Leonardo, Volume 32, Issue 2

April 1999


Artist's Note

  • Philosophy and Visual Representation: Imaging the Impossible
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    Visualization techniques used in science and the arts for the advanced analysis of information and theories can and should be similarly used in the humanities. Within the discipline of philosophy there are both the possibility and the necessity to examine and present ideas using visualization techniques. The author created a CD-ROM entitled Blinded … in an attempt to use visualization techniques to analyze and represent a metaphysical action proposed by the French philosopher George Bataille. He discusses the creation of that work and the theories involved in the conjunction of philosophy and visualization.

Artists' Statements

Special Section: Virtual Africa

  • Virtual Cairo: An Urban Historian's View of Computer Simulation
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    Recent advances in computer-visualization technology have brought urban historians new tools for analyzing the growth of historic cities. This paper examines both the prospects and problems involved in using this technology to map the development of urban form. Using a computer model of Cairo in two different periods of the Middle Ages, the author has attempted to reconstruct the physical reality of the city and to animate the city so that modernday observers may experience its principal streets. While the work has shown computer simulation to be a significant tool for helping urban historians understand the built environments of the past, it has also exposed possible pitfalls in the seductive potential of such simulations.

Historical Perspectives on the Arts, Sciences and Technology

  • The Old Testament Trinity of Andrey Rublyov: Geometry and Philosophy
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    The philosophical and theological content of a masterpiece of Old Russian icon-painting—Andrey Rublyov's Trinity is regarded in the light of its geometry. The aspects under study are the geometrical properties of the rectangle of the Trinity (which generate a sequence of circumferences related by the golden proportion) and also some of the peculiarities in the composition of the icon. The roles of the circle, the octagon and inverse perspective in the Trinity are discussed. The author establishes correspondence between the theological triad Revelation—Illumination Transformation, which makes up the fundamental content of the Trinity, and the mirror and dynamic symmetries of the icon.


  • The Large Glass Seen Anew: Reflections of Contemporary Science and Technology in Marcel Duchamp's “Hilarious Picture”
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    Marcel Duchamp's The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass) of 1915–1923 is a unique image-text system in which the physical object is complemented by hundreds of preparatory notes the artist considered to be as important as the object itself. Although Duchamp talked of “Playful Physics” in his notes for the Glass, much of his humor and the breadth of his creative invention was obscured for later audiences when, after 1919, the popularization of relativity theory eclipsed the late Victorian ether physics that had fascinated the public in the early years of the century. Indeed, drawing upon contemporary science and technology, among other fields, Duchamp had created in the Large Glass a witty, multivalent commentary on the age-old theme of sexual desire, presented in the very newest verbal and visual languages. These ideas are explored in this article, reprinted from the conclusion of the author's book Duchamp in Context: Science and Technology in the Large Glass and Related Works.

Design Languages

  • On the Need for Visual Formalisms in Music Processing
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    Computer music environments (CMEs) are notoriously difficult to design and implement. As computer programs, they reflect the complex nature of music ontology and must support real-time manipulation of multimedia data. In addition, these programs must be usable by native users, supporting their creative process without obstructing it through technical difficulties. To achieve these goals, the authors argue, CMEs must be provided with a well-defined methodology relying on techniques from the fields of software engineering, artificial intelligence, and knowledge representation. This paper contributes an aspect of this methodology, concentrating on the role of visualizations in CMEs. The authors state that visualization deserves a specialized theory that is based on music ontology and that is independent of the concrete, implemented graphical interface.

Leonardo Reviews