Seeing the Non-Visible:
A Collaborative Journey Into the Space Between Light and Darkness

May 2019

This text follows the arrow of time, but allows for natural divergences and reading paths to be taken (please skip and re-read at will -- often you shall find that a latter section sheds light on its preceding words). Text may be toggled in and out, in order to create a holistic reading experience that is simultaneously individual and collective in spirit. Think of the divergences as elongated footnotes, too eccentric to exist as official paragraphs. Consider the framework of this paper to be a suggestion, rather than the rule. In order to write critically of the nonbinary and the amalgamated, it is suggested to perhaps depart from traditional linearity and structure. Sometimes messes make more sense.

In the beginning, “God separated the light from the darkness.”[1] I suppose that’s where all the trouble started.

While borrowed from a religious monotheistic text, this act of separation speaks to the whittling of perspective and human consciousness. The separation of light from darkness creates a binary. One can either see or not. There is a distinction, a singular, universal truth. Experiencing light and darkness as a binary limits perspective and promotes compartmentalization. But light and darkness don’t work that way. Perhaps embracing the fluid and contrast-ridden nature of light (or lights), and turning to other (including non-human) visual collaborators, the future of vision could be of expansion, of things never seen before. In eliminating the binary of the visible versus the invisible using collective vision, the coming epoch will be defined by the experience of the non-visible, that which could be seen but isn’t inherently so.

Since the separation of light from darkness, Man[2] has been in search of illumination, otherwise referred to as enlightenment and seeing the truth. Light has been conflated with the clean, the good, and the elevated, and thus has historically been cultified. The Egyptian Ra soared to power, his solar temples built in ancient Heliopolis, “City of Sun,” named for Helios, the Hellenistic titan of solaris.[3] Allah was dubbed the “light of light,”[4] and Jesus proclaimed to be “the light of the world.”[5] Unsurprisingly, the thinkers of yore looked to light as a mode of self-understanding, of definition and cognition. Light proved to be both the most basic element and the most powerful, yet there have consistently been disagreements as to what it is and how humans experience it.
The Fly, Directed by Kurt Neumann (1958)
Empedocles (495-435 BC) was one of the first observers of light that brought it down from deity, that defined it with human physicality. He theorized that vision was the effluence of rays from the eyes, such as fire emits from a lantern in conversation with object-effluence. That the interaction of the eye radiation with a similar substance coming from the seen matter (the object), is the resulting visual comprehension.[6] In so, vision became homo-centric, and singular at that. If the human eyes are an inherent part of light, then there can be no possibility for non-human or non-facial eyes.

In the 11th century BCE, Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali (1058-1111) wrote Mishkât Al-Anwar, “The Niche for Lights,” in which he dissects vision, and separates external sight (the sensory) from internal sight (the intellect, that which derives from Allah). Al-Ghazali divides external reality, “things,” in regards to sight into: those that have no visibility (“dark bodies”); those that have visibility but do not illuminate others; and those that are themselves visible and illuminate others. The latter is what Al-Ghazali identifies as “light.”[7] Therefore, light is both seen (of materiality) and revelatory (relating to cognition). In this sense it is in line with Empedocles’ theory, in that the experience of light is tied to a physical reality, as well as of interrelation with intellect. While pure light is divine, sight belongs to man.

This experience of light, in such, is contingent on (human) perceptors. If this is to be the case, then as modes of visual perception evolve (or devolve) over time, cognitive experiences must shift in correlation. While more difficult to map and illustrate the shifting in perspective throughout time and geography, it is worth looking at development in art and accepted forms of visual representation. By examining the predominant and hegemonic modes of visual communication, and observing reigning perspective in the arts, one can make (very humble) assumptions as to the fluidity of forms in a given culture. A visually pluralist society would likely promote a multitude of visual experiences, while a codified method of representation would denote a lacking or repressing (of notions) of individual subjectivity.
An example of Byzantine perspective:
Enthroned Madonna and Child, Author Unknown (13th Century)
Byzantine perspective (also known as “reverse perspective”) is exemplary of accepted representation prior to the standardization of linear perspective, developed in 15th-century Florence.[8] In this style, which is misguidedly viewed as crude, planes of different viewpoints are flattened to a singular canvas, so that while multiple perspectives are represented on the same picture plane, there is no illusion of depth.

