Blinking to Hold

by Alexandra Baybutt


Don’t isolate sight at the expense of the haptic or diminish the visceral. Re-member the parts. Vision is an extension of touch. Vision is agential, invasive, eroticised. Being seen is different to being watched. 


Glance indistinct. Don’t be flooded with unused energy. Find peripheral vision, relinquish focal vision, reduce fight-or-flight reflexes and instead rest edge-ward. See differently to see what’s under your palm. Remember small, not conscious about. 


My visions are monstrous. Detach festering mountains. Fast eye-cells grow over infection, risking blindness. Touch before sight. Growing up with a mother who taught blind people and who’d scare you into hygiene. Later, I learnt her monstrous experiences of teenage boys trying to cop a feel when they were taken by her arm as their sighted guide. Those blind boys not unseeing to the opportunity to touch where touch was not wanted. 


Can’t rod and cone the way out when no vision appears. Reading about efferent and afferent nerves with their toward and away impulses of information, distracts though cannot disguise. A poetics of visioning is not the experience. Vision is the thin slices of black and white television glitch. Its message is: stop, stop seeing this vision, blink and hold it, see if it calms down by risking seeing again. The glitch excess needs molehill focus.


Each trip to the optician’s villain chair being worse, never better. Made sensitive to loss, to dread, and to the shame of being seen seeing. Unreliable vision to envision through sensation instead. Grounded by textures and touch.


Admire the monstrous later from afar: with sufficient distance in space and in time for monstrosity to become less breath-taking and more consoling. Vaseline to smudge edge of the world lenses. Everyday micro haptic dances, not rose-tinted, more Bridget Riley. 


Life without clear vision involves less lying, less inhibiting the impulses. Not less judgement, nor less monstrous responses. But less cowardly. 

The text is read by Nicholas Coddington.

Alexandra Baybutt (CMA, RSME, PhD) works freelance as an artist, educator and researcher. Her writing appears in different places, including the Journal of the Anthropology of Work’s Exertions series on essential labour; Global Performance Studies on dramaturgy (forthcoming); and Creative Arts Education and Therapy (CAET) journal on teaching and learning the Laban/Bartenieff Movement System in multiple languages.

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