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Computer Imagery: Imitation and Representation of Realities

Author(s): Beverly Jones


Source: Leonardo. Supplemental Issue, Vol. 2, Computer Art in Context: SIGGRAPH '89 Art
Show Catalog (1989), pp. 31-38
Published by: The MIT Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1557941
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Computer Imagery: Imitation and
Representation of Realities

BeverlyJones

C omputer-generated images, objects and meaning in favour of the or-


events have existed a short time relative to theoretical dinary questions of 'originality'
and 'touch' [5]. ABSTRACT
stances that are embedded in them. This paper will explore
the views of traditional and contemporary philosophers and She states her disapproval of
Contemporary theoryinphil-
art theorists that separating video art from the osophy,aesthetics andcognitive/
(1) appear related to the form or content of computer- other ways that videotechnol- socialsciencesstressestheembed-
generated or -processed images, objects or events ogy is used. To do so, she be- mentofcultural andhistorical
con-
is to the idea that ventionsinartand technology.
(2) bear some relation to imitational and representa- lieves, accept
the transformations of art are Computer imagery foraesthetic/
tional theories of art and/or reality artistic
ortechnical/scientific
pur-
(3) illustrate the embedment of historic and representa- formal, cognitive and percep- poseshavetheseconventions
tional theories of art and/or reality. tual. Gouldner describes the re- embedded inthemandconse-
These conventions may have been intentionally embed- lation between art and media in quentlyreflectlarger
modelsof
ded or may have been unconsciously employed by the per- terms of the separation of cul- humanly constructedcultural
Careful
reality. analysesofthe
son or group who generated the computer creations. The tural and technical facets of form,content andpracticeofcom-
broad definition of computer art that will be used here is modern culture [6]. He sees putergraphics areproposed to
"any aesthetic formation which has arisen on the basis of those who are surrounded by revealviewsofrealityembedded
the most powerful, advanced, intechnologyandinmodels
logical or numerical transposition of given data with the aid
of electronic mechanism" [1]. This definition allows for in- hardware as generated bythetechnology.
expensive optimis-
clusion of the greatest variety of forms. Generated or pro- tic technicians and contrasts
cessed screen graphics, computer-controlled environments this with pessimistic, politically
and sculptures, three-dimensional artifacts designed or exe- impotent representatives of the
cuted with the aid of the computer, conceptual art displays cultural apparatus. All of these views, except Galassi's,
including computer programs, and interactive perform- express concern for the larger cultural context.
ances are included within this definition. Also included are Lucas studied evolving aesthetic criteria for computer-
computer images and objects that have been created for generated art via the Delphi strategy. He chose eight prom-
nonartistic purposes by individuals who may or may not have inent computer artists as participants. In the conclusions of
any formal artistic training. Consequently, works included phase one of his study, he states, "If there is a hidden
in SIGGRAPHslides and tapes in either technical or artistic quorum here, it may be the commonly held belief that
categories would be included as potential candidates for regardless of innovative properties which may or may not re-
analysis. quire new aesthetic models about computer imaging, tradi-
tional criteria remain an integral part of the aesthetic eval-
uation of this art form"; in phase two of his study, he raises
BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY the question, "Arethere traditional aesthetic criteria which
are adequate for evaluating computer art?"[7]. In response,
Mediaand Theory five of eight experts agreed that visual basics of harmony,
Computer-related imagery is facing some of the same theo- symmetry and balance were applicable, six of eight agreed
retical controversies and dilemmas that photography, film that computer art had roots in traditional fine arts con-
and video have faced. For example, Galassi described one siderations and five of eight agreed that computer art has
point of view as follows: "The object here is to show that pho- not elicited the need for new aesthetics. However, in the
tography was not a bastard left by science on the doorstep course of the study, interactivity was mentioned several
of art, but a legitimate child of the Western pictorial tradi- times as a potential source of need for new aesthetic criteria.
tion" [2]. In contrast Sekula's work [3,4] in the history of In this paper I advance the view that computer imagery
photography stresses the need to study the photographic ar- should not be separated into aesthetic/artistic formations
chive, the set of practices, institutions and relations to which and technical/scientific formations. Embedded in com-
photographic practice belonged, rather than reassembling puter imagery are cultural and historical conventions which
the archive in categories constituted by art and its history. affect both aesthetic/artistic and technical/scientific forma-
Rosier extends Sekula's concerns to the world of video: tions. In addition, these conventions reflect larger models
It is the self-imposed mission of the art world to tie video into of cultural reality. Both art and technology are affected by
its boundaries and cut out more than passing reference to these models of reality. This view is in accord with post-
film, photography, and broadcast television, as the art-world's
competition, and to quash questions of reception, praxis, and BeverlyJones (art educator), School of Architecture and Allied Arts, University of
Oregon, Eugeine, Oregon, U.S.A.

