The Virtual Body
'The Virtual Body' is a short column, reminiscent of the column stereoscopes of the mid 1800's when the new optical instruments were part scientific instrument, part aesthetic object and part perceptual media. 'Virtual Bodies' occupies this ambiguous ground of instrument and object.
It stands on a platform in the middle of the room. As spectators enter, they see that the top of the column, at eye level, is glowing. It is an almost vibrating miniature glass room. The walls are transparent. The coloured images on the walls glow with light from the floor within. Approaching, they see that the images are of a Rococo room.
Steps to the platform beckon for a closer look. Standing next to the glass room, spectators notice a brass peekhole in the top/ceiling. Peering inside they see, momentarily, the Rococo ceiling, but just as it appears, it seems to be interrupted by the floor image on the monitor and this floor image, in its turn, is again overtaken by the ceiling. The space in the miniature room destabilizes.
On one side of the room, where a knob on an instrument would be, is a hole to put one's hand inside the room ... to enter. With this intervention by the spectator, the third state begins. To an outsider, the miniature room suddenly becomes opaque and loses all its transparency and detail. Meanwhile, the peering spectator stares down at this hand spread across the room's floor. This floor moves away from him and his hand appears to be infinitely travelling away. It is taking his body with it ... as if miniature space is folded into infinite space, as if stillness is folded into motion. The body loses all references: inside/ outside; giant/miniature; spectator/ object; part/whole. It becomes an instrumental site and part of the dispersion of events.
As the spectator withdraws, the transparent miniature room reappears, glowing once again. The 'Virtual Body' is a nostalgic material object. A first sight, the piece seems like a museum object of alluring, warm, fine materials. It re-creates the 19C idea of the beautiful and, with it, the reassurance of the clear distinction between the spectator and the object. This spectator relationship is familiar. It is just this familiar relation that is challenged in new technologies. And once the spectator interacts with the piece, this initial spectator/ object relation is turned inside out. (Catherine Richards)