Current Call for Papers
ZARCH is currently accepting the submission of articles for their consideration, following the external Peer Review process as described on this website. They should address the topic for the upcoming issue.
Issue 20: "New in-sights?"
Deadline for submission of articles: November 15th, 2022
Expected publication date: June 2023
A search for the term “new in-sight” or in the plural “new in-sights” returns thousands of results from the Google Scholar and Dialnet databases and hundreds from Worldcat and Rebiun. If “researching” is etymologically related to “finding”, “uncovering” or “discovering”, these quantitative data suggest that advances in knowledge remain metaphorically linked to the very act of looking, of shedding light on something. The term in-sight refers us directly to vision, perception and perspective and, implicitly, to discernment, understanding, perspicacity and keen-sightedness.
Indeed, the Latin root ‘mir’ from the verb ‘miror’ makes reference to the act of marvelling at or being amazed by something new. As it is a deponent verb, the act of looking emphasises the subject’s implication in the action as responsible for this admiration, irrespective of the value of what is being observed. As John Berger notes “we only see what we look at” and “we are always looking at the relation between things and ourselves” . Vision, thus understood, is part of a constant movement that shapes our relationship with things and fuels our interest in exploring the world around us.
Just as looking is based on the retina capturing light, photography consists in pouring exposure to light onto a sensor or film. It is a rebound effect. Looking implies opening up, without prejudices, to what is around us. Does this “new in-sight”—in terms of research—has more to do with the subject’s renewed intentionality or the newness of the selected object? If light needs to be shed, based on the Platonian myth, there would be an inevitable contrast between illuminating and dazzling. In the first action, light settles on the object showing what it is and what it consists of; in the second, light is projected not onto the object but onto the subject, onto the gaze that attempts to decipher what it looks at. It involves a twofold action orchestrated out of wonder, in order to shed light and search through the shadows.
Within this network of etymological relationships we also find ‘miraculum’ (miracle), that which is perceived in a marvellous and admirable manner. In fact, the prefix ‘ad’ indicates a selective way of looking: with vision as the starting point, we use our gaze to select what we consider to be relevant, worthy of admiration and wonder. In the mirror, we do not only look (‘speculum’), we also admire: there is an implicit search to discover what we find attractive or useful. The term ‘anagnorisis’, introduced by Aristotle, is likewise related to this idea of discovery and the act of recognition, thus demonstrating that discoveries are also reencounters that “reveal what is right before us yet hidden, as if forgotten” .
Research and critical thinking understood as discovery and recognition of what is hidden, latent or forgotten is essential to arouse curiosity about looking again, about a theory connected to the act of looking itself. In fact, theory comes from the Greek ‘theoria’. ‘Thea’ is view and ‘Theoros’ is the spectator, the person who consults the oracle. In this sense, researching is a change of viewpoint, the use of new ways of looking. To what extent does looking mean recognising what exists or discovering something new? What, then, does the idea of something new bring to this topic? How should the time of a gaze be interpreted? Do gazes have an expiry date?
It could be argued that vision establishes our place in the world, hence the importance of connecting what we see with what we know. However, to what extent does knowledge adjust to vision? In that respect, what is visible keeps getting mixed into the sum of images created by the eye in the act of looking, while reality becomes visible when it is perceived, being closely tied to the sense of experience. Walter Benjamin notes that, in the age of the image, it does not aim so much to please and evoke as to offer an experience and a lesson. But this cannot be understood as a one-way process, since our previous experiences and knowledge shape the way we look. In the end, what is visible, which may equally remain either illuminated or hidden, is part of a process of discovery and recognition. This explains the interest in finding new in-sights, understood according to their capacity to broaden the horizons of a specific area of knowledge.
This issue of ZARCH sets out to provide and open up a space for reflection about these “new in-sights” with the aim of discovering or recognising alternative spaces for research which we had not noticed before or which we had not paid enough attention to. Based on a miscellaneous and multidisciplinary approach, the aim is for the very topic of looking to become a stimulating debate of theoretical reflection on architecture and urbanism.