? 1989 SAST
PergamonPressplc.PrintedinJapan.
0024-094X/89$3.00+0.00 LEONARDO, CornputerArt in Context Supplemental Issue. pp. 31-38, 1989
31
structuralist theory. For example, lard [24-28] and Kroker and Cook the SIGGRAPH art slides makes evi-
M. Foucault discusses archeological [29]. dent. Hardware and software that have
analysis of archives as revealing "the This paper describes a position re- been simplified remain influenced by
set of conditions in accordance with lated to those described above. I their origins, although they are fre-
which a practice is exercised, in hypothesize that selections of images quently referred to as 'degraded'. It is
accordance with which that practice and modes of presentation are made to these origins, practices and embed-
gives rise to partially or totally new by the creator, and these selections are ded conventions that theorists such as
statements, and in accordance with inherently related to aesthetic and Sekula, Rosier, Foucault and I refer.
which it can be modified" [8]. In other technological conventions established
words there are rules operating which within the culture of the creator Aesthetic Theories
were not invented or formulated by whether or not the creator is con- Art as imitation is one of the oldest and
the participants, relations which pro- sciously aware of these conventions. most varied of theoretical purposes.
vide their practice with support but The creator may be acting in accord Plato [30,31] discussed imitation of
which may remain invisible to some, if with these conventions, critically ex- the Ideal, preferring it and contrasting
not all, of the participants because amining, them, or reacting against it to literal imitation of physical reality.
they have not been consciously articu- them. In all cases, the work reflects the Aristotle [32] and Plotinus [33] dis-
lated. Members of the Yale school of historical cultural setting in which it is cussed imitation of essences. Further
literary criticism, especially de Man, created. This position is supported by variations of imitational theory have
stress the ways in which texts contain- recent literature stressing the contex- been discussed by SirJoshua Reynolds
ing these rules may be seen as decon- tual character of art and other aspects [34] and others. The two classical tra-
structing themselves (as these rules of culture. It appears in sociology of ditions of Idealism and Realism are
are revealed and demystification fol- knowledge, anthropology, archeol- most commonly associated with art as
lows from close examination of the ogy, history, art history, folklore, liter- imitation. Idealism eschews literal
text) [9,10]. Norris describes de Man's ary criticism and psychology. From representation of physical reality and
later work as revealing a stance that this stance, the work of individuals Realism seeks essential or scientific
"equates right reading with the power creating computer images can be ex- correspondence with physical reality.
to demystify forms of aesthetic ide- amined as expressing cultural conven- Contemporary art theorists continue
ology" [11 ]. Post-structuralists,such as tions. This holds true whether the to examine questions of imitation and
Foucault, as well as some neo-Marxist training of the creators is entirely in representation of art and reality. Their
and feminist critics, stress the political the sciences, entirely within the arts or concerns are with 'the new realism',
and social consequences of ignoring in both arts and sciences. simulation, simulacra, reproduction
the existence of these rules. In the early days of computer and appropriation. The generation of
The view that such models or rules graphics, systems were built primarily modernists that preceded contem-
exist may be found to some degree in for scientific and practical purposes. porary theorists was concerned with
various traditional and contemporary Few artists had access to them. How- nonliteral representation, i.e. repre-
theories. For example, the art his- ever, their users, primarily scientific or senting that which could not be liter-
torian Wolfflin [12] claimed that style technical personnel with no formal art ally imitated. As technology changed
could be detected in areas that escape background, made images that ex- and traditional media such as painting
attention, stating that the whole de- pressed conscious or unconscious aes- and sculpture were joined by print-
velopment of world views might be thetic conventions. Currently comput- making, photography, film, video and
found in the relationship of gables ers are much more accessible to artists. computer imagery, new concerns
[13-15]. Kaplan describes two post- Teams of artists and programmers col- evolved in art theory. Contemporary
modern theories that stress cultural laborate in advertising, film compa- theorists are concerned not only with
relationships in context rather than nies and government projects utilizing the image, but with its role in the
stressing decontextualizing fragmen- state-of-the-art technology. Artists fre- broader context. They frequently
tations and binary oppositions. Ac- quently use software that includes al- stress the cultural embedment of art.
cording to Kaplan both "involve a gorithms developed for technical sci- The edges between art and philoso-
thinking that transcends the very bi- entific purposes. Consequently their phy, criticism, politics and social theo-
narisms of Western philosophical, work may express reality constructs ries have become less distinct.
metaphysical and literary traditions from technical/scientific areas of
which have been put into question by which they may or may not be aware.
poststructuralism and deconstruc- Development of hardware and soft- ART AS IMITATION
tion" [16]. The literary and feminist ware usually originates in research
theory, labeled by Kaplan as utopian, done by government and large cor- Platonic Idealism
involves a search for a liberatory new porations. Over time and with amorti- The writings of Plato, Aristotle and
position. This position may be found zation of research and development Plotinus present early versions of
in the work of Bakhtin [17], Derrida costs they are simplified first for mid- imitationalism or mimesis. Their
[18], Lacan [19], Cixous [20], Kris- sized- and later for microcomputers. views, like those of contemporary
teva [21], and Barthes [22,23]. The Simplified versions of the originals be- theorists, are concerned with the func-
discourse, labeled by Kaplan as com- come available to smaller companies tion of art in its cultural context. Ac-
mercial or co-opted, warns about the and individuals at lower and lower knowledging the power of art to
psychological effect of new technolo- costs. End users, for example indi- influence the citizenry, especially the
gies in the service of consumer cul- vidual artists with no institutional or young, Plato cautioned against art that
ture. This position is held by Baudril- industrial affiliations, frequently use literally imitated the physical world or
microcomputers-as the credits for that could overly excite the emotions.