While the briefest of scans through the history of the arts reveals changing standards of depiction and perspective, the most influential paradigmatic shift in aesthetics has been the emergence of linear perspective. Championed by Florence’s foremost Renaissance painters, among them Leonardo da Vinci, this mathematical system standardized painting in accordance with ophthalmic experience. At the core of this method lies the vanishing point, a moment on the picture plane at which all lines converge (visibly or otherwise). This point signifies the correct placement for accurately observing the depicted images. It is the “X” that marks the spot, that decides how to look properly. The painters of the time also viewed the vanishing point as relating to divinity, and the works of art would often featured Christ atop it.[9] Such as pure light belonged to Allah per Al-Ghazali, the body of Christ became synonymous with correct vision. One way to shine, and one way to see.
In his book, Languages of Art, Nelson Goodman enters a non-participatory debate with Ernst Gombrich and James J. Gibson regarding the relationship between linear perspective, accurate depiction, and convention. Goodman goes on to suggest that linear perspective could not be knighted with authority, as the conditions for proper viewing are impossible. To begin with, the space at which a picture is viewed does not include original objects off-frame, whose light reflections contribute to the falling luminosity upon the object depicted. Additionally, motion must be involved in the process of viewing the work, whether of the head and body, or of the eyes, which scan the picture plane..[10] There is no perfect view, as there is no perfect depiction -- particularly when the perspective represented is unmoving.

The relationship between light and motion is both fundamental and often overlooked, particularly in the camera age, in which time seems to stand still.[11] Ironically, the supposed freezing of time reveals much of the behavior of light and motion. Harold "Doc" Edgerton, purveyor of the stroboscope, made visible the moments that evade the swiftness of perception. Take his image of a bullet passing through a banana. It captures impact, a perfect cloud that expresses the directionality of the bullet and provides empirical evidence in regards to kinetic studies. But what is missing in the lack of motion, particularly in the context of light itself? Does the piercing of the bullet distort the light passing through the banana in any way? Could the heat be creating some sort of illusion, a heat haze, that causes the banana and the impact to appear differently than they would otherwise? Light exists in time, and motion reveals the unexpected dynamism of light.

Consider also interference colors, which appear on translucent and reflective materials upon similar substances, such as soap bubbles[12] or gasoline atop a puddle of water. The iridescent marvel remarkably transforms with every angle of view, each point of perspective dominated by a different hue. And, of course, motion is at the core of light, as the speed of light is the fastest there is (as it so seems to be).
The essence of Byzantine perspective, or multiple viewpoints on a flat surface, would later be re-envisioned by the Cubists, who saw a-linear perspective as a more truthful depiction of reality.[13] Despite the institutional acceptance of the artworks, Cubist representation was never embraced as a practical mode of vision. Linear perspective has remained the standard and has been bolstered alongside the development of the camera.

The devotion to light did not dissipate in the modern profane, but has grown in abundance. No doubt, it is the essence of this epoch, the era of vision, the Heliocene. The invention of the camera is also the fixing of light in a way that fits so neatly into accepted notions of vision. The lens mimics the eyes, and following technology has taken the path of accepted modes of seeing. In fact, camera-based mimesis has been so convincing that visual representation has swallowed up the other senses, whether the four accepted ones or the infinite metaphysical.
Petit Oiseau, Georges Braque (1913)
The cult of the sun and the segmentation of vision may have accrued with early theism and solidified with linear perspective, but the rituals of sight and the separation of vision truly belong to Modernism. It is not for naught that the rise of visual culture correlates with the Modern economic systems, at the apex of which lies Capitalism.

