Vanishing Point(s)

v1.0 by: Michael Takeo Magruder with Dr. Hugh Denard, 2010

An installation conjoining the principles of ancient Roman fresco art with digital virtual worlds in the idiom of stained glass.

About the Artwork:

Vanishing Point(s) is a site-specific art installation by Michael Takeo Magruder and Dr. Hugh Denard that explores creative collisions and collaborative possibilities between contemporary art discourse and humanities research. Commissioned for Digital Humanities 2010 for the Great Hall of the Grade I listed King's Building created in 1831 by English architect Sir Robert Smirke (1781-1867), the project conjoins Takeo's long-standing use of computational processes and virtual environments as frameworks for artistic expression and Denard's studies of the playfully illusionistic and fantastical worlds of Roman fresco art.

The installation takes as its inspiration the astonishingly complex and beautiful ways in which Roman architecture and painting often converged, immersing the viewer in imagined spaces – idealised cities and gardens, palaces and shrines, theatres and basilicas – and beguilingly interweaving physical architecture with painted views so that it is not always easy to discern fact from fantasy; these were indeed 'virtual' worlds that can speak to the digitally-generated virtual worlds of the Avatar Age. The creators have drawn deeply upon the conceptual and compositional principles of theatrically-inspired Roman frescoes to form new, classically-influenced vistas in the online synthetic realm of Second Life as the visual source material for a new work that that also draws on spatial-pictorial traditions of stained glass.

Vanishing Point(s) interpolates an elegant, uncanny virtual garden into the enclosed urban space between the King's Building and East Range, calling upon the daily rhythms of natural light to animate, through semi-translucent film, a magically poised moment that is at once dawn, noon, dusk and night, while subtle framing elements tease the viewer with playful elisions of physical and virtual space.


Virtual: A synthetic garden occupying an entire Sim (256m2 of virtual land) within Second Life; constructed from 'natural' and 'architectural' elements, scripted birds and a Doll (an avatar body, devoid of human presence that is used to portray views of the virtual realm).

Physical: 30m2 of Duratrans (large-format digital transparency film) attached to the 108 window panes of the Great Hall's end wall and backlit by the surrounding ambient light.

Virtual/Physical Documentation:

Experience Version 1.0:

Virtual: Transitional Space, Second Life: A Windows/Mac/Linux computer system running the current Second Life client is required to visit the shared virtual environment. A high-specification CPU/GPU, 5.1 or stereo audio, a colour display with ≥1024x768 resolution and a 1Mbps+ Internet connection are recommended.

Physical: The Strand Campus, King's College London, UK: View the physical installation in the Great Hall of the Grade I listed King's Building. * note * When the Great Hall is in use for a function or event, public access to the space will be limited.

Research, Process and Installation Documentation:

In Collaboration with:

Dr. Hugh Denard [ academic research ]

With Thanks to:

Prof. Harold Short (KCL) [ curation ] . Drew Baker [ Second Life modelling and scripting ] . Martin Blazeby [ 2D visualisation and research ] . Duncan Ede (KCL) [ facilities support ] . Emma Puente [ photographic documentation ] . Elma Sanders [ discourse ]

Supported by:

Vanishing Point(s) is a commission for Digital Humanities 2010. It was made possible with generous support from the Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London.

Artwork Requirements:

Virtual: Windows/Mac/Linux computer system with the current Second Life client and stereo audio. A high-specification CPU/GPU, colour display with ≥1024x768 resolution and high-speed Internet connection are recommended.

Physical: site-specific Duratrans installation.

© TAKEO 2010