While deep in sleep, we inhabit spaces where sounds, images and people around us appear vivid and tangible. But once we open our eyes, the spell lifts and these folly- and wonder-tainted visions turn out to be no more than a dream. Something similar also occurs during virtual reality simulations, those multisensorial experiences in which the course of events can be simply interrupted by removing the headset from one’s eyes, just like suddenly waking up.
The worlds of dream and of virtual reality have far more in common than one would think: both revolve around a subjective point of view, and above all both engage an aesthetic relation with images, a dimension that begins to be investigated in the 1800s – a time that more than others focused on revealing the workings of our dreams – and that in the advent of digital technology has found its fullest and most complete realization. At the centre of this framework is cinema, the art that in the 20th century expressed and gave form to human fantasies and nightmares, channelling the immersive experience out of the rigid bidimensional quality of the screen, “piercing” its surface like Buster Keaton in one of his most famous films.
This book sheds light on what the early sensational landscapes and cycloramas have in common with the new media art of Zoe Beloff and Char Davies, on how Mickey Mouse goes hand in hand with Cocteau and Kurosawa, and on how modern VR devices can be considered an evolution of sleep masks: the author presents us with an archaeological approach to the history of media and to the concept of immersivity inviting us to recognise a new type of artistic horizon, projected beyond mere visual data.