32 Jones,Computer Imagery: Imitation and Representation of Realities


Consequently, he approved art that tal aesthetics [43,44]. Early computer D'Arcy Thompson [50] has explored
would represent the Perfect Idea of an artists Franke and Nake utilized com- these underlying structures. An exam-
object, that is, the ideal representation puters in attempting to create aes- ple of recent computer graphics that
of an object, rather than attempt to im- thetic forms [45]. The work of Stiny could be regarded as imitation of es-
itate a specific physical object in the and Gips in algorithmic aesthetics is a sences would be the work of Kawagu-
physical world. Being an Idealist, Plato contemporary link to the underlying chi [51], who, by studying Thompson
regarded specific physical objects as belief that beauty, form and number and Izuhara [52], has written com-
inferior copies of their ideal counter- may be linked [46-48]. Plato's con- puter programs that describe the
part in the world of ideas. A literal rep- cept of intuition of perfect form may growth and form of plants, shells,
resentation of these would represent a be applied to an interpretation of the coral, tusks and claws. He generates
copy of an inferior copy. However, he discussion in Clive Bell's [49] book of these forms using algorithmic struc-
approved the work of artists who, 'pure form'. Bell's discussion has been tures based on the laws of nature.
through intuition, were capable of important to modernist art, especially Consequently he generates images of
representing images of the Perfect that of the formalists. Many examples forms that have never existed but fol-
Idea of an object. In his view this work of early computer art bear resem- low natural laws. These may be con-
would represent perfect harmonies in- blance to the work of modern formal- sidered imitation of essences, if we
tuited from the Ideal world of ideas. ists, emphasizing purely formal rela- consider that underlying structures
These forms would have perfect pro- tions of elements and principles of are essential to these forms. Examples
portions; consequently they would design. Many works of early computer of other work imitating the essential
embody Kalokagathia, that is, good- art may be considered to express a structural patterns in nature are found
ness, truth and beauty. Analyses of concern for the relations of pure in Prusinkiewiscz, Lindenmayer and
Greek architecture and statuary, form, possibly ideal forms, generated Hanan's [53] developmental models
which some believe attempted the with a concern for the beauty and of herbaceous plants and de Reffe et
physical embodiment of Plato's theo- based in numerical relations. al.'s [54] plant models of botanical
ry, reveal consistent proportions. Most Modern artists who utilized math- structure and development. Other
commonly cited is the golden rec- ematics in their work include Du- computer graphic techniques that
tangle. Both the Pythagoreans and the champ, Arp, Lissitzky,Pevsner, Naum may be considered to imitate patterns
Platonists were concerned with the Gabo, Vantongerloo, Bill, Lohs and of regularity and irregularity to create
relation of number, proportion and Gerstner. Some of these may be con- underlying structural or visual pat-
harmony to beauty. They also assumed sidered influenced by imitation of terns constituting the essence of natu-
a relationship between beauty, truth, ideals or essences. For example, Du- ral forms use concepts that include
and goodness. champ's piece, Large Glass is based fractals, particle system modeling,
