Extraordinary claims. Ordinary investigations.

“Iconatomy”: Celebrities and Reification


In “Iconatomy”, Art Student George Chamoun, from Sweden, mixed movie icons from two different eras in a collage that’s even more outstanding because the pictures were not distorted in any way.


“What you see is a collage of two different people in each picture”, Chamoun  explains. “Did it take me a long time to find the right pictures? Hell yes it did!”

And the fascinating thing is that with his technique, Chamoun managed to make that fusion of faces happen inside our brains. Because as much as Audrey Hepburn may be very much like Natalie Portman:


They are not as identical as Chamoun’s collage initially suggests to our grey matter. To get to the bottom of it, did it take me a long time to find the pictures Chamoun originally used? Well, not that much, thanks to Google Reverse Image Search. Here they are:


Hepburn was wearing a hat, and I had to flip Portman’s image. Side by side, the differences may be highlighted, and I suggest you may review the collage above.

How could these similar but obviously different faces fuse themselves into one so very well? This must be a perceptual illusion, and I bet it has something to do with the Kanizsa Triangle.


Our brain fills in the gaps and we see a triangle that’s not actually there. It’s what Gestalt psychology calls Reification, the constructive aspect of perception, which is not something we feel but something we do.

Chamoun’s collage makes the two faces join exactly where they coincide – at the top of the hair, in the contours of the chin, for instance. Like the vertices of the illusory Kanizsa triangle, our perception does the rest and fills in the gaps, mixing two Hollywood stars in one face.

This illusion also exhibits the Gestalt principle of multistability, famous in the Rubin vase, whereas you can see a mixed face closer either to the Hollywood icon from the past or present.

All of this reminded me of another recent illusion, and one which may not look very, well, sophisticated. It’s what was called “Bubbling” or “Mormon Porn”.


“Mormons can’t look at porn, so they had to come up with a creative idea that would give them the illusion to watch nude girls without actually watching at… nude girls! They call it bubbling.”, they said.

I would call it Gestalt Porn. Sound classier. Or more explicit? Either way, it’s all in our minds.

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Posted in Miscelaneous,Science | 1 comment

1 Comment so far

  1. Nathaniel September 12th, 2011 3:07 pm

    I’ve never heard the “Mormon porn” derivation before, but I think the popularity of bubbling has more to do with the Gestalt principle aiding mainly high school boys in their fantasizing (to put it delicately) through the Facebook beach or otherwise scantily clad pictures of their female classmates.

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