In his seminal 1776 work, The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith championed division of labor for higher worker dexterity and manufacture prosperity.[14] This division is mimetic of the distinction of light from darkness, but on a multifaceted, meticulous basis. Not only did this create a binary for the workers and society at large (I either do this or that, but not both), but also contributed to what Marx would refer to as “alienation.”[15][16] Parallel to this was the rise of the visual in expense of the other senses. The emergence and mass dissemination of photography has changed the way moments are perceived and memories are stored.[17] Under the guise of individualism (birthed of Modern individualism), which has significantly risen with the amassment of cameras, the universalization of vision has harmed nonaligned perspective, and disallowed for collective modes of cognition. The division of labor has also emphasized boundaries between people so to disallow amalgamated modes of vision, on which I shall expand below.

While the growing reliance on light as truth not only limits the potentials of experience and consciousness, there is, as a matter of fact, a very weak case for it. Defining light by its mere humanly visible qualities is a gross misrepresentation of its character, and as Goodman put it, “obviously the laws of the behavior of lights are no more conventional than any other scientific laws.”[18] The sciences are filled with anomalies and contradictions, abnormalities and chaos, and light is of no exception. Light is a mischievous agent, that often acts antithetically to its supposed nature, which at its very core is dual and oppositional. Light is simultaneously a wave and a particle. It exhibits at various occasions characteristics of either and both.
Bullet through Banana, Harold Eugene Edgerton (1964)
The interference pattern of Thomas Young’s 1801 Double-slit experiment proved that traveling light behaves as a wave would. The complexity lies in following experiments, in which light was fired one photon at a time, and measured (“observed”) as it went through one of the two slits. The resulting pattern negated the interfered first, and illustrated a trait of particles, two parallel lines on the other side of the slits.[19] Not only is light simultaneous two oppositional agents, but at times it is only one. In so it is clear that the basic nature of light is far from the idea of the monadic revealer of truth, as has been so accepted.

I saw a video on YouTube not long ago, that puts wave/particle duality into layman's terms (as well as charming animation). In this video the narrator refers to the light wave as “the wave of possibility,” in that it reflects all options of where the photon could be, and remains so until “observed” (measured). At that point, it becomes a particle.[20] An “observation” of light[21] chooses a pathway through which the light exists and behaves.

Light, in its current state, is held to too high of a standard, to perfection. Events seen are typically acknowledged as empirical evidence, and the boundaries light defines are the basis for the collective self-conscious. For too long the standardized idea of light has defined what is real and what is not. And how can universal truths be spoken by a singular source of light? Perhaps true enlightenment lies in darkness.

Darkness is the realm of potential. It is where infinite possibilities reside. Once a light shines an object, dictated is a path, a definition is made, and all other possibilities for what it was, for what it could have been, are laid to waste.
It is interesting that while the bright light of day dictates form and kills potential, people are afraid of the dark. Darkness connotes the unknown and the uncontrollable. It represents the existential vortex, that threatens with groundlessness. To give into darkness is to give up control, unravelling the threads that hold together all definitions made hitherto. There is certain death in the crevices which reveal the apparatus that is the fiber of human existence. Light, as it is so perceived, is more simple, it is grounding and somewhat definable. It gives the impression of stability. Light is faith, it is believing in a particular path that is fenced off from all others. But in giving into darkness, in thinking in the dark, one or many may open themselves to crystalized cognition, a supra-vision of sights unseen, the experience of “the wave of possibility” rather than the singular photon.

