“There is a face beneath this mask, but it isn't me. I'm no more that face than I am the muscles beneath it, or the bones beneath that.” - Steve Moore, V for Vendetta
The Latin word for mask is persona: the whole determination of someone’s entity, a social role or an actor playing a character. Generally one’s physical appearance is the first thing that meets the eye. Though simultaneously we are looking through invisible layers like interpretation and preoccupation, constantly playing with our mind. Unequal, soft, humid, strong, stretchy and pocked; our biggest organ is a constantly changing and breathing surface, in-between all sorts of physical and emotional interaction.
Where Leonardo da Vinci in the sixteenth century made Mona Lisa’s skin ‘real’ with a glare by building layers of transparent oils, in the 1960’s Madame Orlan applied plastic surgery as a medium to change her physical appearance into something unreal.
The medium itself was also often treated as a skin. Within moving image, avant-garde filmmakers applied scarification directly to film layers, redefining film by changing its foundation.
Interea 3.0 lets visitors interact with different media and – their own – bodie(s) at the same time, forming a new surface together. The work needs the human body to be complete. It is a relationship in terms of spatial representation and narrative. The technique is a simple illusion named after the scientist John Henry Pepper who used it in a demonstration in 1862. The first known description of the Pepper’s Ghost effect was mentioned in Giambattista della Porta’s work ‘Magia Naturalis’ in 1584. It said ‘he [the viewer] will think he sees nothing but truth […] it is impossible that he should suppose that he is deceived’. Instead of direct projection, this technique makes it possible to float content between the viewer’s eye and a – or his own - body. The floating content can’t be touched and functions as a virtual surface.
In a time where the physical and virtual worlds merge and live side-by-side at the same time, (digital) touch becomes interpretable and the personal amount of empathy influences the experience. Touch, face-to-face connection and proximity are fundamental to wellbeing and human health. Interea 3.0 treats digital touching by programming and by human interaction. Where the programming part mainly focuses on a learning experience, the human interaction part raises questions like: Does the physical surface matter for the digital experience? Does it feel like wearing a digital mask or a physical layer?
Technology has already surpassed nature in computing power and memory storage. There is discussion about technical dominance and digital dependency, but a digital Pearl Harbour - a technological shut down – is not necessary to stay aware of the essence of our existence. Mankind imagines and anticipates, with or without technology. Virtual emotions are already equal to real emotions. Eventually we will be able to make a digital copy of reality including touch, taste and smell, with no hierarchy: merged reality. The augmented reality will probably create new senses, definitely shift moral boundaries but will mainly expose what our own imagination is capable of.
We have already adapted naturally to the digital surface. Feelings, behaviours and thoughts find their way easily. Sometimes in an enlarged form because, despite we know every digital step can be traced, we feel anonymous. It is only bits and bytes. An extra layer provides the advantage to safely conceal oneself behind it, which could create new possibilities. It is easier to act behind a mask? So what! What happens at the surface does not always have to match with what takes place below it. Or does it?
Hugo Von Hofmannsthal states in Book of Friends that "Depth must be hidden. Where? On the surface."
Perhaps by saying this, deepening in general [quality?] can be demanded of the creator. It also could guarantee the containment of a lot of content for the receiver, but only if he is aware of it and willing to give attention to it. Von Hofmannsthal’s insight has aptly been applied to the virtuosos: deceptively simple and delightfully superficial, yet profound masterpieces. But what if there isn’t more to it than meets the eye? What if one, as a viewer, completely misses the presence of hidden depth? Or is incapable of estimating virtuosity? Fortunately, there is plenty room for misunderstanding, dirty pleasures and admiration. It is like watching the trailer of a movie. It can arouse false expectations or spoil too much of the story. But the question actually is whether you have got curious enough to watch the whole movie. One can experience the exact same feeling by looking at a digitally enhanced hologram of a beautiful nude, as by gazing at one in the form of a sculpture at the Louvre. The – any - surface must contain precisely enough ingredients of interest to create curiosity for the search: the appropriate allocation between exterior and interior.
No computer, nor a human being, has the blueprint for that perfect hidden depth. In the meantime [interea] we keep attempting to seduce. Seduction in all forms leads to connection, communication, interaction and evolution. It teases expectations and manipulates emotions.
And the great thing is, it is fully automatic: we are naturally programmed to do so.