Lotta Blomberg’s exhibition Shifting Channels at Hippolyte Studio examines the physiology of seeing and the tactility of vision. It consists of a seven square metres ryijy* based on a microscopic photograph of the blind spot in the artist’s own left eye. These wriggling and twisting retinal veins play a central part in creating the sense of sight, but, when in close proximity to the optic nerve, they also cause a shadow zone inside the eye–a so called blind spot.
“All the senses, including vision, are extensions of the tactile sense; the senses are specializations of skin tissue, and all sensory experiences are modes of touching and thus related to tactility.” This quote from Juhani Pallasmaa’s The Eyes of the Skin aptly describes Blomberg’s way of thinking of photography as an experimental art form. In choosing a porous ryijy to present a medical image, the artist parallels the rod and cone cells of the retina with the texture of the ryijy and challenges the accustomed presentations of photography.
The exhibition’s title, Shifting Channels, refers to the ambiguity of visual perception and to scientific theories from the latter half of the 19th century. Specifically, it refers to the American astronomer Percival Lowell’s (1855-1916) conviction that the surface of the planet Mars was covered in canals. Based on observations made through a telescope, Lowell concluded that there was a sophisticated water irrigation system on Mars, which, in his mind, had to be a sign of the existence of a Martian civilization. Lowell developed a theory according to which the residents of the planet–in response to heavy drought–had built an extensive network of canals intended to lead meltwater from the polar caps to its deserted equator. However, it soon turned out that rather than examining and mapping the topography of Mars, Lowell had, through his telescope, viewed a magnified mirror image of the network of blood vessels in his own eyeground.
Despite Lowell’s theory having been proved wrong, it has inspired a great deal of science fiction describing humankind’s desire to escape a sense of cosmic smallness and loneliness. The far-reaching fantasies of Lowell, his inability to see what was close to him, and his unflinching faith in his own imaginative scientific theory have worked as a starting point for Shifting Channels and influenced Blomberg’s extended musings on visual perception.
Lotta Blomberg (b. 1990) is a graduate from the Master’s degree programme at the Aalto University’s Department of Photography, and one of the founders of the art space Kosminen which operated in Helsinki between 2016 and 2022. Her works have previously been exhibited in group exhibitions in Finland and are currently on show at the festival Circulation(s) in Paris. Shifting Channels is her first solo exhibition.
The artist and her exhibition have been supported by the Paulo Foundation and the Arts Promotion Centre Finland. The ryijy has been produced in collaboration with the professional weaver Sanna Reinikainen.
*ryijy is an ancient form of Finnish handwoven tapestry
6–29 May 2022