Then there is to consider what darkness is at all. According to Sadhguru, “There is something called light but there is no such thing as darkness. All that you do not know is in the dark, isn't it? All that you cannot perceive is in the dark.”[22] Is darkness truly defined by the lack of light, or is it its own entity? Its own agent? What would be the characteristics of dark, its patterns of behavior? No doubt darkness is seen in relation with mass and motion (dark matter) as well as with pressure (dark energy), and it accounts for nearly the entire universe.[23] But are these experiences of darkness, or are they a convenient grouping of that which cannot be seen?
Or, perhaps an alternative way to see, if not through darkness, is with multiple lights, each telling another possibility, providing another route. In his book Eyes, Michel Serres conducts an ode to fragmented vision. Serres muses of refractions, of light from multiple sources, alongside ideas of multiple eyes. “Daylight gives the illusion that there is only one unique truth,” he writes with a fervor. “In reality, thought resembles it far less than the night where each star shines like a diamond...Real knowledge brims over with a million results and insights.”[24]
Recently a new theory has emerged regarding the origin of life on Earth. Jeremy England of MIT has presented the idea that given the circumstances of external energy onto atoms in an encompassing heat bath, and the need of the atoms to dissipate the energy, perhaps life could emerge.[25] To put it all too mildly, in order to deal with the sun’s rays more efficiently, atoms self-replicated, culminating in organisms growing in increasing complexity. Per this theory, the rise of complex organisms and diversity among species, not to mention evolution itself, “was just a more efficient strategy to broadcast energy, not just to accumulate it.”[26] And then there is to consider the increasing conversion of light energy in these organisms. Could their heat act as a radiating force? Perhaps a complex or synthesized being, an efficient dissipator of light, could assume the position of an added source of light, alongside that of the sun.
There is so much to be told of the behavior of light that exists in the realm of the invisible, often only illuminated with the assistance of mechanical devices, including cameras and digital renderings based on mathematical observations.[27] Each novel study of light reveals its dazzling complexity. Recently, MIT professor Ramesh Raskar and his team created Femto-photography, which allows the capturing of light in motion, shooting at a trillion frames per second. Photographing at this speed allows for looking at light itself as it travels through medium, at how it paints a photo. Among the discoveries resulting from this device, other than the ability to literally see around corners, was that light ripples in reverse of this assumed direction when captured by this camera: “When you look at the ripples under the cap, the ripples are moving away from us. The ripples should be moving towards us,” Raskar marvels in his TED talk. “It turns out, because we're recording nearly at the speed of light, we have strange effects.”[28]

While light can be strange, and is no doubt complex, the widespread acceptance of this agent is a carved mannequin; a notion of light that is easier for human consumption. Look no further than the definition of light, which is bound with visibility. That light is a spectrum may surprise none, but it worth considering what “visible light” truly means, when placing all collective cognition eggs in its basket. Humans can only actively sense wavelengths between 400-700 nanometers, the electromagnetic spectrum from short ultraviolet rays to the long infrareds. But the narrowing of vision in such a way is, as Prof. Merrill Ring puts it, “homo-centric.” It ignores the evolved sensory structures of other creatures and representations of their vision upon the spectrum. This narrow definition, light, is a “[reflection] of human capacities, practices and interests.”[29]

To double-down, let one consider the complete cognitive fabrication of colors, when regarding the definition of light. The colors, the waves perceived by human vision, are an evolutionary construct meant to distinguish between different wavelengths. This system happened to stick. That red is a shorter wavelength than blue is in line with “normal” human vision, but this is more of a standard than a truth. Visual deviations (color blindness) that relate these waves with other colors (such as “confusing” green and red tones) aren’t truly inaccurate, but are as “real” a vision as eyes and mind that perceive the mainstream hues. In fact, regarding alternative modes of visual experience in a non-hierarchical manner pulls at the threads of universal vision and light as truth.

Visual distortions, whether physiological or ephemeral, reveal the non-binary nature of light. Optical illusions are a rupture in the ontology of vision, they are the portals through which escape from the monadic is plausible. Take moiré patterns, which translate convergence of lines into oscillation or color separation. They reveal both the simultaneity of vision (seeing something still and in motion, seeing straight and curved), as well as the imperfection of light and eye as storytellers.

