VR and the concept of the Other

Posted by Rhizome | Wed Mar 19th 1997 1 a.m.

In response to G.H. Hovagimyan's "<a href="/cgi-local/query.cgi?action=grab_object&kt=kt0506">Notes On
Immersion</a>" [RHIZOME CONTENTBASE, 3.18.97] Joseph Nechvatal wrote:

This is stimulating G. in tracing the wider implications of immersion.
It provokes in me the question: Does all meaningful perception depend
upon a prior knowledge of how things seem? To explore the saturated
immersive opalescent ontology of ourselves when embedded and submerged
in immersive art works (consciousness), one has to consider art not
certainly as a theory, a simulacra, nor even as a permanent thickness of
collective perception that is accumulating, but as an attitude, an
ethos, an artistic allegiance in which the critique of what we are is at
one and the same time the historical analysis of the limits that are
imposed on us and as experiments with the possibility of going beyond
those limits and even ourselve(s). [...]

Rather than establish one more oppressive hierarchy, immersive euphoria
should acknowledge the euphonious expanse of scopic condominium. This
euphoria, however, with its porous dismantling of the anthropocentric
subject, is also a terror. The radical impermanence and nihility it
demands of us where the subject-entity and the object-entity spiral
around each other until they break up and merge is a consternation to
any concept of entity as fixed form, to any concepts and entities with
previously presumed restraining outlines. Previous restraining
conceptions of the 'other' for example are now only possible if the
universal field surrounding the subject is screened out and the other
under scrutiny is withdrawn from the universal field of

The concept of 'the other' can be preserved only by an anti-radical
optic that casts around each entity an anti-cybernetic perceptual frame
that makes a cut from the mobile continuum of the field and immobilizes
the snip within the static framework falsely arranged. And this
exfoliating frame is untrue. This is a lie, or should I say a
convenience as immersion has shown us that perception is found to exist
as part of a movable dome shaped continuum, an aorta that may not be
truncated as convenience may request. Phases of incrementally circular
and thus transformational vision of the field cannot be said to rest in
a singular location since its locus is always the universal field of
transformation, a field unwilling to achieve separation from that
surrounding field as a bounded outline. The terror is generated because
of this inseparability from the field of impermanence, as the subject
cannot be said to enjoy independent self-existence as the ground of its
being is the existence of everything else and it cannot present itself
in the guise of an enduring form.


Immersive art reformulates our conceptions of feeling and our inception
of rapacious reality together and gives us forms of imagination and
forms of feeling inseparably coupled. Thus VR immersive art holds the
potential to reverberate and accommodate intuition itself. That is why
it may contain the dynamism of disclosure which might encourage an
incisive feeling of intellectual satisfaction, even though it elicits no
knowing intellectual exertion in the procedure of reasoning. Immersive
intuition, as stimulated by aesthetic immersive encounters, seizes the
greatest dimension of composition at once, there is no longer any reason
to go through the lesser positions and implications first, as in
discursive reasoning, where the sum is assigned value at the conclusion.
In immersive art it is the impact of the whole of the undivided arena
(beyond singular grasp) which is of vital importance and it is that
incompleteness of a conceptualized totality that acts as the
psychological lure to long contemplation and investigation, an
exploration which requires an appreciable length of time for consummated
perception in order to apprehend the scope and vital significance of any
virtual world.
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