Among later writers, Spengler pro- upon the golden rectangle, which is chaos theory, and fourth dimensional
vided a 40-page historical review of the prominent in Greek art and in Birkh- (time) modeling. Visual essence
relationships between the arts and off s analyses. Many of the other artists rather than the structural essence is in-
mathematics [35]. L. von Bertelanffy are considered Constructivists, whose volved in these techniques. An over-
[36] cites Spengler in his GeneralSys- art consists of mathematically based view of visual simulation techniques
tem 7heory. G. D. Birkhoff [37] con- explorations of the relationships of was presented in 1985 by Doenges
tributed mathematical analysis of vis- plastic rhythms to aesthetically pleas- [55]. These techniques are most fre-
ual art, especially that of the Greeks, ing form. quently utilized in entertainment,
in AestheticMeasure.J. Hambidge [38] Many individuals working with com- educational, commercial and aes-
in his work on Dynamic Symmetry also puters in the 1960s were not artists,but thetic applications.
examined mathematical constructs scientists. However, they had seen and Probably the most widely known of
underlying Greek aesthetics. The in- were influenced by modernist art- visual simulation techniques are frac-
fluence of these theorists on later work works. Consequently, they were con- tal curves that may imitate the visual
involving information science and cy- scious of the similarities in form be- essence of natural forms such as
bernetics as related to aesthetics may tween the geometric shapes generated planet surfaces, mountain ranges,
not be readily evident. However, Hill by the computer and the gallery art clouds and trees. The originator of
states, "Nevertheless, more than an with which they were familiar. An in- this procedural model is Mandelbrot,
echo of Birkhoff's work is found in the teresting project would be an analysis a French mathematician [56]. Accord-
ideas proposed by, for example, of this early computer art in terms of ing to Tucker, "Fractal geometry
N. Rashevsky, H.J. Eysenk, A. Moles, its appropriation of aesthetic struc- provides simple mathematical de-
M. Bense, H. W. Franke and F. Nake" tures and conventions. scriptions for highly irregular or frag-
[39-41 ]. It is my belief that these indi- mented structures, finding a deeper
viduals and others are not necessarily Aristotle's Imitation of order in the bewildering complexity of
influenced by Birkhoff. Rather they Essences natural forms. ... A unique charac-
and Birkhoff are engaged in a search Aristotle, considered the originator of teristic of fractal curves is that they
for a formulation of universals in realism, posited that works of art have detail at all levels of resolution"
terms of mathematics that may be ap- should not be literal copies of nature [57].
plied to aesthetic objects or responses but should express the essence of the Reeves' work on particle systems
to aesthetic objects. The work of Moles subject portrayed. Plotinus, a neo- [58-60], Gomez' on chaos theory and
and Bense are responsible for the for- Platonic idealist, also stressed imita- Hunter's algorithms that model
mation of information theory aesthet- tion of essences. The underlying geo- phenomena in time provided models
ics and exact aesthetics [42]. Eysenk metric forms in nature have served to for representation of such nebulous
searched for universals in experimen- recall the essences of some forms. dynamic events as wind, fire and

