Virtual and Physical by Shenielle Thomas

Virtual and Physical by Shenielle Thomas

When people say the words “Virtual world” people think of the digital world that mimics our own in many ways. However, artists are now creating installations which redefine what we think of a virtual world. In the works of Jeffery Shaw, we are confronted with a different type of virtual world, especially in one his pieces, called “The Legible City.”The legible city1 In this work, the artist recreated the architecture of real maps and cities in a virtual world in which the viewer was able to navigate through cycling. However, instead of buildings and landmarks, these monuments are replaced with words or phrases that were recovered from documents recording historical events. According to Christiane Paul, this work creates a connection between our physical world and the virtual, which we see through the introduction of the cycling. We were always removed or distanced from navigating the virtual world physically. We walk around in a virtual world usually by using the arrow keys on keyboards. However in “The Legible City” the viewer can incorporate his entire body to interact with this virtual world.

This piece of art not only changes the way we connect to the virtual world, but how we think of the locations and places we have been. Shaw also turns the physical into conceptual data. In the virtual world of Shaw, we are given a new way to navigate the history of a place. Instead of reading it in a book, we now physically navigate it. Also the history of the city is no longer linear, we experience the history by what and in what order we desire. The viewer can make a decision consciously or spontaneously about how he or she wants to navigate the cities. It also make us think differently about the monuments and the architecture that surrounds us. Some buildings and architectures have more complex histories and stories than what we are able see when we look at them. In a sense we are also able to conceptualize the value and importance of a city as well as the aesthetic qualities.

According to the New York TimesMimicking the real is generally not what interests artists. Altering perception is.” what are other forms of artwork that play with our perception virtually? Artist Bruce Truman’s “Spinning Spheres” introducesh the physical in a different light. In his project, he uses four projectors to show a ball that has been placed on a glass plate, which is spun quickly creating and blurring image in the viewer’s mind. Here with this project our physical world seems distorted and unrealistic mimicking some of the concepts we apply to the virtual world. This world is created through simple repetition.

The art of Shaw was created in the late eighties and the early nineties. Now we are more able to interact with the virtual world with the development of technologies like the kinect. In playing a video game, we can be transported to a virtual world were we physical control our data input with our physical movements. There are other developing technologies that will change our perception of the physical and virtual worlds, one such device includes the Aurasma. This application. was made as an Apple product; it ingrates virtual content into the real world.


Paul, Christiane. Digital Art. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2003.

http://www.clevelandart.org/exhibcef/light/html0/8251629.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/06/arts/06iht-rush.html?pagewanted=all

http://sophia.smith.edu/course/csc106/readings/Penny_interaction.pdf

http://www.itworld.com/software/203575/aurasma-bridges-physical-virtual-worlds-demo-fall-2011

http://www.jeffrey-shaw.net/html_main/show_work.php?record_id=83

http://www.virtualart.at/database/general/work/the-legible-city.html

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