"Realism in artistic expression is nothing new."
There have always been reality-simulation devices, of course. Representational art has long been fascinated with the prospect of the totally convincing canvas, or mural, or (to use the most current term) chunk of cyberspace.
The caveman recoiled in fright before the oily depiction of the hungry mastiff which he himself just painted on the wet walls of the cave; Michelangelo's "David" looked like David himself, only a bit bigger, much to the astonishment of Florentine pundits.
Dutch artists perfected canvasses replete in detail, while critics, familiar only with fuzzier pictures, marveled and stroked their beards; mystery novelists put down words in serial order which would keep readers on the edge of their chairs, casting nervous glances over their shoulders late at night and thinking themselves at a risk equal to that of the heroine.
The RCA-Records canine mascot cocks its head, convinced that it is His Master's Voice which emanates from the horn; children at the 3-D matinee performance duck and drop their plastic glasses and popcorn onto the floor as the lance is thrown from the silver screen out into the audience.
Television sets boast higher and higher degrees of resolution, approaching the representational accuracy of 35 millimeter slides, and are installed in home theaters, flanked by audio transducers and proud Yuppie owners; the opera singer's high-C shatters the champagne glass, but then it transpires that the sound was a recording on a Memorex tape cassette, and that there is no opera singer behind the curtain at all, but a tape deck and a pair of high-end, high-fidelity loudspeakers, instead.
Experiments in virtual reality have been going on for a long time, and share a common dependence on technologies, such as those which existed for cavemen, those with which we play today, and those which may become available to visionary graduate students of the 21st century, and a common focus: the representation of our physical surroundings in a manner so refined, and so persuasive, as to confuse the average subject-observer, and to render him unable to say what exactly is "real," and what is not.
Realism in artistic expression has always sought to achieve that focus, and realism in artistic expression is nothing new.
© 1993, Gilbert Scott Markle.
All original material copyright © Gilbert Scott Markle. All rights reserved.