Jones,Computer Imagery: Imitation and Representation of Realities 33


explosions. The discussions of Papa- to portray an object or event realisti- illusionary z axis upon an x y planar
thomas, Schiavone, and Julesz [61] cally utilize the conventions common surface. He is attempting an isomor-
focus on application of computer to Western Europe. These are in turn phic representation of reality. This is
graphics to the visualization of me- assumed to be based upon the best the visual version of scientific objective
teorological data. They describe com- scientific knowledge of the time, realism.A belief that symbolic repre-
puter graphics animation sequences which also is assumed to correspond sentations may form an objective, one-
representing weather episodes. These to the structure of reality. These ideas to-one, value-free correspondence to
models can represent motion, dominated European art criticism reality is the basis for scientific objec-
changes of form and dynamics. Tech- from the mid-fifteenth to the mid- tive realism. The symbols utilized may
niques that model literal surface rep- eighteenth centuries [64]. be mathematical or graphic.
resentations of objects would require SirJoshua Reynolds articulated this Western European cultural conven-
too much computer time and memory view, claiming that the artists must de- tions for depicting visual reality have
if applied to dynamic phenomena. rive his ideal of beauty from the physi- influenced the development of cam-
Papathomas et al. describe Gardner's cal world through direct observation, era and video technology. They also
work [62] in which he sought to thereby discovering the ideal, which is have influenced the development of
resolve the conflict between realistic true nature. In his Discourse Two, Rey- computer algorithms and hardware
images and computational time by nolds discusses the mastery of paint- that are now being used extensively in
adopting the impressionists' ap- ing. He insists that mastery necessi- countries outside Western Europe.
proach of representing the essence of tates that comparison should not be The historical development of com-
natural scenes as simply as possible. between performances of art with puter imagery in Japan, for example,
Gardner achieved remarkable results each other, but that by examining "Art appears influenced by these conven-
using textured quadratic surfaces itself by the standards of Nature, he tions. A review of the images pre-
bounded by planes to portray clouds [the artist] corrects what is erroneous, sented at international computer
and trees; his work is an example of supplies what is scanty and adds by his graphic conferences prior to the
visual simulation. Gelberg and Ste- own observation what the industry of development of sophisticated three-
phenson [63] created SuperSeer,a his predecessors may have yet left dimensional solid modeling and light-
cloud prediction and display system wanting to perfection"; he also states, ing techniques reveals greater variety;
that presents and interacts with data "Invention, strictly speaking, is little for example, depiction of space and
from earth and planetary science. This more than a new combination of those designed surfaces in Japanese compu-
work attempts simulation that is both images which have been previously ter graphics of this period show more
visual and based upon physical laws. gathered and deposited in the mem- similarity to traditional Japanese art-
Do the computer models described ory: nothing can come of nothing: he works than do Japanese computer
in this section imitate, model or simu- who has laid up no materials can pro- graphics shown after the development
late the phenomena involved or do duce no combinations"[65]. In Dis- of these techniques. After introduc-
they provide approximate visual or course One he advocates a method of tion of algorithms that portray illusory
conceptual correspondence because instruction that requires students to space, a greater international homo-
of correspondences in underlying be- draw exactly from the appearance of geneity in computer graphic imagery
lief systems of the creators and ob- the model before them, stressing seems apparent.
servers? The answer depends upon exactness and precision in representa- Early computer graphics were pri-
whether reality is seen as a set of con- tion. He further states that students marily geometric and planar. In the
ventions and constructs inventedbyhu- should not change the form according 1960s three-dimensional wire frame
mans or whether it existsindependentof to vague and uncertain ideas of graphics were developed. With the
human understanding. beauty. He also castigates those whose consequent development of hidden
drawing resemble the model only in line algorithms, solid modeling, and
Realist Imitation: Objective attitude. lighting and texturing techniques it
Basic philosophical realism involves These remarks coincide with the was possible to attempt depiction of
belief in some sort of link between scientific realist's orientation to imita- illusory three-dimensional 'reality' in
human conceptual systems and other tion that contrasts sharply with both computer graphics. Hardware devel-
aspects of reality. In the objective real- imitation of ideals and imitation of opment, including sufficient memory
ist's view, reality is structured in such essences. In traditional artworks this and speed, was also necessary for this
a way that it can be modeled by set view may be said to appear in Roman depiction. To a large extent these
theoretical models. That is, the world portraiture and Roman illusionism. It developments were funded by federal
consists of entities, the properties of informed the work of Renaissance defense-related research. Conse-
those entities and the relations hold- artists as they explored the creation of quently, the changes in international
ing among those entities. In the corre- illusions of space on the flat surfaces imagery may be viewed as a form of
sponding version of imitational of paintings. Brunelleschi is usually ac- cultural colonialism.
theory, it is assumed that the relation- corded the honor of its rediscovery or Foster [66] states, "The critique of
ships of objects depicted on a three- invention. All of the underlying rules perspectivalism, the concern with cor-
dimensional grid (a conceptual sys- of three-dimensional rationalized poreal vision, the analysis of the
tem) can depict areal view of space are given in Alberti's De Pittura gaze . . . are not new. Decades have
phenomena. it is assumed that this and later treatises by Viator, Durer and passed since Panofsky [67,68] pointed
structure exists as real in itself, inde- others. Dfirer's work depicts an artist to the conventionality of perspective,
pendent of human understanding.Con- drawing upon a surface with a grid and Heidegger [69] to its complicity
sequently, it is the correctway to portray imposed between it and the scene to with a subject willed to master; years
reality. It requires that artistswho wish be drawn. In effect, he is creating an since Merleau-Ponty [70] stressed the

