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  • Other-WorldsEncounters with the Visual Perception of Lungfishes through Science and Art
  • Audrey Appudurai

This thesis explores the visual perception of the South American (Lepidosiren paradoxa), spotted African (Protopterus dolloi) and Australian (Neoceratodus forsteri) lungfishes through biological science, history and visual art. Lungfishes are vital to the evolutionary study of terrestrial animal vision because of their association with animals that made the remarkable transition from water onto land. To begin, a cultural history of non-human animal visual perception is investigated to understand and acknowledge the limitations of technologies and our anthropocentric perception of reality. Next, diverse cultural narratives are discussed, revealing a long history of lungfishes as “in-between” animals. This shows that human understandings of lungfishes are influenced by factors that include, but are not limited to, the evaluation of scientific data. Having established the limitations and complexities involved in “knowing” the perception of lungfishes, the biological “machinery” of the lungfishes’ vision is described by two scientific studies; one describing the visual machinery of L. paradoxa and P. dolloi and another unravelling the visual perception of a N. forsteri cohort born without external eyes. Lastly, a number of artworks generated through the interdisciplinary research are discussed. These creative outcomes reveal my shifting understandings of technological limitations, objectivity and human cognition/perception in the attempt to interpret the visual experience of nonhuman animals.

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Audrey Appudurai, Parts Per Animal and Untitled installation, biological tissue, ultraviolet paint, black light, 2015.

(© Audrey Appudurai)

This unique interdisciplinary thesis unravels the intricacies of the lungfishes’ visual perception. The methodologies of three disparate disciplines—biological science, history and visual art—are integrated in an attempt to understand the complexity of how nonhuman animals perceive their environment, while recognizing the limitations of each discipline. [End Page 529]

Audrey Appudurai
<>. PhD thesis, the University of Western Australia, Australia, 2016.


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