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Obviously, the relation between critical distance and immersion is not a simple matter of ‹either/or›; the many and diverse connections are interwoven, dialectic, in part contradictory, and definitely dependent on the individual dispositions of the observers and their historically acquired media competence.
Immersion can be a mentally active process; in the majority of cases, however, both in older and contemporary art history, immersion is mental absorption in order to initiate a process, a transition. Characteristics are a diminished critical distance and emotional involvement. Aesthetic experience that requires distance or room for reflection tends to be subverted by immersive strategies. More power of suggestion appears to be an important motive force in the development of new media of illusion. It would seem that this is the driver behind ongoing efforts to renew power over the observers using novel potential for suggestion in order to install new regimes of perception. Yet, the idea that humankind can somehow return to a state of pre-symbolic and pre-media experience in the Rousseau sense, that is to
make mediation through symbols disappear and achieve immediacy of experience, is an illusion.
If we look more closely at history, we recognize that there is an interdependent relation between the suggestive potential of historic media of illusion and what we know about the media competence of their contemporary audience. Even six-year-old children are able to distinguish between reality and ‹as-if worlds›, yet in Western art and media history there is a recurrent movement that seeks to blur, negate, or abolish this distinction through employing the very latest imaging techniques. It is not possible for any form of art to reproduce reality completely and we must remain aware that there is no objective appropriation of reality—Plato's metaphor of the cave demonstrates this. Only interpretations are decisive. This was a major philosophical theme of early modern times: The work of Descartes, Leibniz and Kant may be regarded as marvelous attempts to reflect upon the consequences that derive from the mediation of perception, and thus the cognitive process, which ultimately cannot be overcome— even with the aid of highly sophisticated visualization. In essence,