happen next, based on our prior experience. So the absence of what we expect to see – blue skies, flower stems, natural colors that ground our understanding of the subject – creates a disconnection from our perception. It can result in abrupt adjustments within ourselves, physically and mentally. We begin to question our vantage point within the landscapes and ultimately the nature of photographs altogether.