Re: [-empyre-] multi-perspectival / cultural hegemony of space

On 06.06.03 19:00, "John Klima" <> wrote:

> it is not "hard to think of a way of creating spatially and temporally
> dynamic data without using a system based on either cartesian or polar
> coordinate systems." it is IMPOSSIBLE.
> in a practical sense, the only way to question the rendering system we
> are all employing, is to find and exploit the bugs in the system. to
> show through the system's limitations, where it falls down, where it
> fails. divide by zero.
I disagree with you whole heartedly...but I will try to keep my temper ;)

Whilst I said it is difficult it is also entirely possible not only to
imagine non-Cartesian modelling of space but also to write code to do it. It
is only difficult because it requires you use your imagination to think
outside a set of conventions that are so fundamentally hegemonic in
determing how we see things that we think things are actually the way we
think we see them.

Plentiful examples of non-Cartesian single point spatial rendering models
exist. I think here, for example, of how Medieval artists dealt with space
and time in their work, often having different temporal aspects of a scene
placed in the same spatial frame whilst simultaneously breaking up that
spatial frame to allow for a rendering of the image that took account of the
relative values of the objects contained within that spatial envelope. That
is, Christ on the cross would loom larger than the figures around him, in
defiance of our contemporary expectations of spatial representation, not
because these artists were unable to get the relative scale of things right
but because they were less interested in a "photographic" rendering of
things and more intent on an imaging strategy that addressed the cultural
value of things.

The same logic is at work in the work of Picasso circa 1912 and in that of
many artists of Western and non-Western cultures (Japanese and Persian
spatial models are examples here - but so are Mondrian's "Broadway Boogie
Woogie", Francis Bacon's tortured yet fluid spaces or even Visconti's single
discontinuous take in the restaurant scene in "Death in Venice"). In fact,
when seen in a larger history of visualisation strategies, the Cartesian
approach has only a small part to play, having been dominant in Western
culture for only a scant few hundred years. It just happens to map onto
other culturally and historically powerful elements, such as the notions of
ownership, the body politic, the definition of the individual in relation to
this, etc, that have developed contemporaneously, which make escape velocity
difficult to attain.

The spatial systems you are arguing are inescapeable are only that if you
choose to work within a certain world view and specifically choose to work
with off the shelf technologies based on that world view.

Some years ago - actually many years ago - I wrote a 3D modelling package (I
have been trying to find the code, but I think it is in some storage format
no longer readable and likely corrupted from years of lying around - in C++
under Unix on a Sun mini-computer) which applied Einstein's notion of
gravity determining the shape of space to a visualisation system. It used a
conventional 3D axis calibrated space. What was unconventional was that the
axial calibration was dynamic, and determined by the objects modeled in the
space. That is, when creating an object you modelled not only its form (I
never got as far as writing the code for surface characteristics) but also
its mass or the mass of its component parts. The mass data was used to then
non-linearly calibrate the units of measurement on each of the 3 axial
dimensions, thus causing whatever you had modelled, whether a single object
or not, to also have their form(s) modified further as the spatial envelope
adapted to what it contained. The system was logically simple but the
results quite complex and unexpected, being highly recursive, as various
objects moving about the space interacted with one another and the space
itself, causing things to change size and relative internal scale.
Graphically it was pretty squishy and not at all Cartesian.

Perhaps I will set myself the task of re-writing that code for the web. It
was pretty simple and of course 3D modelling code is not that difficult
anyway (so long as you forget about light as anything more than a Z-buffer
determiner). The 3D engine in Babel, and other "3D" projects I've done, is
literally 3 lines of maths, although that is then used by a lot of other
code that is to do with behavioural programming and the like. However, the
code that calculates the 3D aspect of the scene is almost nothing. A gravity
based 3D modeller would also be very compact - measured in kilobytes I
should think and no more than a few hundred lines.



Simon Biggs

Research Professor
Art and Design Research Centre
Sheffield Hallam University, UK

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