Sun 8 Jul 2007
In the early nineties The Boston Computer Museum and a magazine called The High Tech Times sold a derivative print of Hokusai‘s The Great Wave off Kanagawa called The Wave of the Future. The image begins at the left with the original Great Wave, and is color pixellated through the center, and another wave in wireframe is added to the right. An original Great Wave print hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC, and in Claude Monet‘s house in Giverny, France. An original Wave of the Future print hangs opposite a print of the original in the staircase of my home. It appears that the full size digital rendition is out of print and unavailable from any source except a few copies in private hands. I was unable to find any indication of the artist’s identity or other information about this work.
The image contrasts the size and power of the wave with the skill and courage of the fishermen and with the strength of Mount Fuji in the background. The revised image continues this contrast of strength versus skill, in taking at first the woodblock print technology representing a natural scene, then pixelation as a computer monitor with very low resolution would produce, followed by a coarse wireframe model of a new larger wave than the original. Wireframe modelling is the underlying basis for 3d modeling as used in Pixar movies. The strength and power of the natural world is represented by the skill of the art of Kokausi, followed by the revised technological representations of his work – at first crudely and coarsely done, then refining to something that reflects or virtualizes nature. The Wave of the Future tends to bit pop art – adding color noise in the pixelation, and using a coarse wire frame in the added wave, but it made the point then, and can be seen with an additional perspective now.
My eysight is fairly myopic. This morning I stepped out of the shower without my glasses. When I looked across the room at The Wave of the Future it was as though none of the digitizing was there and Kokausi had printed it all. It reminded me of how much our mind “fills in” the blank spots of a representation. The entire experience can be evoked by the barest of hints. In its own way The Wave of the Future is an expressionist work, just taking the representation in a different direction than the old masters.
You can recognize a person by their gait, or the shape of their chin, sometimes with considerable embarrassment, incorrectly. Before the error is exposed, the complete visage of that person is represented in your mind as thoroughly as if you had spent the day with them. That visage can come crashing down, and leave you speechless and stammering when you realize that the person you greeted as a pal is a complete stranger.
I suspect that nearly everything that is familiar is stored in a recognition memory of very few bits. We should be aware of this when we see an effect and automatically assume that it is “just like” something else, as we may have really made that connection on very little information.
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