In medical terms, double vision, or diplopia, is a condition in which a person sees two images of a single object. The condition has a number of potential causes ranging from an irregularity of the cornea to brain trauma caused by injury to the head, and can sometimes even be brought on by stress. Whatever the cause, the result is seeing a blurred or doubled image — the original and its ‘ghost’. A whisper or a shadowy spectre of the original form which distorts the viewer’s perception, confusing what is really there with what is not.
In film and literature the idea of double vision is somewhat less morbid and instead serves as a commonly used narrative technique that allows the audience to explore multiple points of view from a single vantage point. The idea of a double could be used to explore a plot from the various possible experiences of a single character. Such as in Tom Tykwer’s 1998 film Run Lola Run, in which the audience consecutively views the same narrative three times, with only slight deviations to Lola’s journey each time. Or in Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde — a highly referenced 19th c novel by Robert Louis Stevenson in which the titular character embodies two completely opposing personas trapped within one body. Although only one person, both personas see and experience the world in an entirely different way than the other; a kind of double vision embedded into a single set of eyes. The use of the double has allowed writers, filmmakers and artists to bend time, to alter perception and to move freely between the reality of the ordinary world and the phantasm of the imagined one.
Printmaking as a process is no stranger to this intentional dualism either. The inversion of an image from plate to substrate; the application of a single image through multiple layers; and the intentional misregistration of the printed image to create experimental outcomes are all tricks are technique inherent to creative print practice used to create both visual and narrative depth.
For the 2020 edition of the International Print Exchange Program, India, ‘Double Vision’ is presented as both a conceptual and technical provocation inviting playful responses in the search for one’s inner dyad.
Sitara Chowfla is a curator, writer and art consultant from New Delhi. Her work seeks to find experimental formats of exhibition and display and is interested in the possibilities of the exhibition as a discursive space for exchange, learning and multiple kinds of interaction. As an arts consultant, Sitara supports the growth of new cultural institutions and works towards creating spaces for professional development in the creative sector.
Sitara Chowfla is the founding curator at Pulp Society a new contemporary art gallery and project space in New Delhi, and co-organiser of the GOA OPEN ARTS Festival 2020. She was previously the Guest Curator of Public Programmes at the India Art Fair (2018-19), Curatorial Assistant at London’s Art Night (2018),curator-in-residence at the RE: Directing East at the CCA Ujazdowksi Castle(2015); Senior Curator and Programme Manager, Khoj International Artists’ Association (2013-2017). Sitara graduated with an MA in Curating Contemporary Art from the Royal College of Art in 2019.
Photo courtesy Abhinava Bhattacharyya.