After looking at a butterfly wing under a series of microscopes I began to muse about the potential lenses have to shift our perspectives. The butterfly, for example, is often deployed as a cliche metaphor in poetry or song, but the lens itself twists that romanticized image out of its stilted, dead state--we see the point where the wing was ripped from the body of the creature and the scales that grow off of the substrate of its wings. We not only see new aspects of the butterflies physical makeup, but we see a glimpse of what happened to its living body (and the violence that happened to its carcass). The lens is capable of shifting both our symbolic and material understandings of the thing that we place under them--indeed, the symbolic and the material need not be distinct categories.
How does the perspective of a lens (or lenses, plural) shift, alter, elapse, and mechanically embody subjectivity? To what degree is the lens itself made of the flesh that manipulates and views the images it optically (or physically) re-presents? To what degree can lenses explode point of view? To what degree do they "other" (estrange) the subjective out of the familiar, embodied form and place it in the material, bio-political realm of raw actants? The potential of the microscopes we used to shift our viewpoints out of our familiarized realm of the experiential is quite wonderful, I think. They allowed us to view things that would normally be impossible to see. They also gave new, more complex, viewpoints of images that we might already have from other similar technologies--these are lenses that allow to see new viewpoints that may have political potential.
Take the idea of a "mood"--we can say that it is an effect of being in a body, or we can look at the various chemical processes that led to that mood (a Vitamin D or Omega-3 deficiency, perhaps). Or, we can begin to think about how trash isn't simply "away" in the landfill (since it is directly removed from a direct, phenomenological relationship)--the trash is engaged in a series of complex actions: leeching chemicals, building up its volume in a particular area, and producing massive clouds of harmful methane gas. The ability to take on this vitalized form of materialism--where other things act--can allow for a critical eye on how bodies are being affected. This can also be applied to human bodies--what is the perspective of the "other," what happens when the quality of that lens gets leveled to be on the same level as our own? What happens when currents, weather patterns, or even butterflies exert biopolitical power. What lens do butterflies see through? To what degree are our lenses merged and of the same raw, material "stuff" ?
Also, I found this cool new popular application of some of the same imaging technologies we used in the lab: