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Themesicon: navigation pathOverview of Media Articon: navigation pathImmersion
Immersion and Interaction
From circular frescoes to interactive image spaces
Oliver Grau
World Skin (Benayoun, Maurice), 1997The Tunnel under the Atlantic (Benayoun, Maurice)


Before us lies a war-torn landscape: devastated buildings, soldiers, tanks, ruins, and the wounded. Under a lowering sky of dark clouds, we move through a landscape filled by death and destruction. An apocalyptic atmosphere pervades the scene. Armed only with a camera, we find ourselves in a panorama of news pictures of various armed conflicts. It is a universe of anonymous violence. Using a joystick, we navigate around soldiers, standing like Potemkin villages, from different nations and historical periods. Arranged in a kaleidoscopic pattern in this sphere of death, they stand stationary and lifeless, these images of war. The farther we penetrate into this image sphere, the more we realize how endless it is. With «World Skin[1] which in 1997 won the coveted Golden Nica in the Interactive Art category at the Ars Electronica, Maurice Benayoun transports the spectator into a virtual battle panorama, which is interactively experienced through CAVE technology.[2] The award of this highest distinction in computer art was also recognition of Benayoun's long-standing engagement with digital techniques; his first success came in 1995 with «The Tunnel under the Atlantic,» an


installation with great public appeal. Visitors to the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris embarked on virtual journeys through space and time to meet with visitors to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Montreal in an image space. «World Skin» is viewed in a cube, an almost hermetically enclosed space, where the walls and floor are projection screens and only the entrance side remains open. Several viewers at a time watch the virtual images that run around its walls. Seen through liquid crystal glasses, that is stereo glasses, the objects appear vivid and three-dimensional as though immediately in front of the spectators in the CAVE. Databeamers outside this area project the real-time images onto the CAVE's semitranslucent walls so that inside the images flow seamlessly leaving no areas blank. This produces an impression of being physically present in the images. Thus the installation fulfills a central requirement of all virtual art: enclosure of the observer within an image space—here in the CAVE —to elicit a greater or lesser feeling of immersion and separation from the outside world. Further, Maurice Benayoun is revealed as an exegete of the panorama; he has revived the idea and aesthetics of this historical

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