Monday, November 3, 2008

Let's Go to the 3-D!

This weeks reading, I felt, was quite similar to last weeks. Last week we read about how various perceptual tools allow us to view two dimensional objects as three dimensional. Luminance and shading play a large part in this process. This week the reading focused mainly on stereopsis and how we perceive depth.

Over the centuries, since art began really, artists have been attempting to represent three dimensional objects or scenes on a two dimensional surface. Regardless of how precise the artwork is our stereopsis enables us to determine that what we are viewing is actually a flat depiction of something with depth. Many artists have also tried to manipulate the human perceptual system into seeing the flat rendering with depth. Livingstone mentions that Leonardo da Vinci wanted paintings to be viewed with only one eye and from a longer distance so that our stereopsis would be effectively circumvented. Such viewing was fashionable only for a short period of time.

But Leonardo da Vinci's notion of tricking the viewer into seeing a three dimensional object reminded me of a modern visual fad very much on the rise. Livingstone briefly mentions the View-Masters that were/are popular for children. By presenting the eyes two identical images of a dinosaur spaced slightly apart we then see a three dimensional dinosaur. This notion has since been upgraded from just a still picture to moving images in the movies. Films in 3-D have become increasingly popular ranging from Imax documentaries to feature films. 3-D movies are produced by projecting two of the same images, slightly overlapping like in the View-Master. However, they images also have different polarization which is where the glasses come in. The lenses of the glasses filter in only one of the polarized images allowing each eye to see only one image. If you take off the glasses the overlapping and subsequent blur of the two images on the screen is painfully obvious. While we still view paintings as two dimensional objects I think Leonardo da Vinci would be fascinated by our modern trend of viewing moving images through a three dimensional lens.

Anne Theresa de Keersmaeker

Here is the link to a recording of the piece I mentioned in my post.  It is not the best representation of the piece, but it might give you an idea of the movement and what I was attempting to describe.

Stereopsis and 3-D Bodies.

I apologize for the lateness of my post. I wrote one and then had another idea so I decided to start over. Here goes. In the this weeks readings there was a lot of discussion of depth and how our eyes perceive dimensionality. There were many examples of different paintings and the different tools that were used to indicate depth. I am always interested in seeing how different choreographers use space and their dancer's bodies to indicate depth. 
While I was doing the reading I was reminded of the dance piece that Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker choreographed to Steve Reich's Piano Phase. In this piece the choreographer has set up two three dimensional bodies in a very two dimensional space. They spin together going in and out of unison for most of the piece. Depth and dimension is added when they break through that two dimensional (flat) space. They turn to then move forward through the space in a similar movement pattern. To finish the piece they travel back to their flat space.  It is an interesting choreographic tool. She created a very flat space for two non-flat bodies then brought them out of their frame. 
De Keersmaeker also does something very interesting with the lights for this particular piece. She has designed the lights so the two dancers shadows are reflected on the back wall. However, the lights are placed in such a way that there are three shadows reflected on the wall. She creates the illusion that there is a third dancer somewhere in the space when really there are only two. 
Depth illusions can be shown through repetitive patterns in flat works. I wonder if the depth affect would be the same if the dancers were not doing the same repetitive pattern of movement? During the performance of the piece I found myself trying different ways of watching the movement. I would close one eye and then the other to see if my perception of the depth and movement was any different. I did not experience much difference in my perception. I suppose that there are many ways to indicate depth in a space with three dimensional bodies moving in it. Flat linear movement done on a frontal plane is often read as two dimensional, while more rounded movement executed on lower levels through the space could indicate a three dimensional space. 

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The pictures I wrote about in my comment

Just in case people wanted to see the pictures I was referring to, I found out you can't put photos in the comments, so I'm posting them here.

This is the Cynthia Carlson that I said had a sculptural use of the paint.

This one is the Tony Gibbons I referred to, with the geometric shapes and patterns.

Stereopsis and the "realism" in Impressionism.

Last week a lot of people wrote about “realism” and what we accept or expect as “realistic” in a paintings. Usually when we look at the work of painters like Ingres or David we see them as “realistic” because the entire scene is painted in sharp focus and individual elements of the scene are rendered in varying techniques and colors that mimic their physical properties. The rendering of the dress in Ingres’ Princess Albert de Broglie, for example, clearly shows every pucker and ripple and highlight of the actual garment. And, in a different section of the scene the subject’s gold necklace, in equal focus, pops out “realistically” against a softly rendered chest, as a separate object with different properties. But, while the physical reality of all these elements is clearly represented, one could argue that when they’re all put together on one flat canvas the effect is rather unrealistic --- or representative of only part of the reality of perception.

In Chapter five, Livingstone refers to the David painting, The Rape of Sabine Women, and writes that, though, it’s painted with remarkable precision, it “would be impossible to register this many details in such a transient scene.” Every man and woman and sword might be rendered incredibly “realistically” but the painting as a whole is, in a sense, very unrealistic. Renoir’s Madame Henriot, on the other hand, which Livingstone refers to in the same chapter, is an impressionist piece but it more accurately represents an aspect of our vision that David ignores. The varying levels of resolution in this piece direct our eyes to a clear, high-contrast rendering of a woman’s face surrounded by a blurrier, more muted background. Renoir more realistically represents the way we would perceive an entire scene with our foveal and peripheral vision.

This “realism” in Impression has interested me ever since we read Livingstone’s chapter five and I was excited when it came up again in the Chapter on Stereopsis. For instance, the blurriness, and visible brush strokes in paintings like Monet’s and Renoir’s, could be considered their most “unrealistic” feature. But this ambiguity undermines stereoscopic depth perception, which relies on clear images. Ironically, when we look at a David we are able to tell that it is a flat painting through stereopsis because it is so clearly rendered, but when we look at a blurrier Monet we become dependent on the other depth cues, which are employed in the painting. Livingstone also writes about the depth cues in the actual application of paint in Impresionist and Post-Impressionist work. Thick coats of paint along the contour of an object, for example, create an “abrupt depth discontinuity” and allows us to perceive, through stereopsis, exaggerated depth. Lastly, Livingstone describes the wallpaper illusion and how repetitive patterns, or the repetitions of brushstrokes in impressionist paintings create the sense of “atmosphere” or “air” in between objects. Different strokes pop forward and backward in semi-regular patterns and create the illusion of depth and space and particles catching light in the air. She writes, “This effect goes beyond what can be achieved by the most accurate realism in generating a sense of depth” and I imagine it is a good representation of Sue Barry’s experience of feeling “in” the falling snow when she regained her Stereopsis.

As I learn about how we actually perceive art the world around us I feel like Impression is more “realistic” than realism. Or maybe it’s more fair to say that it picks up where realism falls short; they both deal with different elements of the reality of our vision.