Inverse presence: This beautiful art installation looks like Photoshop. It’s not.

[In most presence experiences technology creates the illusion of reality, while inverse presence experiences produce the illusion that reality is mediated by technology (see “When ‘real’ seems mediated: Inverse presence”). Recent art installations by German duo Quintessenz provide a vivid example, as described in this short story from Fast Company about the 2017 work Paradis Perdus. The original story includes more images and a 0:33 minute video; for more details and photos see the Quintessenz website. And for coverage of the duo’s latest work see This is Colossal. –Matthew]

This beautiful art installation looks like Photoshop. It’s not.

By Jesus Diaz
July 24, 2018

The work of the German art duo Thomas Granseuer and Tomislav Topic–also known as Quintessenz–is as fascinating as it is disorienting.

The duo want their art to make you question reality. “We always want to create works that are kind of disorienting,” Topic explains over email. “We want to play with [our] perception, creating something that seems digital in the analog world.”

As part of A-Part, a contemporary art festival in Provence, the duo created an installation called Paradis Perdus in a public square of the French town of Les Baux. You’ve probably heard the theory that we’re living in a simulation? Well, this is what it would look like if that digital simulation experienced some kind of corruption.

The installation is almost like three-dimensional graffiti. Set in the ruins of Les Baux, which date back to antiquity, the piece has a light footprint: The artists simply used metal rods to hang pieces of semitransparent textile patches of different sizes along the square. The resulting gradients of color are reminiscent of digital color palettes like RGB or CMYK.

It’s almost as if the effect has been added in Photoshop, as some form of post-production. As the swatches react to the wind, it becomes clear that the piece is quite real–and somehow, that makes it even more hallucinogenic.


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