Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Necker Cube: Symbol For Androgyny

The Necker Cube is an optical illusion first proposed by Swiss crystallographer Louis Albert Necker in 1832. The cube is a two dimensional line drawing that may be interpreted as a three dimensional cube in one of two orientations. The cube is often presented as a symbol of ambiguity and an illustration of the human brain’s ability to switch between two states of perception when presented with an ambiguous image.
The Necker Cube was first proposed as the symbol for androgyny in c.1996 by Raphael Carter in The Angel’s Dictionary, part of the Androgyny RAQ:

Practical Androgyny uses an adjusted form of the Necker Cube with a smaller square in the centre, as focusing on this square may allow the brain to break out of its cycle between two ‘equally possible interchangeable stable states’ and see the image for what it is; a two dimensional drawing which is neither of the interpreted cubes. Thus the androgyny symbol is itself an example of something that can be taken as one of two binary options or as something else entirely:
Image showing three Necker Cubes side by side, the first is highlighted to cause the cube to appear to be oriented to face towards the top left, the other is highlighted to appear to be oriented downwards towards the bottom right, the third has the centre square and the triangles around it highlighted to invite the viewer to interpret it as a flat image
The Necker Cube is symbolic of the androgynous individual’s physical ambiguity. Regardless of whether we identify our genders in the terms of a gender continuum, as being without gender or as being something else entirely, the Necker Cube symbolises the ambiguity we present to a world that is primed to see all people as one of two binary options. Androgynous people can be taken as female, male or as something else entirely but, like the Necker Cube, our ambiguity invites those who interact with us to question what they see, and perhaps strive to see the true picture.