In Order to See You Must Look Away: Thinking About the Eye

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Eye-tracking studies of film (as well as eye-tracking studies in general) focus on seeing. In this chapter, I shall propose that the human visual system relies not just on seeing, but also on moments of not seeing. That is, I shall argue that moments in which we do not see are not ‘flaws’ in a visual system that otherwise strives towards total vision. Rather, such ‘flaws’ (moments of blindness) are crucial components of vision and what it means to be human more generally. I shall illustrate this need for temporary blindness by looking at three films that are comprised uniquely (or almost uniquely) of photographs, including Jonás Cuarón’s Año uña/Year of the Nail (Mexico 2007), Chris Marker’s La Jetée (France 1962) and Jean-Luc Godard’s Je vous salue, Sarajevo (France 1993). In films comprised of photographs, we see not continuous action (we do not have a ‘perfect vision’ of events) but wilfully fragmented action (even more than in films comprised of moving images that involve narrative ellipses). These films demonstrate how what we do not see is perhaps equally as important as what we do see – both in film viewing and in life. In this way, I shall argue that these films make clear how eye tracking overemphasizes vision during eye fixation, thereby under- appreciating the importance of the necessary blindness that accompanies vision. As it is cinema that draws out the oversights of eye tracking, I shall reverse the trend of science being used to explain art, providing an example rather of art being used to explain science.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSeeing into Screens
Subtitle of host publicationEye-Tracking and the Moving Image
EditorsSean Redmond, Tessa Dwyer, Claire Perkins, Jodi Sita
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages13
ISBN (Print)978-1501329029, 1501329022
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • eye-tracking
  • cinema
  • darkness
  • blinking
  • photography

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