New Immersive Ideals / Critical Distances BB

A new Bulletin Board discussion area is up on The THING web site for the


The issue(s) under consideration : an examination of the affinity between
art based in Virtual Reality (VR) and previous artistic expressions of the
"immersive ideal".

This board will attempt a speculative, hypothetical, theoretical account of
the artistic heritage which precedes VR immersion - the emblematic
characteristic of Virtual Reality (VR) and all aspects of the "immersive
ideal". My hope is that here we may collectively identify, define and
evaluate the immersive ideal as it is found in artworks utilizing Virtual
Reality technology and in previous artistic movements and periods in the
history of art. The primary objective is to create a cross analysis of the
immersive aspects of art employing the technology of Virtual Reality,
recent postmodern and modern avant-garde art movements which will lead to
the identification of immersive visionary ideals in art as they have
emerged throughout art history. An examination will be made of the
capability of high technology computing systems to realize these earlier
artistic immersive ideals within a contemporary framework.

What does my terminology 'immersive ideal' mean? Obviously its meaning
would consist, at least in part, of the two halves of the phrase :
immersion and idealism.

Immersion is the principal feature of VR systems. VR immersion, though
clearly phenomenologically different from previous ideas and ideals of
artistic immersion is, I propose, shaped by the subconscious effects of all
human visionary traditions whose narratives and ways of envisioning the
world (the imaginary virtual visionary world) have entered into our
collective memories and thus culture. Consequently they have shaped our
expectations for the technical virtuosity of artistic VR mediated data
immersion. Thus the interest in a rear-view look at artistic immersion in
light of VR.

It can be shown that there have long been ideas of ideal virtual immersion,
whether grounded in mysticism, sex / violence (Bataille), abstract
analytical thought (Baudrillard), or romantic fantasy (Gibson, et all).
All of these historical approaches have sought to shape and manipulated
invisible worlds accessible only through the imagination, and in some cases
have led to models which have achieved ontological privilege.

I am beginning this board with the initial contention that immersion in a
VR system is quickly becoming the key to understanding a great deal of
contemporary cyberculture as well as aspects of non and pre-computer
culture. It is indisputable that today the image is resurgent if not
triumphant in the West (Baudrillard) and VR represents the creme de la
creme of illusionistic image production - the latest thing.