"What I would like to evoke, about Image in general (the media-image, the technological image), is the perversity of the relationship between the image and its referent, the ‘supposed real,’ is the virtual and irreversible confusion of images and of the sphere of a reality, whose principle we can grasp less and less."
—Jean Baudrillard
"Beyond Right and Wrong
or the Mischievous Genius of Image"

Is it live or Memorex? Is it a real or a virtual experience? As Baudrillard has noted, the boundary between the real and the simulated—the simulacrum—is becoming more and more permeable, just like the mirror in Alice's looking-glass world. Artists have historically been at the forefront of this boundary shift, penetrating the looking-glass, pushing the envelope with the R&D of their creative explorations, utilizing new technologies—in the process redefining the very notions of both art and artist. In our current postmodern Oz, a cyber-Toto yanks the curtain and reveals the wizard at the screen, confronting viewers with questions of authorship, physicality, identity and space. In most of these cases, the art experience is no longer a passive one, but requires some sort of active participation. However, despite all the hype and bells and whistles, many of these artists would remind us that a tool is just a tool. It’s really the thought—flowering, uncontrollable—that counts.


Char Davies

Char Davies, Seeds, from Ephémère, 1998
Char Davies, Seeds, from Ephémère, 1998
Digital image captured in real-time
through head-mounted display during live immersive journey/performance.

Canadian artist Char Davies is internationally recognized for her virtual reality work, which explores the unique potential of immersive virtual space to change our habitual ways of perceiving the world. Her most recent virtual reality installation, Éphémère, had its world premiere at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa this past summer. To experience Éphémère, the viewer dons a VR headset and a vest that tracks breath and balance, allowing the immersant to navigate within the work by breathing and shifting balance; subtle body movements influence what is seen and heard in the virtual world. Davies’s virtual environment poeticizes the organic world of nature, where landscape serves as metaphor for the journey of sound, image and time that one travels through. The work also explores the metaphor of body and earth. The experience of Éphémère is a private one; however, the immersant's point of view during the journey is projected onto an adjacent screen for nonimmersant viewers to see. “Seeds” (pictured here) depicts a real-time frame capture from the world of Éphémère. http://www.immersence.com

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