An Impression of Physical Space

Moving a camera to the edge of a room, through a doorway and pointing a lens out into the dark – within in a simulation – can induce the same kind of pit-of-the-stomach queasiness that standing at the edge of a cliff or any other tall structure can.

Spending some time modelling and recreating a physical space in 3D software, this feeling occurs often. Tracking a camera through the system of pipes in the roof – vertigo. Moving the camera high above the room and looking down at the lights glinting through the ceiling tiles – nausea. The feeling coincides with movement. I’ve made every surface in this digital space derived from primitive geometry and planes, sculpted the bin wheels, skirting boards and moulding. I know that every part of the simulation is, in a sense, false, not materially real, and digitally fabricated. Yet, there is a part of how I read this moving image that bypasses good sense and induces a physical reaction. How it affects me contradicts the image’s status as only fiction, just an illusion.

Of course, these sensations have recently been named cybersickness and digital vertigo.* The associated feeling and sensations don’t require a VR headset. They can be induced by any shape and colour movement on a screen. Tricking my sense of proprioception seems to be compounded by moving images that describe space and contain perspective. Cinema has been doing this since its beginning.** Even if I am fully aware that the structures I can see are false, residing in fiction, they nonetheless can render a very definite, physical impression.

*Endless Scrolling Through Social Media can Literally Make you Sick

**The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station