Eliza Fitzhugh


Seeing Through Distraction

In a visual culture that bursts with information, increased speed, and over-stimulation, and forgoes the prolonged look in favor of the glance, can we learn how to slow down, look harder, and linger? Can we, as the artist Robert Irwin describes, learn to engage in acts of perceiving ourselves perceiving?

This thesis investigation addresses the lack of engagement caused by fleeting interactions with information and seeks to understand the role of distraction in contemporary life. For decades, distraction was deemed attention’s arch enemy. It was something to frustrate and deny. However, it is now understood that brief diversions from a task enhance our potential for prolonged interest and learning. Through research and making, this thesis examines methods of information processing and demonstrates how perception can be adjusted by engaging the peripheries of time and form.

The projects—books, posters, typeface design, environmental typography, and screen-based animations—embody the reinvestment of effort of the maker and the viewer. They are both discursive and experiential. They explore the art historical idea of “close looking,” and illustrate the spectrum between distraction as opposition, and distraction as opportunity.

Seeing Through Distraction does not purport to place a strictly positive or negative value on the affects of distraction; instead, it hopes to illuminate the potential for both.