Saturday, April 7, 2012

blowing Brunelleschi's cover

A student made an excellent observation Wednesday night. After trying to correct a freehand sketch of a scene using new-found perspective tools, she remarked that her initial sketch felt more like the space as she experienced it. The line quality in the first sketch was personal and idiosyncratic, recalling the sensitive lines she generated during blind contour exercises. The "cleaned up" drawing was more like an Etch-a-sketch image.

Anyone who has lost happiness based on a misunderstood email knows that a low-res, virtual, electronic form of communication is full of pitfalls. So much more is happening than what those few text characters convey. The same is true when describing on flat paper a design idea that's to be experienced in the 3D environment.

Linear perspective is only one means of translation, one that has been dominant for centuries. If you've done a perspective construction, you know it's nothing like sketching with a pad of paper on your lap. Much that we have assumed to be highly skilled perspective constructions may in fact have used another translation mode, one that may have seemed more technically accurate at the time. Here is David Hockney refuting the accuracy of single-camera perspective!  Here, a Japanese image provides a comprehensive spatial narrative by other means. If you want to look further, here is Hockney as Toto, pulling away the curtain that (he alleges) hid perspective's Wizard of Oz for 600 years. Consider the "rules" of perspective more as tools, or guidelines, for translating an optical experience that occurs in 3D, over time, onto a flat surface.

The means we use to come up with what "feels" faithful to a visual experience today may also carry a message about our relationship to technology at the time of translation.