Has my ear been giving me the evil eye? For weeks now, I have been sightseeing and snapping pictures. I have seen a few shows (to be reviewed here in whatever the fullness of time might be), caught up with old friends I hadn’t laid eyes on in years, or simply watched the world coming to New York go by—all the while ignoring what I set out to do in this journal; that is, to insist on equal opportunity for the ear as channel through which to take in dramatic performances so often thought of requiring visuals. When I came across this surrealistic message at the Whitney Museum, my mind’s eye kept rereading what seems to be such a common phrase.
“As far as the eye can see.” It is the article that began to overshadow the empty nest below the dead eye of the cyclopean window in the austere façade, features that might well be to some what Roland Barthes referred to as the punctum—the point(s) to which the eye is drawn, the point(s) that end up in the question mark we make of art that engages us.
What might that be, “the eye”? Are we to assume that one eye looks out into the world as any other, that the act of seeing is objective, divorced from outlook, range and perspective? Does “the eye”—untrained or jaundiced or unfocused—invariably begin to see things as it seeks what lies beyond perceiving, such as an imaginary bird returning to the nest of our senses?
A few days ago, I suffered an eye infection (come to think of it, the second one since my arrival here in late May), which brought the above picture back to mind. I am not sure just how it happened, but my right eye became alarmingly inflamed, my lid swelled up and my cornea buckled. It is still pounding now, even though there no longer exists any ocular proof of my discomfort. Perhaps, my eyes are aching for a break upon which they now begin to insist.
A day after the incident I ran into a former neighbor of mine. I had seen him only a few days earlier. This time around, he was wearing an eye patch. As I later learned, he had just lost his sight in one eye, yet too distressed to explain or share his grief. What would I do without my vision, imperfect as it has become over the years? I could not help pondering. Suddenly, my insistence on rooting for the ear as a sensory underdog began to sound rather hollow. I want to keep going out in public and see the world before I allow myself to be dragged away by the ear into the privacy of my inner visions . . .
2 Replies to “Audiophile, My Eye!”
It\’s a fair formulation that the eye is for the world around while the ear serves the internal. Interesting.
I was channelling McLuhan, who went so far as to argue that the \”ear is intolerant, closed, and exclusive, whereas the eye is open, neutral, and associative.\”