Other simple observations could be the way objects seem when submerged, as waves travel differently in air and in water, or experiencing color separation through a prism, which expresses the complexity and multiplicity of a singular light source. At times, catching light deviations requires releasing standard modes of seeing, such as to look without focusing, to move the eyes swiftly to create motion, or to observe through the side of the eye. For example, a quick head spin from a white projector light will reveal the red, green, and blue streams that composite it. While Al-Ghazali claims that “... the mistakes of vision are manifold, but the intelligence transcends them all,”[30] true intelligence is the embracing of distortions as better representations of light and vision.
Messier 87 Black Hole Picture, Event Horizon Telescope collaboration et al (2019)
At times, humans must turn to devices in order to catch distortions, as they do to look for “truths.” Just as symptomatically Prof. Raskar’s Femto-photography watches ripples flee and as cameras can catch light separation more easily than the natural human gaze, perhaps machines can be used to actively search for deviances, in order to better depict light in its mischief. As it be, the bigger the surface of patterns and glitches, of unexpected intricacies, the wider the door to dazzling endarkenment.

Many characteristics that would tell the story of light are invisible to a pair of human eyes, at times blinded by the natural apparatus (such as colors or visual corrections made by the brain), but many features have the potential of visibility. The non-visible is what is concealed, what isn’t seen but perhaps could be. The non-visible cannot be seen with a single pair of eyes, and its visualization calls for a redistribution of perspective, an amalgamated mode of seeing.

The redistribution of sight does not merely mean the abundance of individual perspective, but rather a collaborative synthesis of vision. As other creatures see outside of the human spectrum, and machines visualize the otherwise invisible, a new mode of collective vision could be the emergence of enhanced vision, and thus the introduction of a new epoch. In looking at light itself through a skeptical lens and in using multiple eyes to gaze, an untapped visual perspective could begin to unfold.

Collaborative vision has already begun to emerge, and the clearest evidence is perhaps best exemplified in the recent photograph of the black hole from the Messier 87 galaxy. First and foremost it is a composite of data from a network of radio antennae that make up the Event Horizon Telescope. These together “form an Earth-sized virtual telescope with unprecedented sensitivity and resolution.” The compilation of the data collected throughout April 2017[31] was “painstakingly converted into an image using novel computational tools developed by the collaboration.”[32] Thus, the visualization of the virtually invisible was constructed by the collaboration of people (scientists, engineers, programmers), machines (computer vision, algorithms, telescopes), and nature (plasma, radio waves, cosmic patterns).
What is additionally fascinating about this particular image lies in definition. Firstly, the image, is a compilation based on radio waves.[33] Bestowing the title “photograph” upon that made with radio frequency broadens the definition of light outside the visible spectrum. Secondly, there is a flexibility in terminology of captured subject. The black hole is physically defined not by the light upon it, but by its surrounding gases and plasma, as well as by its “shadow,” its own darkness.[34]
In the process of researching scientific discoveries (particularly regarding light) and their effect on perceptual (figurative and literal) transfiguration, I came across the writings of Thomas Kuhn, and was struck by a particular piece of writing: “Led by a new paradigm, scientists adopt new instruments and look in new places. Even more important, during revolutions scientists see new and different things when looking with familiar instruments in places they have looked before. It is rather as if the professional community had been suddenly transported to another planet where familiar objects are seen in a different light and are joined by unfamiliar ones as well.”[35] I wonder what this could mean if the word “scientists” were replaced by “people,” and the word “light” were taken verbatim. And what if the “familiar instruments” mentioned were the eyes of other people, or computer vision, or modes of seeing in the natural world?
What it could mean to merge eyes with not only a peer, but with a snake, with a computer, with a blade of grass! Could simultaneous eyes experience the universe sideways? Upside-down? Multiplied? The collective perspective is luscious amalgamation, it is the door to a shower of interference colors, to a dazzling blaze which oscillates through the known spectrum and beyond it. Perhaps this joint vision will birth more sources of light, so that vision will consists of many suns and many eyes. This new vision, which lies so close ahead, is boundary-less and effervescently abundant.
Relluminations, Your Author (2019)

