A long time ago, if you had bad eyesight, you were basically screwed. Then came magnifying glasses, monocles, the pince-nez, regular ol’ spectacles, contact lenses, and most recently, Lasik surgery. Indeed, eyeglasses have come a long way since the days when the nearsighted and/or farsighted were written off as blind. Given the long and storied history of spectacles, it’s interesting to speculate what the future might hold for corrective lenses — not only from a medical perspective, but from social, cultural, technological — and in the case of Future Eyes — artistic viewpoints as well.
Future Eyes is an ongoing art and photography project by LA-based Brent Paul Pearson, who makes freaky-fractals in the form of old-timey round glasses. The effect they have on people varies; one woman who used them to stare at the full moon for 10 minutes ended up speechless and crying, while a chef used them to eat his dessert because he wanted to know if they would affect his sense of taste, too.
Yet while Future Eyes are fascinating all on their own, their mastermind is really the one who’s most interesting. Brent Paul Pearson was born in New York City and grew up in Los Angeles, where he began writing at an early age. His first opus was a hundred-page poem about an opera singer who fell in love with a blind prostitute. After that, he began writing The Light Society, about a family of colors.
“While working on this book I became interested in prisms, light theory, the electromagnetic spectrum, and decided to write a book about time travel and the process of invention,” he says. “The invention I came up with is Future Eyes.”
Pearson launched Future Eyes in December, 2011 after he and a couple of friends looked through crystals in candlelight. “I had the idea to put crystals into glasses to create the effect of seeing in multiple dimensions with both eyes,” he says.
Pearson describes Future Eyes as a cultural experiment, because when people wear them in a social atmosphere, everything changes. “Each person who tries them on is transported into a world of the senses, taking them out of their own mind and placing them in the present moment,” he says. “Similar to the effects of drugs and alcohol, it alters their sense of self. It is a kind of conscious sensory exploration.”
Yet the question remains: given the history of glasses, will human eyesight become so bad that they’ll actually need to wear glasses like these?
“The further people get from their senses, the less human they are,” Pearson says. “These glasses provide an over-stimulation of the senses and an ultra-human experience. If humanity hopes to have a place in the future, glasses like these will be necessary to combat the distancing from our physical bodies caused by digital stimulation.”
That’s why Pearson calls them Future Eyes.
“There are a few ways they give the viewer access to the future,” he says. “One way is by presenting potential realities. When you fracture an image into many pieces you see many possibilities. Each possibility has a unique reality when you focus on it. It is about choice. The more aware you are of the present the easier it becomes to select your future. ‘Optical aerobics’ is a term I came up with that refers to exercising your eyes to improve your awareness.”
Pearson says the glasses provide access to the future in another way: they help separate the viewer from their own associations with the past, thereby allowing them to change their own meaning of time.
“A similar effect happens when you close your eyes,” he says. “You can find yourself teleported from the world of memories into the present moment. Finally, when you are in the present moment, it becomes easier to imagine your own future. After all, what is the difference between imagination and seeing the future?”
Right now, Brent Paul Pearson is working on a “FOTO BOOK” inspired by the book Be Here Now by Ram Dass, which is currently accepting submissions. Also, during the entire month of August, everyone who orders a pair of Future Eyes gets another pair to give to a friend.