[ISEA96] Paper: Edward Shanken – Virtual Perspective and the Artistic Vision: A Genealogy of Technology, Perception and Power


Long Paper

McLuhan noted that the dual aspects of Renaissance perspective as both spatial representation and as metaphorical point of view constitute a conceptual paradigm of sweeping significance. In other words, seeing and being are intrinsically interconnected. At the core of my thesis is the related idea that the perception of form can alter the form of perception, and vice-versa. In exploring this idea, I shall examine ways in which artists throughout history, and in particular, the contemporary artists Roy Ascott and Miroslaw Rogala, have employed creative approaches to visualizing non-conventional perceptual possibilities. Panofsky ‘s contribution to the theory of perspective is his proto-relativist notion that perspective is a symbolic form constituting and constitutive of a given culture, then by extension, I contend that form is intrinsically political, for the emergence of a given perceptual protocol, like perspective, does not occur without casualties. In this sense, perception is a battleground in which a struggle for power is continually waged. It is difficult to imagine perceiving the world without one-point perspective. But because seeing and being are vitally related, this dilemma raises not just the issue of what the world would look like, but what the world would be like. What would one ‘s sense of self be like without the humanist ideals of individuality which developed alongside one-point perspective? What is the difference between being with perspective, and being without it? For the purposes of prospective theorizing, suffice it to say that those who possess certain techniques and technologies of seeing and representing possess a power to perceive and persuade in ways that those lacking those techniques cannot. In this sense, seeing, being, technology, and power are inextricably related. Artists have consistently worked to envision alternative modes of visual representation often at odds with the dominant conventions of the time. As one example, I compare the perspectival techniques of quadratura (which emerged in the 17th century) and quadri riportati (prevalent since the 16th century). My analysis suggests some ways in which the reception of changing perceptual forms altered the form of perception in the Baroque period. I also discuss some of the technical advances of Jackson Pollock and Marcel Duchamp in terms of how these artists challenged Modernist art discourses and perceptual norms. New technologies demand new visual protocols, and contemporary artists like Ascott and Rogala have used advanced computer telecommunications, perspectival rendering, and computercontrolled, interactive environments to make important contributions to theorizing and developing new artist-objectviewer roles and relations. I interpret their work as artistic inventions/interventions, engaged in a politically charged process of reconfiguring the world. Through radical forms that alter and expand modes of perception and consciousness, viewer-participators in their art work are challenged to change not only the way perceive the world, but to change the way they exist in the world, and, moreover, to change the world itself.

My paper proceeds from three points: 1) seeing and being are intrinsically Interconnected; 2) the alteration of perceptual forms by artists alters the forms of perception of viewers; and 3) points one and two above have polItIcal ramifications.
Using the history of one-point perspective as a foil, I shall explore these three points by examining sources from a variety of disciplines. including art history, philosophy, and media
criticism, supplemented by my own analyses of works of art from various epochs. This foundation forms the springboard for theorizing and problematizing how the use of emerging
technologies by contemporary artists are reconfiguring perception and contributing to epistemological and ontological transformations that are not only culturally significant. but politically charged.

  • Edward Shanken, USA, Duke University Department of Art History

Full text p.57-63