Liquid Views - Touch as Vision
Narcisissm - from Fresco Painting to Virtual Reality


Narcisissm in the mirror of society deals with self-reflection and self-knowledge. On one hand narcisissm is needed for self preservation - how else could men as the only entity abide the awareness of the dead. On the other, narcisissm controls aggression - because man is destructive right there where he loves.

Narcisissm in the mirror of art can be traced back to the originally mythologic narcissistic figure which since antiquity has been interpreted as a parable for self love - documented in Fresco Paintings in Pompeii. In Ovid's Metamorphoses, he speaks about the dialectic of identity and difference, contrast and assimilation metaphorically in the figure of Echo and the pond in which Narcissus mirrors himself. A mirror, by inverting reality and showing something that is there and not there, raises the same problems of presence and absence.

Then the motif of Narcissus disappeared for about a 1000 years from the artwork, and it was picked-up again in the Renaissance. Narciso painted by Caravaggio, is a young man addicted to the ecstacy of his reflection on the water. The "spot like" illumination from different directions on persons and materials is known today from film and theatre. Oscar Wilde in The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) describes the story of narcissistic self destruction. The Dictatorship of an ideal of Youth and Beauty leads to a life in beauty and the deprivation of reality. Albert Lewin's 1945 film, The Picture of Dorian Gray uses a painting as its centerpiece. The protagonist trades places with a portrait of himself, so the painting grows older while Dorian Gray remains young.

In Rigid Waves and Liquid Views (Fleischmann, Strauss, Bohn, 1993) media narciss experiences reality as boundless. The spectator's transition into another world happens through touching their own fictitious body. Touch is the interface into the virtual world and the mediator of different languages and perceptions. Both interactive works stride new ways in men-machine-communication. To touch a water surface, to influence a mirror are reactions which correlate with reality. The interface with the machine is imperceptible. Through these elemental references, the works become Virtual Reality.

Monika Fleischmann (born 1950) is a research artist and head of computer art activities at GMD's Institute for Media Communication in Bonn, Sankt Augustin Germany. In 1988 she was co-founder of Art+Com, Berlin, a research institute for computer assisted media research. Her multidisciplinary background (fashion design, art and drama, computer graphics) made her an expert in the world of art, computer science and media technology. Her body of work of Monika Fleischmann includes Home of the Brain, (Golden Nica of Ars Electronica, 1992); Liquid Views (1993) is seen as one of the masterpieces in Media Art. 1993 she was nominated for the Unesco Award.

She is a member of Goethe institute's advisory board for MEDIA and in the advisory board for the German Pavillon for Culture for EXPO2000. She is engaged in international conferences and competitions like Cyberconf and Cyberstar. 1996 she was ART Chair of ACM Multimedia '96. Fleischmann and her partners Wolfgang Strauss (media-architect) and Christian-A. Bohn (computer scientist) has been exhibited widely throughout the world. Their work has been included in festivals and exhibitions of new media art worldwide.

Wolfgang Strauss (born 1951) is an architect and media-artist in the field of "Virtual Architecture" and "Interface Design". Founder of "Virtual Worlds Studio" in Briey, France at the Centre de Recherche Corbusier, co-founder ofArt+Com, Berlin. Teaching positions at the Academy of Fine Arts Berlin and at the KHM Media Art School Cologne. Currently he is a guest professor of interactive media studies at the School of Fine Arts Saarbrcken, Germany. His artistic work - includes Berlin - Cyber City, Responsive Workbench, Rigid Waves amongst other interactive environments. Strauss is a guest-researcher at the GMD-Institute for Media Communication.

Christian-A. Bohn (born 1963) studied computer science and is responsible for Scientific Visualization, Neural Networks and Virtual Reality at GMD. He developed a speech and a gesture recognition system as a natural interface for interactive virtual environments like the Responsive Workbench or the Spatial Navigator. Also he leads projects concerning Radiosity rendering on the Connection machine (supercomputer). Bohn works on his PHD in Neural Networks the GMD-Institute for Media Communication.