Visual Studies Seminar

Department of Philosophy


Dr. Hector Rodriguez

Associate Professor

The School of Creative Media

City University of Hong Kong


 ¡§Visual thinking and new media technologies: Spatial representation in digital animation¡¨


Date : 13 November 2006 (Monday)
Time : 4:30pm ¡V 6:00pm
Venue : TV Studio, 2/F., B.Y. Lam Building



Computer graphics applications are often designed to simulate certain properties of the physical world. In particular, digital animation packages often accept the principles of optics and photography as fundamental criteria of correctness. Animation software designers often presuppose a ¡§camera model¡¨, and so aim to simulate the mechanics of photographic image-making. Ray tracing algorithms are designed to reproduce the actual behavior of light in accordance with the laws of physics. In this approach, digital technology is used mainly to reproduce predefined objectives.

This tendency severely constrains the aesthetics of digital animation. Most existing digital animation packages, for instance, are biased towards ¡§convergent¡¨ perspective. Developed during the European Renaissance by architects and painters, convergent perspective is based on the twofold principle that: (1) all receding parallel lines appear to meet (¡§converge¡¨) at a vanishing point; and (2) the apparent sizes of objects diminish in proportion to their distance from the observer. This representational framework is rooted in Western history. Other traditions of world art do not rely on convergence. Classical Japanese and Chinese painters, for instance, often project parallel lines in the scene to parallel lines in the picture; the apparent sizes of objects do not change in proportion with their distance.

The bias towards ¡§optical¡¨ or ¡§photographic¡¨ realism is not an essential property of digital technology. It arises, instead, from cultural assumptions shared by most software developers. Artists without any knowledge of programming often accept the constraints built into mainstream software packages. These constraints are enforced by deep-rooted cultural biases and powerful economic pressures.

This presentation discusses an alternative way of using digital technologies, without subscribing to the assumptions of photographic or optical realism. In particular, I propose to outline a research program, tentatively described as ¡§metaesthesis¡¨, involving the creation and study of forms of spatial representation that have never been seen before. This approach abandons the assumption that algorithms should simulate actual physical systems, and embraces instead virtual ways of making images. Technologically mediated creation becomes a medium of exploration, experimentation, and discovery.

Examples will be drawn from the author¡¦s own artistic work with alternative perspective systems in the fields of digital animation and interactive installation. The philosophical and aesthetic implications of this work are discussed in detail.

Dr. Hector Rodriguez

Hector Rodriguez is a digital artist and media theorist. His digital animation Res Extensa received the award for best digital work in the Hong Kong Art Biennial. His game system CoPerspective was a finalist in the Games Meets Graphics competition at Eurographics 2006. His essays about film theory and digital art have been published in Screen, Cinema Journal, and Game Studies, and he has participated in various art and technology conferences. He is Artistic Director of the Microwave International Media Art Festival, where he has also taught workshops on Java programming. He is currently Associate Professor at the School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong, where he teaches courses in Visual Studies, Contemporary Art, Play and Game Studies, Film Theory, Computation, and Critical Theory.



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