Le marronnier. Moving image installation. Annie Briard, 2015

Annie Briard

Re-envisioning vision: artistic explorations in the territories of perception


Vision, in its many forms, can be categorized into territories over which perception of the physical world reigns. However, as this vision is constituted through fallible senses, ideologies, and judgements, it can be as mediated as its counterparts.

This photo-essay discusses an ongoing body of work re-envisioning visual perception within this context. Visual encounters, from physical, to simulated, to imagined are positioned as territories which are made to overlap through the outlined works. These range from moving image, to photography and installation. The thematic motor for these works is the idea of an ever-mediated reality, positioned here in the context of media studies.

A brief overview of some fallacies of vision is laid out and linked to the artist’s approach to research-based art production, of which three works are described. The first, “Landscape, Cutout”, deals with vision only ever revealing the past. The second, “Constructions”, consists of stereographic images proposing concurrent zones of incongruous sight. The third work, “Le marronnier”, manifests a pivotal image in existentialism depicted in Sartre’s “Nausea”.

Throughout, this text, the artist underlines the importance of questioning how our sight compares to one another’s, and why only some visions are regarded as true.

« Il faut que chacun s’apprenne à échapper à la raideur des habitudes d’esprit formées au contact des expériences familières ». [1]

My practice is concerned with exploring and re-envisioning visual perception. More specifically, my interests lie in the boundaries between the physical and the imagined, the perceived and the misperceived. Recently, I have been developing series of works using the landscape as a structure through which to investigate and pull apart these territories of vision.

The physically perceived is constantly in transformation. The scene before us changes with the faded recollection of what was experienced mere seconds ago; now imbued with our own interpretative contexts. Beyond how the mind transforms what is understood as actual, the body itself manipulates sight. Vision can only reveal what has already been. [2] Blind spots are centred in our field of view. [3] Afterimages [4] and other visual phenomena happen with every saccade of the eye, yet our perceptual system cancels them out. [5] What else is hidden? This creates an interesting platform on which to examine territories between the captured and the simulated; the actual and the imagined.

Despite its convincing repositioning by contemporary theorists, [6] for many, the sense of vision remains by and large the prime informant through which we interpret reality; a reality that is thus always mediated. Theorist and media art historian Sean Cubitt states that technological or post-cinematic moving image leaves its viewer “hanker[ing] for an unmediated relation to the world”. [7] He is referring to technological mediation, but it’s interesting to think that there can never be such a relation because of the mediated and thus distorted ways in which we encounter the world through our senses. [8] My approach instead begins with this stated reality by capturing the expanse of land before me, and then picking it apart with ‘post’ processes such as cutting out elements of the scene, morphing perspectives, and sometimes translating the image into simulation. I revisit the captured image by changing details small and large, highlighting differences in perspective, the near and the far, the focused and the blurred; all elements used by the eye and the photographer to tell a certain narrative about what lies in front of us. By highlighting such effects, constructs of visual perception in general can become more evident. The ongoing body of work I’m producing uses still and moving image, stereoscopic 3D and installation to explore what I see as the territories of the visible.

Landscape, Cutout. Still frames from the moving image. Annie Briard, 2015. Courtesy Joyce Yahouda Gallery and the artist.

Landscape, Cutout is a series of moving image works which emphasize the constructedness of reality or how we perceive the surrounding world, and vision’s sometimes problematic role within this construction. In this particular work, a still image is cut up into layers to form arbitrary divisions in our view of the landscape. Using the screen’s light to brighten individual cutouts at varying intervals, the landscape can be seen to subtly change in perspective. The changes unfold so slowly over time that the landscape shifts are almost imperceptible. Repetition and slowness allow the image to become familiar and the viewer may not immediately realize that what they are taking as true is actually always reinventing itself. Only memory can reveal its lack of fixity and ever going transformation.

In similar ways, the series Constructions also deals with what I call ‘impossibilities of sight’. Here, stereoscopic photographs investigate our inability to grasp a complete and accurate impression of the world. Constructions confronts these incongruences by providing a visual experience that is at once happening in paradoxical ways.

Construction 2. Stereoscopic C-print. Annie Briard, 2015. Courtesy Joyce Yahouda Gallery, Back Project Gallery and the artist.

First, there is the composite flat, colorful image we see without glasses, which may at first be encountered as an ordinary photograph. Then, with glasses on, there is the red image if one eye is shut, and blue if the other is closed. The combined 3D image provides yet a fourth perspective, offering a play with depth, where the scene’s planes appear to jut outwards or recede behind the photographic surface itself. Then there are the multiple other views created if the viewer focuses on the foreground, background, or geometric symbols used to point out where the construct breaks down. How can one image be perceived in all these ways?

The twitching of an image to and from these multiple views can be likened to that of interpreting a visual simulation. In a realistic simulation, one can be stuck by wonder at the quick transitions between belief and disbelief. Sometimes, the simulations seem realer than the actual, and the actual can seem digital, or fake [9].

Construction 3 Stereoscopic C-print. Annie Briard, 2015. Courtesy Joyce Yahouda Gallery, Back Project Gallery and the artist.
Construction 1. Stereoscopic C-print. 2015. Annie Briard, 2015. Courtesy Joyce Yahouda Gallery, Back Project Gallery and the artist.