[1] Genesis 1:4 (NIV)
[2] In maintaining historical accuracy pertaining to the authors of the universalization of perception and reign of religion, it is necessary to call to letters the word Man.
[3] Pat Remler, Egyptian Mythology, A to Z (Infobase Publishing, 2010), 184.
[4] Surat An-Nūr, Quran 24:35.
[5] John 8:12 (NIV).
[6] Richard Parry, “Empedocles,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, published March 4, 2005,
[7] Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali, Mishkat al-Anwar, trans. W.H.T. Gairdner (Reprint, Lahore: Sh. Muhammad Ashraf, 1991), 80-81.
[8] Ian P. Howard and Robert S. Allison, “Drawing with Divergent Perspective, Ancient and Modern,” Perception 40, no. 9 (September 2011), 1017.
[9] Matt Ancell, “Leonardo's Annunciation in perspective,” University of Virginia, accessed May 15, 2019,
[10] Nelson Goodman, Languages of Art, 2nd ed. (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 1976), 10-14.
[11] Even video is a sequence of still frames played in a second, and holds the ability to pause at any given moment.
[12] Deane B. Judd, introduction to Theory of Colours, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1970), v.
[13] “Cubism,” Tate Museum, accessed May 12, 2019,
[14] Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations (London: W. Strahan and T. Cadell, 1776).
[15] Karl Marx, Early Writings, Trans. Rodney Livingstone and Gregor Benton (Reprint, London: Penguin Classics, 1992).
[16] Craig A. Conly, “Alienation, Sociality, and the Division of Labor: Contradictions in Marx's Ideal of ‘Social Man,’” in Ethics, Vol. 89, No. 1 (October, 1978), 82.
[17] Stephane Lavoie, “Modern Photography Is Changing How We Remember Our Lives,” Medium, published July 31, 2018,
[18] Ibid Goodman, 11.
[19] Rob Lea, “The Double Slit Experiment Demystified. Disproving the Quantum Consciousness connection,” Medium, published July 4, 2018,
[20] Extra Credit, “Quantum Computing - The Foundation of Everything - Extra History - #1,” YouTube video, posted September 22, 2018,
[21] The point should be stressed that scientifically this refers to measurement and not to looking at light with the human eye.
[22] Sadhguru, “Enlightenment or Endarkenment? Which is Right? | Sadhguru,” YouTube video, posted January 18, 2015,
[23] The American Museum of Natural History, Dark Universe, Directed by Carter Emmart (New York: The American Museum of Natural History, 2013).
[24] Michel Serres, Eyes, trans. Anne-Marie Feenberg-Dibon (London: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, 2015), 21.
[25] Natalie Wolchover, “A New Physics Theory of Life,” Quanta magazine, published January 22, 2013,
[26] Matteo Pasquinelli, “On Solar Databases and the Exogenesis of Light,” e-flux n. 65 (June 2015).
[27] Observations, which not to be a mad skeptic, could potentially alter the way light functions.
[28] Ramesh Raskar, “Imaging at a trillion frames per second,” filmed June 2012 at TEDGlobal 2012, TED video, 9:20,
[29] Prof. Merrill Ring, “Scientifically Induced Conceptual Change? The Case of Light,” Fullerton University, accessed May 10, 2019,
[30] Ibid Al-Ghazali, 89.
[31] Dennis Overbye, “Darkness Visible, Finally: Astronomers Capture First Ever Image of a Black Hole,” The New York Times, published April 10, 2019,
[32] “Astronomers Capture First Image of a Black Hole,” Event Horizon Telescope, accessed May 12, 2019,
[33] Sarah Kaplan and Joel Achenbach, “See a black hole for the first time in a historic image from the Event Horizon Telescope,” The Washington Post, published April 10, 2019,
[34] Victoria Albert, “Scientists Photograph Black Hole for the First Time Ever,” Daily Beast, published April 10, 2019,
[35] Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 3rd ed. (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1996), 111.