34 Jones, Computer Imagery: Imitation and Representation of Realities


bodiliness of sight, Lacan [71] the their power to influence human their ability to work without each other"
psychic cost of the gaze, and Fanon behavior. (italics mine). Reeves [85] phrases this
[72,73] its colonialist import." Other Computer graphic algorithms differenceas "simulationvs. faking it"
scholars including Ivins [74], Kraut- based upon laws of optics for depic- (italics mine). This phrasing in the
heimer [75], Edgerton [76,77], White tion of light sources, reflection, trans- first instance points to a necessity for
[78] and Kubovy [79] have investiga- parency, etc. and upon laws of physics both kinds of simulation and in the
ted technical, aesthetic, psychological, for force and motion and upon medi- second to the culturally embedded
religious, economic and political im- cal and biological research for depic- valuation of scientific simulation over
pacts of perspectivalism. Heidegger tion of living forms are based upon the visual simulation.
[80] postulates that the natural world philosophical premises underlying sci- Jackson [86], an early optimistic
was transformed through the techno- entific realism. Early solid modeling researcher in artificial intelligence
logical world view into a 'standing re- and ray tracing algorithms made use stated, "By suitably programming a
serve' for the surveillance and manip- of memory storage and calculating fast enough digital computer, one can
ulation of a dominating subject. The ability to describe the way a surface simulate any finitely describable phe-
latter view serves as background to the would look as it moved in relation to a nomenon." In effect this means that
postmodern aesthetic positions of light source and view point. Tech- various aspects of reality or concepts
Baudrillard [81] and Kroker and niques allowing changes in light qu- of reality can be simulated on the com-
Cook [82]. ality, atmospheric quality and textural puter and displayed graphically if they
Digitized imagery derived from surfaces all improved realist imitation can be sufficiently defined. Putnam
conventional art media, or newer in computer graphics. A complaint [87-89] is credited by some as being
media such as photography, film, and that the images generated are too real among the first philosophers to offer
video, may be used to generate com- and too perfect (that is, hyperreal) has a computational or functionalist
puter graphic images that fall into the caused recent attention to be focused model for human reality. In his most
category of realist imitation. Artists on introduction of small irregularities recent work Representationand Reality,
may also utilize digitizing devices for to make computer-generated imagery he renounces his earlier certainty that
drawing images based upon realist look more naturally real (i.e. simulate any phenomenon can be so repre-
conventions. Photographically de- literal portrayal of individually imper- sented. He describes why he found the
rived data (digitized or non-digitized) fect instances). Some form of random- realist view so appealing: "WhatI used
may be combined with algorithmically ization, or stochasticism, is introduced to find seductive about metaphysical
generated computer graphics. For in the surface quality, movement or realism is the idea the the way to solve
example, in the film industry, Tron, boundaries of images. This would cor- philosophicalproblemsis to constructa bet-
produced in 1982, used computer- respond to the visual differences be- ter scientificpictureof the world"(italics
generated imagery as a backdrop for tween Greek statues, which attempted mine). In a sense, computer graphics
live actors. In 1984 TheLast Starfighter portrayal of perfect models with no that simulate or model natural phe-
included 27 minutes of computer- counterpart in the phenomenal world nomena consider their success de-
generated effects that were intercut (imitations of Ideals or Essences), ver- pendent upon a better scientific pic-
with live action. A spokesman for Digi- sus Roman portraiture, which por- ture of the world. The portrayed
tal Productions claimed that the com- trayed a single living individual, warts model may look too perfect or appear
puter-generated images were so life- and all (isomorphic representation of too abstract, as, for example, in imi-
like that when they were intercut with physical reality). Simulations and rep- tation of ideals (dependent upon
live action the audience would not be resentations of reality are made by numerical harmonies) or as in imita-
able to tell the difference [83]. Digital traditional artists by drawing, paint- tion of essences (dependent upon nat-
recording and alteration of photo- ing, sculpting and so forth. Simula- ural laws which may be represented
graphic and video data that is virtually tions and representations of reality are mathematically). Note that both of
undetectable has led to ethical contro- made by humans using computers by these positions involve a belief in aes-
versies in law andjournalism. In effect, digitizing images and by inventing thetic universals. When images appear
the problem or the opportunity exists algorithms that imitate images and too perfect, the appearance of isomor-
of making images that appear real but events. Both of these may be based phic visual realism may be sought and
have no correspondence to phenom- upon scientific realism, a view of the small imperfections added so that a
enal objects and events. In the pes- world that derives information from more natural or literal imitation of re-
simistic or commodity postmodern scientific research to make the most ality may be attempted. The crux of
view, film, photography and television perfect representation of the world the problem that Putnam has recog-
constitute technologies of domination based upon the best information to nized and that contemporary artists
and spectacle. A less pessimistic view is date. They may also be based upon and scholars in many disciplines have
that we may create illusory or virtual visual modeling. The SIGGRAPH '87 explored is that the definitions of the
realities with current aesthetic, edu- panel on natural phenomena ad- parameters of what is real are based
cational, commercial or entertain- dressed this issue in terms of science upon human definitions; that is, ob-
ment value or we may create 'utopian' and entertainment applications. jective realism has no basis. Objective
models for future cultural constructs. Springmeyer [84] states, "The goal of realism claims the existence of a struc-
However, conventionsof cultural reality the entertainment researcher is the ture of reality independent of human
embeddedin hardware,software,and men- simulation of visual reality, whereas belief, knowledge, perception and
tal constructsof human participantsmay the goal of the physical scientist is the modes of understanding. This posi-
inhibit or preclude developmentof some accurate simulation of physical pro- tion is not supported by contemporary
models.Conscious awareness of these cesses" and, further, "The two ap- research in the cognitive sciences,
conventions and constructs reduces proacheshave begunto reachthe limits of