Existentialist philosophers provided vivid literary images to describe overwhelming experiences [10], a number of which were produced by, or accompanied with, unfamiliar vision. My favorite such image is that of the chestnut tree in Jean-Paul Sartre’s Nausea [11]. In this philosophic novel, protagonist Antoine Roquentin is confronted with existential strife and what might be described by psychologists as disassociation [12]. In the story, Roquentin seems to plunge deeper and deeper into this affected state which is described as excessively visual. Colors, light and shadow seem stronger than they should be while surfaces are understood as scintillating or undulating [13]. The narrative eventually culminates with the main character sitting at the foot of a chestnut tree, where somehow, this augmented visual perception seems to overwhelm him entirely. Suddenly afterwards, his vision returns to normal and reality finally makes sense to him, in such a way that it hasn’t since the beginning of the chronicle. To my mind, this story creates interesting crossovers between the limits of vision, affect, the imagined and imaged, and I wanted to create a visual response of sorts. Le marronnier is a moving image installation in development which presents the viewer with a gallery-scaled simulated chestnut tree. Projected onto a floor-to-ceiling transparent support placed in the centre of the room, the tree will – much like Landscape, Cutout – be animated ever so subtly so as to almost imperceptibly sway and glitch.

If the project succeeds, distinguishing the simulation, from the imagined, from the captured will be trying. [14]

Le marronnier. Moving image installation, early prototype. Annie Briard, 2015.

Through these works and others, I seek to observe, experience and discuss the questions that drive my practice ever onward: how does what I see compare to what you see? To what extent does vision make our conceptions of the world stray away from each other’s? Why is the territory of the physically perceivable separated and prioritized over those of the daydreamed, the imagined, the intuited when sometimes they can be so alike?


[1] Gaston Bachelard, La psychanalyse du feu (Paris : Gallimard, 1949), 16. I would translate this to: ‘each must teach themselves to escape the rigidity of conventional judgements formed in time through contact with the familiar’.
[2] Richard L. Gregory. Eye and Brain: The Psychology of Seeing 5th Ed. (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1997) 17.
[3] Ibid., 58-60.
[4] I explored afterimage in a 2013-14 installation by that name where I drew, digitized and animated my own afterimages for the viewer to experience in an immersive way. The effect physically induced viewers to question whether what they saw was actual, imagined, or their own perceptual phenomena. That work deeply influenced these ongoing creative explorations.
[5] Gregory, Eye and Brain: The Psychology of Seeing, 57-58.
[6] A number of modernist and contemporary theorists have argued against the classicist primacy of vision. Some of these positions are rounded up and compared in historian Jonathan Crary’s essay Modernising Vision. Jonathan Crary. “Modernising Vision.” Vision and Visuality. Ed. Hal Foster. (Seattle, WA., Bay Press, 1988) 29-49.
[7] Sean Cubitt. The Cinema Effect. (Cambridge : MIT Press, 2004) 278.
[8] Patricia Dwyer. “Perception and Perceptual Realism.” Theories of Media Glossary. (Chicago: University of Chicago, Accessed Oct. 10, 2015.
[9] I experience this sensation sometimes with a body of water. When a lake has little rippling waves and the sun hits them just so, the surface can seem to be speckled with little glitches or digital artifacts.
[10] Here I’m referring to the philosophical concepts of anxiety for Kierkegaard, and the theoretical experience of existential nausea according to Sartre.
[11] Jean-Paul Sartre. La nausée (Paris: Folio, Gallimard, 1937) 181.
[12] Connecting the two effectively would invite more research, but the detailed accounts of this experience put forth in ‘Feeling Unreal’ provide a useful starting point. Daphne Simeon and Jeffrey Abugel, Feeling Unreal (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006).
[13] This description is, of course, borne of my own recollection of the text, and is surely influenced by my ideologies, memory processes, and so on, much as these affect visual perception.
[14] The completed work will be on view at Joyce Yahouda Gallery in May 2016.


Bachelard, Gaston. La psychanalyse du feu. Paris: Gallimard, 1949.
Briard, Annie. Afterimage, moving image installation, 2015 (Vancouver).
Crary, Jonathan. “Modernising Vision.” Vision and Visuality. Ed. Hal Foster, Seattle: Bay Press, 1988.
Cubitt, Sean. The Cinema Effect. Cambridge : MIT Press, 2004.
Patricia Dwyer. “Perception and Perceptual Realism.” Theories of Media Glossary. Chicago: University of Chicago, Accessed Oct. 10, 2015.
Gregory, Richard L. Eye and Brain: The Psychology of Seeing. 5th Ed. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1997.
Sartre, Jean-Paul. La nausée. Paris: Folio, Gallimard, 1937.
Simeon, Daphne and Jeffrey Abugel, Feeling Unreal. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.


Annie Briard is a Vancouver-based artist from Montreal challenging visual perception and its ideologies through lens based and moving image focused work. Her work has been exhibited in solo shows across Canada including at VIVO, Black & Yellow and Back Gallery Project, Centre 3 (Hamilton), and Joyce Yahouda Gallery (Montreal). Her work has also been part of group exhibitions, festivals and screenings worldwide. She holds a Master’s from Emily Carr University, and a BFA from Concordia University. Recent and upcoming projects include a residency at the Banff Centre, solo exhibitions in Montreal, Winnipeg, and Vancouver, and a public art billboard for Capture Photography Festival. Her work is represented by Joyce Yahouda Gallery in Montreal.

In concert with her practice, Briard is also an educator currently teaching at Emily Carr University, and a cultural manager with a background at the helm of artist-run organizations including CARFAC BC and Studio XX. She serves on the Board of Directors for Access Gallery, Studio XX (Montreal), Contraste Projects (Shanghai/Montreal) and others.

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