Rick Myers

Drawing with removed subject (2011) – excerpt

HD video with sound
9m 40s, dimensions variable


In the prominent eye tracking studies of Russian psychologist, Alfred L. Yarbus, a suction based device was affixed directly to the eyes of the participants. The device incorporated a mirror which––as the viewers eyes moved across an image––reflected a corresponding path of light onto paper with a photosensitive surface. For a subject image, Yarbus used Unexpected Return (1884-1888), a painting by Russian realist, Ilya Repin, which depicts the homecoming of a Russian revolutionary and the resulting interaction between his family members. Yarbus’ studies were first translated from Russian to English in the book Eye Movements and Vision (Plenum Press, New York 1967).

Taking this survey as its starting point, in a eye tracking research lab, I replicated a study which Yarbus had carried out – conducting a 25 second “free examination” of the same subject image. I exported the resulting scan path, consisting of a series of fixation points in numeric sequence.

Using 50 gallons of a specially prepared black concentrate, an ice rink measuring 200 x 85 feet was painted opaque black. The surface was then sealed to a reflective finish with a 25mm layer of ice. Guide points of the scan path were plotted sequentially on the ice using fine white paint, in the form of directional arrows, each with a corresponding number. Over the previous months I had rehearsed a series of choreographed moves with a figure skater, who paced out the sequence in preparation for what had to be a single take, shot from 40 feet above. The figure skater then skated the scan path sequence. The result is a version of the 25 second eye tracking study slowed down to the natural pace of the figure skater, without presence of the subject image.

The sound in the video comes from contact microphones, placed directly on the ice, and an air conditioning unit, audible from ambient sound which was also recorded.

Figure skater: Brittney Rizo