Jones, Computer Imagery: Imitation and Representation of Realities 35


especially anthropology, linguistics constituting simulacra. This requires Both examples accent and make ap-
and psychology [90]. disregarding the conscious intention- parent the conventions used in reality
ality of the artist or creator from the construction. The difference between
perspectives discussed in the first part the examples lies in the use of'reality'.
CONTEMPORARY of this paper or from the more com- Examples of hyperreal ray-traced sur-
PROBLEMS IN monly employed modernist aesthetic faces accentuate human constructs of
perspective of Wimsatt and Beardsley perceptual cognitive reality. The Max
IMITATION [94]. From these perspectives the hy- Headroom example accentuates hu-
Human cognition and human social perreal imagery may be seen as simu- man constructs of social, political and
and cultural structures are important lacra (critical artistic comments on the economic reality as they impact cogni-
in the determination of beliefs about insufficiency of the model of reality tive perceptual constructs.
embedded in scientific realism from a As is illustrated above, appropria-
reality and hence what may stand for
a model, simulation, imitation or rep- humanperspective). It may account, in tion may involve computer imagery
resentation. Emphasis is placed upon part, for the appropriation of artistic borrowing from the artistic/aesthetic
the human role of definition. In some techniques drawn from traditional an- or from the technical/scientific
works of art and in some philosophi- imation and employed in computer realm. An early use of artistic appro-
cal work, self-reflexive studies occur. graphic imagery, for example those priation is the plotter image of the
That is, by examining previously exe- described by Lasseter [95] and Pixar's Mona Lisa produced as an advertise-
cuted work, human participation and 1986 film, Luxo,Jr., and Zeltzer's ani- ment to legitimate technologically
mation of a human skeleton [96]. In produced imagery. This is quite differ-
underlying belief systems are made
evident. Artists create self-conscious some cases, 'faking it' improves the ent from Duchamp's or Warhol's
art: art about art, art institutions, rela- human perceptual and cognitive real- appropriation of the same image.
tions of gallery art to mass media, and ity of computer graphics. Relatively transparent uses of appro-
relations of contemporary art to his- Another quite different example of priation involve early simulations of
torical art. Photographers are en- 'faking it' that may be considered a artistic style by Nake and Nolls [101]
simulacrum is the construction of the and current stylistic simulations by
gaged in rephotography, painters are
character Max Headroom. In this Kirsch and Kirsch [102,103]. Appro-
engaged in appropriation of historical
works of art. Literary critics stress the case, digitized imagery of an actor util- priations of stylistic conventions of
conventionality of texts. Texts are izing extensive makeup is subjected to earlier art forms, especially modernist
demonstrated to have deconstructed picture processing to imitate com- formalism, Op art and Renaissance
themselves, revealing the conventions puter-generated imagery. That is, the perspective, are in evidence through-
embedded in them. appearance of computer-generated out the early history of computer
imagery is appropriated for use. This graphics. Extensive use of digitally
Simulation, Simulacra may be considered a simulacrum from scanned images of paintings, photo-
