Simulation vs representation: two quotations

Just some quotations from recent reading, and some thoughts. Busy week!

Firstly, from Digital Art by Christiane Paul:

“one of the crucial issues raised …. is the relationship between representation and simulation. The issue of representation plays an important role in the arguments of theorists such as Friedrich Kittler, William Mitchell and Edmund Couchot, who understand the digital image as simulation. Mithcell makes a distinction betwen the cinematic and electronic image as representational and the simulated digital image as presentational. One could certainly claim that everything created and presented by means of a computer ultimately is a simulation but the terminology is not helfpul for approaching all types of digital [> work. It is also problematic to construct representation and simulation as a dichotomy. Simulation can be defined as the imitative representation of one system by another…. However, the simulation is geared to being as representational and as close to reality as possible. This representational qualtiy has become a major goal in science, as well as the gaming and entertainment industries, which strive to imitate the look of actual, physical objects or live beings. [..An art work by Knowbotics..>posed the open question of whether scientific knowledge can be translated into aesthetics..

The Couchot reference above is to an essay which apparently “describe[s> the steps of the pictorial arts automatisation process, since the invention of perspective in the Renaissance that has led to the contemporary digital technologies. This step corresponds to the emergence of a new subjects modality, called by the author a «harnessed subject».
Besides all the effects concerning the subjects constitution brought by the digital technologies, the author also emphasizes the epistemid consequences of digital simulation to the image and the objects definition, as well as to the relations with real and virtual worlds established by the subject. From now on, interfaces define a rhizomatic course rather than a subject of representation and artistic creation.
Along with the potentialities offered to the simulation procedures by the interfaces, there is an increasingly alarming risk caused by the supremacy of the refless hypervelocity, which in overtaking our critical and judgement faculties against the slow temporality of reflection.”

Not sure I know what that means, and cant find the full essay on the internet. Theres a bio here and a French entry on Wikipedia.

But Couchots link leads me to the second set of quotations I wanted to note down, about the invention of perspective. Gombrich in “The Story of Art” says:

“To Brunelleschi, it seems, is due another momentous discovery in the field of art… that of perspective… it was Brunelleschi who gave the artists the mathematical means of solving this problem; and the excitement whcih this caused among his painter-friends must have been immense…it was said of Uccello that the discovery of persepctive had so impressed him that he spent nights and days drawing objects in forshortening, and setting himself ever new problems. His fellow artists used to tell that he was so engrossed in these studies that he would hardly look up when his wife called him to go to bed, and would exclaim :What a sweet thing perspective is…”

As one of the first paintings to use perspective, Gombrich cites Masaccios wall painting Holy Trinity in Sta Maria Novella, Florence, about 1427. Of this, Gombrich says: “we can imagine how amazed the Florentines must have been when this wall-painting was unveiled and seemed to have made a hole in the wall through which they could look into a new burial chapel…”

In other words, another step towards making painting a more realistic simulation of reality or imagined reality. An essay here says “He appears to have made the discovery in about 1413. He understood that there should be a single vanishing point to which all parallel lines in a plane, other than the plane of the canvas, converge. Also important was his understanding of scale, and he correctly computed the relation between the actual length of an object and its length in the picture depending on its distance behind the plane of the canvas. Using these mathematical principles, he drew two demonstration pictures of Florence on wooden panels with correct perspective. One was of the octagonal baptistery of St John, the other of the Palazzo de Signori. To give a more vivid demonstration of the accuracy of his painting, he bored a small hole in the panel with the baptistery painting at the vanishing point. A spectator was asked to look through the hole from behind the panel at a mirror which reflected the panel. In this way Brunelleschi controlled precisely the position of the spectator so that the geometry was guaranteed to be correct. These perspective paintings by Brunelleschi have since been lost but a “Trinity” fresco by Masaccio from this same period still exists which uses Brunelleschis mathematical principles.” (I think he turned the painting round to face the baptistery. Then if the mnirror was in front, at the right place, you stood behind the painting looking through the hole, and saw a reflection of the picture in front of you. If it was removed, you saw the real thing. A direct comparison of the image and reailty which no-one in the Middle Ages would have thought to do, or thought relevant.

The essay adds “he did not write down an explanation of how the rules of perspective work. The first person to do that was Alberti in his treatise On painting. Now in fact Alberti wrote two treatises, the first was written in Latin in 1435 and entitled De pictura while the second, dedicated to Brunelleschi, was an Italian work written in the following year entitled Della pittura. ” See here for more about this, and rebuttal of the argument that the Romans also used perspective.

Interesting, this common theme of Brunelleschi and Masaccio looking through a hole at reality/ a painted image. Substitute screen for hole and you have a set of contemporary issues.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *