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    The ceramic age: a gloss on depth

    Electronic Visualisation and the Arts (EVA 2010)

    London, UK, 5 - 7 July 2010


    Alan Read


    The Mesopotamian invention of suspended narratives in mineral pigment and glaze produced in the fifteen thousand year old ‘new technology’ of the ceramic tile sets the scene for my talk for EVA 2010 (and this published paper which is intended to act as a prologue to that talk). It was this invention, a mass-produced media technology with the limit of a prototype glass screen that allowed commentators to distinguish between the repetitious, the mimetic and the bespoke for the first time.

    The ceramic tile had the added dimension of a porous, Silesian sandy surface to its rear-side that promised some sort of permeability with the outside world with which it interfaced. So in the ceramictile we have the classic bonding of a surface of impermeable aesthetics founded on a promise of interactivity with the environment within which the work takes its place. The technology operating here is not dissimilar in its logics to that of a genealogy of subsequent pretenders to the fruits of a tension between surface and immersion in a ‘world’: from viscous oil painting to video installation, from television to Nintendo.

    It would be the holy grail of interactivity to be in a position to announce this moment as the end of the ceramic age. Immersive technologies motored by digital apparatuses promise virtual environments that might, just might, provide us with the much-desired figure of a ‘point of entry’. The recalcitrance of the veneered surface of the ceramic model would thus be finally consigned to history. This paper will sketch out some reasons why my own field of theatre and performance might have some reservations as to such a voluntaristic claim, and why looking ‘around the back’ of the image machine can still bear some fruit in the age of the apparatus.


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    EVA 2010: Electronic Visualisation and the Arts cover

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