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  • Into the Hollow of Darkness:Realizing a 3D Interactive Environment
  • Anne-Sarah Le Meur, (artist, teacher) (bio)
    Translated by Ewen Maclachlan

The author considers the meaning of interactivity and the potentials of virtual environments, in particular in the exploration of the total visual field and its periphery. She presents her artistic project, the aim of which is to cause viewers to become more sensitive to their own perceptions, respecting images and indistinct sensations that may arise.

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Article frontispiece. Etres-en-tr . . . nb, 3D computer-generated image from the animation Etres-en-tr . . . , 8 min., sound, Anyflo programming language, Brouillard-Précis/Paris 8, 1994. Original orientation is in landscape format. Diverse undefined forms are superimposed and intertwine. Some are only lines or wire frames. Others are textured, blurred and/or transparent. Different oranges and reds play with blue-greens and black.

© Anne-Sarah Le Meur

[End Page 204]

Virtual environments offer new possibilities for exploring perception, by linking—thanks to interactivity—the viewer's behavior to the totality of the visual field. Into the Hollow of Darkness[1], a panoramic project in progress, exploits the peripheral visual area in an original way, encouraging viewers to adopt unexpected behaviors towards interactive images and sensations.

I will first outline a few interactive installations that changed my point of view about interactivity. Secondly, I will discuss the sources of my current work, in regards both to my previous realizations and to their relationship to other forms of art, such as painting and literature. Third and lastly I will discuss the project itself and its problems and results.

Some Interactive Works that Act in Reverse?

In the attempt to give meaning to interactive art, more value is generally granted to the viewer's action upon the artwork than to contemplation of the work. Viewers are thought to be more present in relationship to the artwork because they can "manipulate" or "literally" transform it by using interfaces; the viewer can finish the work, take part in its realization and become its co-author. The observation of images and the questions of representation disappear, driven away by the power of action possessed by the user.

The artistic experience, however, has long been contemplative. A painting that we can look at carefully and at length offers diverse interpretations according to moments, years, centuries. The artistic relationship between a viewer and an artwork exists within, mentally (I began this reflection in an earlier article [2]). The artwork (its interpretation) evolves, changes (invisibly) under the gaze of the viewer; in fact it changes the gaze of the viewer: the viewer changes within through the artistic experience.

Between interactive and contemplative artworks, the transformation pole has moved: formerly centered on the viewer's transformation, it is now based on the transformation (visible, literal) of the artwork.

But the ultimate aim of any artist, whether using interactive technologies or more "traditional" materials, remains to galvanize the viewer, to make contact, to be in relationship with the viewer. By communicating ideas, emotions, sensations, etc., in distinctive ways, the artwork, and so the artist, aims to influence the viewer. Thus it is always the transformation of the viewer that matters. Acting on an artwork becomes interesting only insofar as it allows one to act indirectly on oneself, thanks to the action of feedback, a reciprocal exchange of thought, allowing a change in one's way of acting and seeing—one's way of being in the world.

In the context of this duality—"center of action/center of transformation," or "movement/interiority"—a few artworks that deal with "active contemplation" or "passive action" on the image have inspired me. Each of them happens to offer reciprocity in action. These works have given sustenance to my thoughts on interactivity, and in particular on the function of gesture as a vector of power and on the meaning of that power. Above all they have shown me that it is possible to use

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Fig. 1.

Aforme_22nb, 3D computer-generated fixed image from the animation Aforme, Un peu de peau s'étale encore, 30 sec., sound, Anyflo programming language, Paris 8, 1990...


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pp. 204-209
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