Monday, January 18, 2010

A virtual perspective

Connotations of 'nearly', 'as if', or 'almost' readily associate with term virtual. Although the word has some more specific dictionary definitions as well as some more recent technical ones I think these everyday uses are a good starting point for theorising the virtual. Reflecting on the Avatar experience, I’ve been thinking how the whole way in which flat representations take on the semblance of 3D is an important aspect of the virtual. So the mathematical calculation of perspective, the idea of the vanishing point - in fact the whole history of representational art from the Renaissance onwards is conjured up. Culturally we have adapted to representing and reading space in a particular way. It seems perfectly natural to perceive depth of field - but is it really culturally acquired? We readily assume the first person point of view of the artist, the photographer or the camera. And at that point is what we see virtual? Does the medium become transparent? Bolter and Grusin (2000:25) when talking about this suggest that: 'If executed properly, the surface of the painting dissolved and presented to the viewer the scene beyond.' The project could be seen as one of becoming immersed in an alternate reality by forgetting that it is mediated in the first place. That's my experience of good theatre - I begin to forget the audience around me, that actors are just doing their job and so on - I'm temporarily 'in' the world that is unfolding.

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