[ITA] Nel Luglio 2015 ho presentato il paper “Between division and continuity. Thresholds, boundaries and perspectives as territories of ambiguity” alla conferenza “The Undivided Mind. Exploring boundaries between minds and worlds”, tenutasi all’Università di Plymouth (qui qualche informazione). Il mio testo è stato pubblicato negli atti in un numero speciale del magazine britannico Technoetic Arts, appena uscito.
[ENG] In July 2015 I presented the paper “Between division and continuity. Thresholds, boundaries and perspectives as territories of ambiguity” in the conference “The Undivided Mind. Exploring boundaries between minds and worlds”, held at the University of Plymouth (here some information). My text has been just published in the proceedings in a special issue of Technoetic Arts magazine.

[ITA] Di seguito un estratto del testo, che è integralmente reperibile su Academia.edu o sul sito del magazine Technoetic Arts.
[ENG] Below an excerpt from my text, which is fully available on Academia.edu and on Technoetic Arts website.


Between division and continuity. Thresholds, boundaries and perspectives as territories of ambiguity
Pier Luigi Capucci

Continuity between real and virtual spaces

Glory of Sant’Ignazio, painted from 1685 to 1694 in the Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola in Rome, is a late baroque fresco by the jesuit friar Andrea Pozzo [Figure 1: Andrea Pozzo, Glory of Sant’Ignazio, fresco,1685-94, Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Rome]. It simulates an infinite upper space as a continuation of the physical space. Andrea Pozzo painted the ceiling and trompe-l’oeil dome on a wide canvas (17 m). But nothing in this picture appears as flat and closed; indeed the space is curved and seamless expanded from the real physical world to the infinite virtual world: the Earth is connected to the sky.

The official description in the Church explains:

«The columns and arches of the church seem to continue in the real architectural paintings, open to an infinite space: there’s no rift between the earth and the sky, the world of nature and history opens to the vision of the divine reality, made of light. […] Here everything becomes fluid, figures, flexible and elastic, without weight even in their physicality, they lose any stiffness and buy with their curved forms a new spiritual character. The physical space, the earthly world, defined by architectural structures, it opens to the vision of the divine, in a deep continuity between the finite and infinite. All reality is as drawn up, in a miraculous suspension of physical laws, and everything converges, for perspective effect, toward the center of the fresco, the “heaven of heavens.”» (“The Ceiling” n.d.)

Andrea Pozzo was an Italian Jesuit friar, architect, painter, decorator and art theorist, and his masterpieces have long influenced the style of the interior decoration of the late Baroque churches in Europe. He wrote the treatise Perspectiva pictorum et architectorum, written between 1693 and 1698, which was published in two volumes and presented the instructions for painting architectural perspectives and sets of rules. It was translated into many editions in several languages, including French, German, English (London, 1707) and, thanks to the Jesuits, Chinese.

The Renaissance perspective, which is made increasingly complex by the Baroque, represents the three-dimensional physical space, that is what we see, that we perceive, onto a bi-dimensional space. It is a geometrical transformation. The Renaissance perspective, and even more its Baroque evolution, sometimes tries of melting the two spaces, with the virtual space (the space of the image) being a seamless expansion of the phenomenal space.

Of course this cultural construction that tries to unify Earth and sky, man and God, real and virtual, like all simulations is not perfect, it has some limitations. The main one is that it is challenged by perception, in fact it perfectly works only from a precise viewpoint. In order to have the best illusion we have to be in a defined place, in a fixed and precise viewpoint that rules the perfect illusion, that in the case of Andrea Pozzo’s Glory of Sant’Ignazio is indicated in the floor. When moving away from this position the illusion becomes imperfect. Similarly to physics, where reality depends on the observer’s position, the simulation created by the perspective depends on the viewer’s position.

Masaccio, Trinity, fresco, 1425-28, Church of Santa Maria Novella, Florence, and geometrical reconstruction

Masaccio, Trinity, fresco, 1425-28, Church of Santa Maria Novella, Florence, and geometrical reconstruction

Starting at least from the Renaissance, the thrust for reproducing the way we perceive space has played a key role in Western culture, a role that is even more nodal today in the photorealistic era. In fact, although the perspective has been invented in the third decade of the XV century – with the work of Filippo Brunelleschi and the treatise De pictura by Leon Battista Alberti (Alberti 1436) – we are still immersed in (and influenced by) this way of seeing and representing the world (Panofsky 1927; Gioseffi 1957; Calabrese 1985) [Figure 2. Masaccio, Trinity, fresco, 1425-28, Church of Santa Maria Novella, Florence]. The perspective has been inherited by photography, cinema, video, computer photorealistic images, virtual reality, 3D videogames, the metaverses… Except holography, which simulates the 3D space using the relative differences of the light’s phase, that in part explains the difficulties of this technique to emerge and integrate into the mediascape, all the other visual media simulate through the perspective, using the same, although simplified, rules of the Renaissance perspective. We live in a perspective-based culture, all the devices and tools that we use for simulating reality onto a plane surface are based on the Euclidean geometry and on its derivative, the perspective. Our photo and video cameras and our smartphones are perspective-based tools.

Todays our pictures, our virtual worlds are much more pervasive than in the past, we live inside them. They are dynamic, very popular, they can even be explored and modified getting into them with a more focused illusion, and we have a lot of tools to build them. It is the triumph of the viewpoint, that goes far beyond the bare realm of representation. However, although the perspective is presented as an “objective” visualization technique, its objectivity is theoretically and technically based on the “point of view”, that is on the most subjective and personal element of the narrative (Calabrese 1985). And it is also a rigid construct, since moving away from that exact and basic point of view, that we cannot choose because it is decided by the image maker and codified into the image, means loosing information. We could affirm that the imagery performed by most of modern and contemporary media is suited to a static and spatially privileged viewing position and to a substantially passive attitude of the viewer.