Wednesday, July 23, 2008

on Media Art Histories of Virtual Realities

below is an excerpt on Media Art Histories of Virtual Realities from "Recombinant Poetics: Emergent Meaning as Examined and Explored Within a Specific Generative Virtual Environment", the 1999 doctoral thesis of Bill Seaman.

"Myron Krueger envisioned the responsive, interactive potential of computer-based artificial realities (his term for virtual reality). Krueger writes:

The responsive environment has been presented as the basis of a new aesthetic medium based on real-time interaction between men and machines. In the long range it augurs a new realm of human experience, artificial realities which seek not to simulate the physical world but to define arbitrary, abstract and otherwise impossible relationships between action and result. We are incredibly attuned to the idea that the sole purpose of our technology is to solve problems. It also creates concepts and philosophy. We must more fully explore these aspects of our inventions, because the next generation of technology will speak to us, understand us and perceive our behaviour...The design of such technology is an aesthetic issue as much as an engineering one. We must recognize this if we are to understand and choose what we become as a result of what we have made. (Krueger, 1977, pp.423-433)

This premise is central to my project, where I have sought to intermingle the technological with the artistic. Myron Krueger specifically points in this direction when positing the history of Virtual Reality. In his essay "The Artistic Origins of Virtual Reality," he writes:

The dawn of Virtual Reality is most often traced to a paper by Ivan Sutherland presented at the national computer conference in 19654 and another written by him in 19685. There were also two relevant dissertations at the University of North Carolina in 1970 and 1976.6 Otherwise, during most of the 70’s and the first half of the 1980’s, the idea of virtual reality was dormant in the technical community, except for the classified work of Tom Furness in the U.S. Airforce. (Krueger, 1993, p.148)

He later continues:

The premise of this essay is that the ideas [related to virtual reality, emphasis Seaman] were actively pursued in the arts from the beginning, that virtual reality’s rebirth as a technical field was triggered by the efforts of artists and that increasingly the involvement of artists now would foster more rapid development of the field in the future. (Krueger, 1993, p.148)

In the essay, Krueger outlines the importance of the artist’s aesthetic development of Virtual Reality, or what he terms "Artificial Reality." I will here outline a series of different artistic involvements as drawn from Krueger’s text:

Mort Heilig’s Sensorama, 1960, developed a full-immersion experience involving stereo film and stereo sound as well as "physical" feedback attributes; Salvitori Martirano in the 60’s explored 3D sound experiences; Michael Noll explored telepresence, stereo viewing apparatus, 3D drawing and tactile communication for visualising dance; Dan Sandine and Myron Kreuger explored computer-controlled responsive environments; the PULSA group led by Patrick Clancy explored large outdoor environments; Aaron Marcus implemented a symbolic, interactive, computer-environment in the early 70’s; Krueger’s exploration of shared tellecommunication space in Metaplay 1970 and the Videoplace exhibition in 1975; Kit Galloway and Sherry Rabinowitz exploration of telepresence or "composite spaces"; Dan Sandin, Tom Defanti and Gary Sayers development of the Data Glove; a later pattented Data Glove by musician Tom Zimmerman; research into the head-mounted display by artistically trained Mike McGreavy; artist Scott Fisher’s virtual reality work for NASA; Jaron Lanier, musician — interested in exploring musical production in virtual space and president of VPL research; Durand R. Begault, interested in 3D sound; Mark Caniglio’s exploration of sensors on dancers; Graham Smith’s interest in new forms of unencumbered VR. (Krueger, 1993, p.148)"

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