enclosure and the senses

Monday, June 14th, 2004

The sim runs on a square box in the square room. It runs within a border marked by plastic, creating its native enclosure. On the screen is a perspective map of a seductive track (Apricot Hill), distant hills, the sun in the sky, shadings. Because of the use of perspective, an illusion of spaciousness is created within the plastic frame. I stare at the screen. The space looks grand, distant, lighted, and big. This is a motion landscape with tilt, flash, and texture. All on the screen. This is why I had claimed that the sim space drills into the room, because from my perspective the screen shows space drilling into the distance, but behind it is just the rear of the TV.

The arrangements of objects are augmented by sound in Gran Turismo. Sound adds to a sense of spaciousness. I perceive a larger space because of the aural mix, the growl of engines, the screech of tires, the aggressiveness of the opponents machines rushing up, coming beside, or going past. This design gives an impression of behind, sideways, and ahead just as a silent window in a room gives a greater sense of perspective to an otherwise abrupt space. In Kafkas The Trial K enters a Cathedral to meet with the Italian. While waiting the authors delivers a sense of the interior of the space by playing with light and darkness.

In the distance a large triangle of candle flames gleamed on the high altar; K. couldnt say for certain of he had seen them before. Perhaps they had just been lighted. Sextons are stealthy by profession, one hardly notices them. K. happened to turn around and saw not far behind him a tall, thick candle affixed to a column, burning as well. Lovely as it was, it was an entirely inadequate illumination for the alterpieces, most of which were hanging in the darkness of the side chapels; it actually increased the darkness.

Here a few points of light are the only landmarks that position K. in what may or may not be a massive space. Yet, the light isnt enough to reveal the details. The cathedrals darkness spreads around K, hiding edges, shrinking or confusing distances, obscuring panorama. The Italian had been as right as he was impolite not to come; there would have been nothing to see, and would have had to rest content with examining a few paintings inch by inch with Ks pocket flashlight (207). K does exactly this, examines a painting with his flashlight. In the space of the cathedral he must move close in order to make out objects, and is able to only see parts of a painting because of the restricted light.

. . . K. approached a small nearby chapel, climbed a few steps to a low marble balustrade and, leaning forward over it, illuminated the altarpiece with his flashlight. The sanctuary lamp dangled annoyingly in the way The first thing K. saw, and in part surmised, was a tall knight in armor, portrayed at the extreme edge of the painting. He was leaning on his sword, which he had thrust into the bare earthonly a few blades of grass sprang up here and therebefore him. He seemed to be gazing attentively at a scene taking place directly in front of him.

This absurd study is played against the suggested size of the space of the cathedral, a place so large and dark, that to perceive the details, K. has to put his nose to a painting and even then he can only see it in contextless pieces, much like listening to a few seconds of a song and having to identify it. He wonders over the knight, asks questions. Whats the knight doing? Why? K. realizes after groping over the piece that the painting depicts the entombment of Christ.

To move back a bit then, Id asked the question: can one infer a sense of time in the monotone of the desert? The same can be asked: in the landscape, can one infer a sense of spaciousness with the eyes closed? Spatial knowledge becomes that much more complex. The sense of smell, hearing, and sight aide in our judgment of where we are.


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