‘perceiving is an act, not a response, an act of attention, not a triggered impression, an achievement, not a reflex’. Gibson 1979
The main subject I explore through my research, is how a projection in a curved surface, like the dome where the viewer is fully surrounded by moving image, changes the perception of space and creates a new spatiotemporal environment. A new experience where we can redefine and reproach the relationship between the observer and the object of observation.
Whilst the cinematic language of the film in the cinema theatre embodies similar characteristics, the “extension” of the flow of the film into the architectural space of the theatre becomes a compositional element that intrigues the perceptual mechanisms of the viewer and contributes in his immersion. Maronni argues that “1895 was the year when one the oldest dreams of humanity were finally realised. The human being and its chronophotographic alter ego found themselves face to face, one sitting in a seat in a darkened room, the other moving on a screen, albeit in silence.”1 The big screen wall of the theatre, the darkness, the silence, the augmented attention of the viewer following the spectacle of light onto the screen, are some of these compositional elements. However, this immersion is enriched further in the four dimensional space of the dome, where the object of observation surrounds the viewer on all sides.
Inside the dome, the two dimensional frame of the cinema screen is deconstructed. That notion of the frame, as it was first defined in the years of the Renaissance, is not any more a static model that mathematically represents the depth of the scene (transforming the three dimensional world into a two dimensional plane). During the Renaissance, artists and scientists in order to understand and conceptualise the notion of “perspective”, used to visualise “strings” that start from the eye of the observer and end at the object of observation. Those “strings” form the frame; a kind of window to see the world. Trying to apply this example inside the dome in order to find the pattern that connects the viewer and the projection, could realise a more complicated (and maybe reversible) pattern that connects subjects and things. The observer here, is submerged in a spatiotemporal environment where he is continuously changing points of view in an almost “exploded” screen. A dynamic relationship emerges between the subject and its surroundings through expanded perceptual and conceptual mechanisms.
The “canvas” used in the past (Renaissance and later) has been translated into an “extended meta-canvas” where the observer does not simply “see” but instead can be considered an integral part of it. The idea of a new hybrid canvas applied to the dome, means the space is no longer external but merges into something that we can consider ourselves part of without losing our identities. The boundaries between the “observer” and the “representational world”, the “real” and the “virtual” are fluid. The dome is transformed into dynamic medium which contributes (as a process) to the construction of a personal virtual space and this new spatiotemporal environment produces questions which are so primitive that we do not find the answers but ourselves; it is a matter of human consciousness.
As Gibson argues “whenever a point of observation is occupied by a human, about half of the surrounding world is revealed to the eyes and the remained is concealed by the head”. It is exactly this “act of perceiving” which occurs inside the dome, that manifests it as a great experimental space for testing, comparing, validating and challenging the themes of embodiment and perception. The field of view of the camera is analogous to the field of view of the eyes of the observer and even stronger than in the cinema hall. The projection in the curved screen almost dominates the viewer, blurs and minimises the boundaries between him and the projection. This creates a dynamic relationship between the subject and the object where a new kind of virtual space emerges. Therefore, speculating an emergent virtual space between the viewer and the object of observation (that is built exactly upon those fluid boundaries), suggests that those two entities are shifting into almost one thing. The projection is becoming the expanded mind of the viewer. The observer can no longer be considered as a separate entity from what he sees, and there is an interchangeability of roles that suggests a total immersion of the observer.
I am interested in exploring these themes in my practice in a creative way and at the same time I try to reinforce the cognitive performance or experience of the observer by creating environments that challenge his or her perception and imagination.
Some of the keywords for this research are fluid boundaries, the merging of digital and physical, emergent virtual space, a “grammar” of this new kind of space, embodiment, participation in this new medium, an interchangeability of roles which results in an expansion of viewer’s mind and finally the applications of this expansion in our everyday life.
Friedberg, Anne. “The virtual window, from Alberti to Microsoft”, ed. The MIT Press Cambridge Massachusetts; London England, 2006
Gibson, James J., The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception, United States, New York: Psychology Press Taylor & Francis Group, 1986
Merleau-Ponty, Maurice, The World of Perception, trans. by Oliver Davis, London: Taylor & Francis Francis e-Library, 2004