The Venus Effect” is a fascinating concept in painting and film that shatters the illusion of the perceived, the perceiver and the preceptor.  In the example below, the woman is peering into a mirror.

At first glance, we think she is looking at her own reflection, but the angle of the mirror deceives us, because she is really directly looking at us, not herself.  In fact, the artifice of assumption is something of an aesthetic cheat because we fail to realize she is watching us while we watch her.  She is incapable of viewing her own reflection in that particular angle of yaw.

As my new iPhone 5S finally wings it way to me from ZengZhou, China for delivery in two days, I now start to consider — The Venus Effect — in our modern, everyday, lives.

When we live, do we prefer to directly experience an event, or do we instead place unnecessary filters between us and the object we are observing?

Think of a madding crowd gathered at the front of a stage.  Instead of directly looking at the live performance on stage, the viewers instead actively choose to create their own, mirrored, Venus Effect, by pointing their cameras and smartphones at the performers.

Instead of directly perceiving the performance, the viewers place an electronic filter — on a tiny screen with a shallow depth-of-field and constrained context edges — between them and reality.  The angle of the natural eye is off as they focus close and not afar.  The recording becomes more important than the direct experience.  Future sharing is given more value that experiencing something in real time.

We are quickly becoming a world nation society of non-direct perception.  We let others tell us what to think, and how to behave, and when it’s our turn to share and record the truth, we give up that honor by allowing a machine to do our remembering for us.

We don’t just live The Venus Effect.

The Venus Effect becomes us.

In that unnatural exchange between direct observation and filtered experience, we lose the purpose of ourselves.  We begin to disremember.  Experience crumbles in thinking small and confined.  We become mechanists instead of observers and that numbs the mind and kills sensation.

I understand some people need to take a photograph or record a video to remember — but I’ve always preferred the magic of the mind to preserve important images and experiences.

I much rather enjoy the direct experience over the tangential one, and viewing a video later, or looking at photographs in a scrapbook in time, are not the ways we were intended to remember marked events in our lives.

Eyes on objects, pupils responding to the light of direct events — that is how we remain human, and that is how we continue to keep the Art of real perception alive and well.


    1. That’s a good point. In person isn’t important any longer. Texting. Tweeting. Emailing. All an indirect touch. Direct contact is no longer wanted or encouraged — even when you’re in the same room! It’s safer to view through a screen than to look someone dead in the eye.

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