Imaginary Spaces in Painting

Georgio De Chirico and Roberto Matta

Massaccio Trinity, 1425 Santa Maria Novella, Florence the implication of the viewer in the work

Immersion: Janet Cardiff and Mike Nelson

While thinking about immersion and engagement here are egs from Fine Art: Mike Nelsons Coral Reef Installation from 2000 (shown more recently at the Tate Britain) and Forty Part Motet, an installation by Janet Cardiff from 2001


A History of the Future | The development of VR towards the 'Ultimate Display"

Virtual Reality in the 1980s and 1990s

A clip from tomorrows world here

The first example of Immersive theatre began with 'Battersea Square' in 1999

Ivan Sutherland's 'Sword of Damocles' 1968

"If you want to know what the future will be like invent it."
Alan Kay

Ivan Sutherland created the first head mounted display (he also invented the computer monitor, the first mouse and the first design software 'Sketchpad'.)

He wanted to make a digital reality which a person could be immersed within using his advanced display technology, what he described as a mathematical wonderland. He said of this synthetic world  (which he called the Ultimate Display) :

"The ultimate display would, of course, be a room within which the computer can control the existence of matter. A chair displayed in such a room would be good enough to sit in. Handcuffs displayed in such a room would be confining, and a bullet displayed in such a room would be fatal."

Jaron Lanier later invented the term 'Virtual Reality' in 1987 (see VRS). 
Blurring the boundaries between here and there

Notions of immersion and believable 'other realities came before Sutherland. In 1896, the Lumiere Brothers showed for the first time in a cinema setting their film "Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat"

Story has it that embers of the audience were so convinced that the train was about to enter the cinema and kill them all that they ran from the building.

In 1938 A radio show of HG Wells' War of the Worlds was broadcast. Such was the authenticity of the performance that listeners believed the newsflash in the show to be real, causing panic across the USA. (jump to 3.00 minutes in to hear the newsflash and 10.28 to hear the 'landing')

In the 1970s a designer Morton Heilig invented the Sensorama, a machine which he hoped would immerse and engage the user in a range of scenarios. He built a mutli-sensory machine which provided visual, aural, olfactory and physical sensations.

Good VR resource here

Before ideas of immersive experiences there were what Grau (Virtual Art)calls  'virtual spatial images' which form part of the 'media of Illusion'. These can be said to begin with Cave paintings like those found in Lascaux. (there are now at least four versions of the Lascaux Caves at time of writing this). These are not technology based, but just huge murals, like the Villa dei Misteri (Pompeii, 60 Bc) below.

Another example is the Sala delle Prospettive, Baldessare Peruzzi (1516 Rome) Villa Farnesina, below.

The Nave of Sant'ignazio, Andrea Pozzo, Rome 1688-1694, below.

Below: Robert Barkers Panorama Rotunda, Leicester Square, 1793

The 90s equivalent to this was the C.A.V.E.

Virtual Histories + Virtual Futures

Flyer for VR Conference at the Tate Gallery 1995

My engagement with Virtual Reality technology began 22 years ago. 
Between 1994 and 1999 I was part of a research group at Chelsea College of Art & Design set up by Kevin Atherton which was researching the potential of Virtual Reality technology within a fine art context. On the 12 May 1995 we held a conference at the Tate Gallery with a range of international speakers and an exhibition of the work we were making.

Speakers Included Roy Ascott, Helen Cadwallader, Matt Mullican, Margaret Morse, Galeria Virtual (Roc and Narcis Perez) and Kevin Atherton. As part of the conference we installed an exhibition of virtual reality artworks and experimental work in progress. Above is an attendee immersed in 'Virtual Retrospective' by performance artist Kevin Atherton. Above that is the flyer for the event.

Below is an example of my work A Work in Progress (from 1994-1998), recorded from VHS video. Following the Tate international conference presentations, live commissions and exhibitions followed. Work in Progress was shown at the Architectural Association, the Institute of Contemporary Arts, The National Gallery, Ars Electronica, Linz (Austria), Siggraph (New Orleans) and ISEA (Chicago). 

It is therefore really interesting for me to be a part of the re-emergence of the technology with Chelsea College of Arts with a planned event at Tate Modern in 2017.