A daring man - Liviu Iliescu
Decades ago, it happened that I made the acquaintance of engineer Liviu Iliescu, just on my return from a long travel. I point to a connection between these two facts, as the meeting with the engineer specialized in optics in Bucharest had seemed to be foreshadowed in a way, perhaps even prepared by an episode of that journey. I have in mind the fact that during that journey I was privileged to visit a comprehensive retrospective exhibition of Salvador Daliís works. In that exhibition displayed at the Madrid Museum of Modern Art, I could see not only many of the masterpieces which made famous that painter of Catalonian descent, but also some rare objects created by him. Such were the mobile jewels, the most amazing of which was a ruby heart, electronically throbbing, created as a gift for the king of Spain. But most important in relation to the following considerations was the presence of Salvador Daliís stereoscopic paintings in that exhibition. Those were pairs of paintings which visitors were invited to contemplate through an optical device. The presence of those works in the exhibition represented a modality for the painter to comment on the nature of vision. His approach was based oh the fact that we, humans, see an image through two slits, that is double it; as there is a distance between the two eyes through which we see, at first we actually get two images of the original image to be seen. This is highly important as in our brain we can achieve a deepening of the image, enabling us to see not only plane surfaces but also volumes. Then, the two sensibly different images overlap in our brain and a three-dimensional image is obtained. Well, the sarcastic painter duplicated that process, which starts from the image to be seen, doubled with the help of the two eyes through which we look at it, and then recomposed by overlapping somewhere in our brain. Thus, he painted two almost identical pictures, providing certain divergent details. He then made a device through which the two pictures were to be viewed. The device superposed the two images providing a single image to the eye of the viewer. The small divergence of the details disappeared, and, in our brain, the two images gathered by the lenses of the device, doubled by the two eyes which looked at them, turned to a unit which did not exist in reality. It was the way of the painter to play God.
However, I experienced a greater surprise when I came back to Bucharest and met optician Liviu Iliescu, a person who did not play only, as painter Salvador Dali did, but endeavoured to systematically explore the same miraculous field. He already owned patents certifying his authorship of optical inventions and had written many papers on that subject. The Romanian engineer had greatly developed some artificial interventions aimed not only at knowing but also at modifying the path of images, from the objects to be seen to their abstraction in the human brain. I do not assume to be competent to judge of their value of Liviu Iliescuís work as an optician. Nor do I pretend that I can follow all this actions. Yet, I think that some conclusions may be drawn even by someone who is not conversant with optics.
Liviu Iliescuís experiment proposes a new orientation of vision, carrying on some classical experiments, such as those of Helmholtz, as it happens in the case of synthetizing simple images-an unintentional syntetizing, or in the case of the unintentional combination of some colours. As field of investigation engineer Iliescu chooses the mysterious area where the images of the world are changed in order to be "digested" by the mind. The Romanian experimenter studied the path of image, from the object to be seen to the idea or concept of that object in the human brain. That path was so beaten that it seemed to represent certitude itself. Nevertheless Liviu Iliescu succeeds in slipping doubt in our minds so that, after witnessing his experiments we are no longer so sure that we actually see what we see. Liviu Iliescuís research undermines or at least questions the would-be correspondence between what exists and the image in our brains.
Liviu Iliescuís experiments become ever more complex as he uses all kinds of optical devices made by himself. The would-be access of the human being to the world to be seen is ever more complicated. I think that two results of his experiments are remarkable.
On the one hand, the paintings created by the Romanian engineer seem to throb, as if living, when viewed through his devices. On the other hand, this field of the proposed optical experiment takes hold of us in a certain way. We are captive and descend in a Maelstrom, as if we were drugged. The world is no longer firm and its outlines are blurred, the same as the dials of some watches painted by Dali. Based on his performances and noticing the ever greater frenzy of artists in searching new painting modalities, revealing their well founded discontent with the available means for creating their hoped for masterpieces, engineer Liviu Iliescu supposes that future artists would be able to create living pictures, pulsating and integrating the viewers, by means of the optical techniques perfected by him. He suggests that this will be bioptical art. Is it necessary to confess that I do not follow him in this hypothesis?
Yet, even though I do not follow engineer Liviu Iliescu to the last consequences, I clearly see that his achievement has a considerable scientific importance, not only in the fields of optic, of sight physiology but also for the more comprehensive theory of knowledge. In connection with the last assumption, his achievements make me understand something, both by looking at them and by clearly recalling great philosophical systems. I can understand how deep down we are plunged in this body of clay, much deeper buried in it, not only as depth suggested by its precarious minimum dimensions, but at incommensurable depths, since they establish distances between incongruous relation systems. And from there, from that infinite depth, through two supposed splits, the apriori categories of space and time, which lead to the surrounding world up there, by means of terrible windings, we try to approximate the image we are living. We get only a hypothesis born from a disablement. Disabled for ever, we apply our impotence to the consistence of the world and decide that this is truth. A mad adventure.
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