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1,700,000: Artist Sam Laurence on His Debut Installation

Sam Laurence is an installation artist with a particular interest in sight. Blind in one eye from the age of 18 due to a damaged optic nerve, he uses the medium of installation to explore his own understanding of sight while allowing others to question their vision, perspective and relationship with their eyes.

I don’t know too much about science, and I’m going to try to avoid talking about it. It’s something I’ve only recently started trying to engage with. Neuroscience that is anyway. To me it feels like an endless subject. The more I read about it, the more I find out, and the more I realise scientists themselves are far from knowing everything. No one really knows how the brain works anyway.

Optic lobe. Even that sounds good on its own without knowing anything about anything else. I heard recently that the Optic lobe takes some information from sounds and uses it in combination with visual imagery in order to see. Does that mean that our eyes can listen? I would think so. If only our ears could also see.

My left eye doesn’t work. Hit my head on the floor when I was 18 and damaged my optic nerve. This is the first time I’ve ever written about it. Previously my perception of my left eye was of ‘’dark’’, like I can’t see but it’s a certain colour or tone. I read for the first time recently someone talking about having only one eye and they described seeing "nothing’’. I thought about it again and really what I see is the same, zero - there’s nothing visual there at all.

Sometimes I’ll sit on a bus for about 30 minutes thinking it’s full, and there’s people on the left. Their presence exists in my mind until I turn my head and find the bus is empty. These people aren’t there and I’m actually sat on the bus alone without realising. My brain must be aware of these people perhaps it’s trying to communicate with them without me knowing.

Anyway, enough about me. I think people need to talk to each other more.

Does the way we see depend on who we are? For some people flowers are beautiful. Recently I bought a beautiful bunch of multi-coloured cable ties. Stunning things they are. All colours with such small delicate sizes I didn’t previously know could exist. I’ve left them in a vase for now and I’m tempted to leave them there forever.

Only a certain amount of what we see is done with our eyes. The rest is done with our brains. What we think is connected to what we see. Blind spots - we’ve all got them if we like it or not, it’s just our brains fill in the missing information.

There’s a facebook group called "Blind in One Eye and proud" and currently that’s pretty much the only way to find stuff out about being a one-eyed individual. People that have decent sight in one eye don’t fit into a category at the moment according to RNIB. The group is great though and has people from all over the world. I’ll probably post this in there when it’s done actually. 'Hi guys, Sam here from London UK. How are you all?'

While I write this I’m annoyed by the fact I can hear a drilling in the background, my cat sits asleep across the room and I can hear traffic outside. In order to focus on this page I have to drown everything else out. It’s all I can see or feel for a while. The screen, nothing either side. Just me and the screen. My friend the screen.

I thought someone was taking the piss out of me on the tube the other day. Two people were laughing but it was in my blind spot so I couldn’t see what was happening. I felt pretty alone at that point. Then I realised they were just young and didn’t know I couldn’t see them. So I laughed to myself and actually enjoyed the fact I had perhaps effortlessly entertained them in some way.

I remember an amazing old art tutor used to say "Stop looking, Start seeing", which seems sensible. Perhaps our eyes can function without connecting to our brains. We look at stuff but it doesn’t really register. Of course that’s true, so if our brains stop working perhaps we’re not able to see things anymore. Either that or we need to go to sleep.

I’m doing an installation called 1,700,000 on December 7th and I’ve never done one before. Previously I studied architecture and work in the music industry but this is a first. The reason I’m doing it is to open up conversations around sight. Allowing me to start learning more about eyes and then maybe other people can too. Respect, understanding and empathy. Not just for me for everyone and each other. Not just for blind people but for all sorts of stuff. It’s important.

1,700,000 is the amount of fibers each optic nerve can contain which seems ridiculous to me but I suppose it must be true if scientists say so. That’s why I called the installation that.

My eye misses so much so I want to create a moment where there can be a shared experience around vision. Not necessarily a comfortable one but asking, is it possible to engage with the human optic nerve? By using audio and visual elements can these things trigger thoughts, memories and emotions?

I'm very lucky to be working with some hugely talented musicians on this show. Kwes and Kwake Bass have helped create the music plus audio production from Andrew Watson.

On December 7th you will be able to visit a space with my first attempt to explore sight and communicate with a group of people by engaging with their brains through their optic nerves. Sounds pretty brutal actually. I hope it will be a bit more enjoyable than that, and that it’s the start of something new.

 

1,700,000

December 7th 2017

6pm – 10:30pm

Unit 10, Huntingdon Industrial Estate, Ebor Street, E1 6AW

samlaurence.studio
facebook.com/slaurencehere
instagram.com/slaurencehere