For my Art History Senior Thesis, or so-called “Comps” at Carleton College, I gave a historical comparative analysis of art that has striven in either form or function to provoke illusion in the viewer or cause the psychological phenomenon of immersion. From these works I traced the evolution of illusionistic concepts into the immersive realm of media and, finally, digital media, cinema, and beyond.
I demonstrated a progression of the desire to create illusionistic art and, more importantly, realistic or naturalistic art that ultimately strives to form an artificial reality. This artificial reality is the foundation of naturalistic and illusionistic art throughout history and, again, through comparative analysis with the application of several significant art and media theories I moved to incorporate new media and film theory into my project.
My focus was primarily on what André Bazin calls “the myth of total cinema”, that is the theory that there exists an asymptotic relationship between the artistic representation of reality and reality itself. “Cinema” was merely what Bazin believed was the most “realistic” or naturalistic media of the day as he is a media evolutionist (he believes that the ontological strengths of each successive medium, through technology, is empirically superior). This dovetails into the relative “transparency” of different mediums as well as the relationship between art and the worlds of science and technology.
I worked under the pretext that analog and digital methods of (re)production are only different in the method of inscription. In matters of illusion or immersion the central question is whether the representation incites those reactions in the viewer, not whether the image itself has an indexical relationship with its referent or whether it has a referent at all.
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