Seeing comes before words.

The child looks and recognises before it can speak.

But there is also another sense in which seeing comes before words. It is seeing which establishes our place in the surrounding world; we explain that world with words, but words can never undo the fact that we are surrounded by it. The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled.

The way we see things is affected by what we know or what we believe. We only see what we look at. To look is an act of choice. We never look at just one thing; we are always looking at the relation between things and ourselves. Our vision is continually active, continually moving, continually holding things in a circle around itself, constituting what is present to us as we are (John Berger, ‘Ways of Seeing’).

THE KEY OF DREAMS BY MAGRITTE 1898-1967

THE KEY OF DREAMS BY MAGRITTE 1898-1967THE KEY OF DREAMS BY MAGRITTE 1898-1967

(the Surrealist painter Magritte commented on this always-present gap between words and seeing called The Key of Dreams. The way we see things is affected by what we know or what we believe).