Where exactly do you see VR’s potential for fine art?
Two things tend to happen when a new technology is emerging: most commonly, it can be that it is just a novelty—like the hologram, for instance—and less commonly, it is transformative. A lot of great artists worked with the hologram because they thought it would be the new medium, with great potential. In retrospect, it didn’t have a big impact on human culture. I like engaging with new forms because I think they represent something about the changes in the way we see reality. The things that ultimately became popular, like cinema and photography, in the end changed how we saw the world around us and they changed how we remember it.
Whether VR is going to be this new thing everybody will have next to their TVs will be decided in early 2017, right? If it does not push through directly, it will probably never be that popular.
There are a lot of people betting on it. It will definitely be big for gaming culture. In terms of cinema and fine art, I am convinced that artists will help to define what this new medium is and what its language will be. If the work succeeds you will start to understand the changes in human perception that the changes in the media reflect.
In what way do you mean?
When there was no photography, only painting, we saw the world differently than we do now. I am not sure what came first, the chicken or the egg, but in pre-modern times, things had an essence. A sword had a name, it had magic to it. Objects and paintings had auras—that’s what Benjamin talks about. In a way, philosophy parallels perfectly the rise of photography, and cinema, and all these new forms of mass-produced images. With the rise of the modern concept of consciousness, no longer can we perceive “the thing in itself,” the noumenal world, we can only have access to our perception of reality. There is no way of knowing what is outside of our own consciousness. There is no way of perceiving the magic core of a sword, like in pre-modern times. For me, photography parallels this Kantian concept of consciousness. In a court of law, photographs can be used to prove something while a painting can’t, even though the painting can maybe show more of the essential nature of the object it’s depicting. But we see the contemporary world in the mechanical nature of the photograph, which captures reality as objective.