and Appropriation two perspectives: (1) In spite of work graphs, film and video assure that
Deleuze [91] discusses Plato's critical in computer graphics such as that of many creators of computer imagery
Waters [97], computer generation of deal directly with issues such as appro-
description of literal imitation as a
human facial expression is laborious, priation, blurring of authorship, de-
copy of a copy. However, he claims,
"The factitious is always a copy of a is expensive and lacks human reality. materialization of the art object and
copy, which must be pushed to thepoint Consequently this may reveal the in- questioning the relation of 'original'
whereit changesits natureand turns into sufficiency of current models from a to copy.
a simulacrum (the moment of Pop human perspective in the same man-
Art)" He views this as a destruction of ner as the hyperreal simulations in-
models and copies that set up a crea- volving scientific laws in examples CONCLUSIONS
tive chaos rather than as a Platonic de- above. (2) Berko [98] assumes a posi-
This paper has raised questions that a
struction of models that conserves and tion congruent with Baudrillard's
much longer study must address more
perpetuates the established order. postmodern view of technological
consumer culture. She offers "Max fully. It has pointed to the need for a
Warhol's imitation of a Campbell soup
Headroom as a case study of the high multidisciplinary approach to compu-
can is an initial example of this. Accep- ter art. It may be no coincidence that
tance came to the copy of a copy, concept image, the site upon which
the codes of simulation have been able Greenberg's 1987 Steven A. Coons
which served as an ironic comment Award Lecture [104] called for cross-
to produce, 'by dint of being more real
upon the production of mass culture disciplinary education of students in
and mass production and especially than the real itself [99] the absolute
computer graphics. Belting [105], an
upon the technology of reproduction. image of the process of consumption, art historian, has cited the need for
the hyperreal Max Headroom". Berko
Considering Deleuze, deBord [92] studies of newer media. Post-structur-
and Baudrillard's [93] descriptions of further states that in the United States
alist theory is not bound by discipli-
simulacra in light of the discussion of today "the image seems unreal, un-
nary boundaries, considering them
realistic simulations (both visual and clean, impure, i.e. unsimulated, if it remnants expressing an earlier con-
scientific) in computer imagery in the has not been video-enhanced, digi-
ceptual scheme that is no longer ap-
previous section of this paper, it may tized, and processed" [100]. Although
Berko uses hyperreality in a way seem- propriate. All of these issues are em-
be posited that the hyperreal simula- bodied in problems faced by artists,
tions of reality and some of the artistic ingly contrary to the utilization in technicians and scientists involved in
works based upon the algorithms in- example one above, both examples
stress insufficiency or negativity of producing computer imagery. As
volved in these may be examined as Brook states, "Pictures are the most
hyperreal models in human terms.

36 Jones, Computer Imagery: Imitation and Representation of Realities


9. P. de Man, The Resistanceto Theory(Minne- 37. G. Birkhoff, AestheticMeasure(Oxford: Ox-
potent of those nonverbal represen-
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38 Jones,Computer Imagery: Imitation and Representation of Realities