Some artists create expressly temporal and ephemeral work. Performances which can not be photographed, filmed or even where no sound may be recorded are quite common. Other artists record their work diligently. On of them is Gordon Matta-Clark. He made pictures, videos, and even panoramic collages of the buildings he mathematically pierced. With the explicit intention to preserve the spatial work, he took photographs from all angles in the buildings condemned to demolition. However, does a photo do a spacial installation justice? If these flat pictures really preserve the original art experience, can I squeeze that spaciousness again?

To find out, I have developed a reconstruction process. I collected all the available photographs from the piece Conical Intersect (1975) and used perspective lines to measure them. The resulting 3D model is shown in Virtual Reality goggles. In my reconstruction process, besides unfolding the existing photo, there are aspects of polishing, merging and filling in. This tension between machine-like processing of information, and secondly, human interpretation requires structured interpretation.

To give the work more context I didn’t think it was enough to just to write an accompanying text. That is why I also made a video essay. The video is introduced by a very staunch philosopher who says that art means nothing without a world around it. I therefore try to give the viewer a taste, in short, of the world around Conical Intersect. Fragments of the author, the historical context of Paris in 1975 and the reconstruction process. Presented on a black and white TV, even though the video was made in color. This is because the information in this case is more important than pretty pictures, and because this increases contrast with the VR goggles.

Like a restorer has forced authorship in restoring a painting, I wonder how that works when the restoration takes place in a total virtual medium. Everything is fake, but as real as possible. This requires embracing imperfection and limitation. I can not map in detail the debris at the bottom of the building. I can not take a grainy picture and translate every stain on the wallpaper. You get at best the illusion of perfect reconstruction

The concept “Remediation”- from the book by the same name – means that the first stage in a new artistic medium is the translation from the old medium. To get to know the medium of Virtual Reality I am working within this first step. When translating something that is not complete, the honest hing to do is to leave gaps in the translation. But my goal is not fairness, it is to be faithful to the spatial experience. When this illusion is broken down the work is unfinished. If there is something of a ‘signature style’ in it, it is hidden in the process of reconstruction.

In the medium Virtual Reality viewers feel transported to another reality. The concept of ‘presence’ plays an important role here: the feeling that you are really somewhere, for example in the building of Matta-Clark’s “Conical Intersect“. The flat photographic form already spoke to my fascination with space. But I wanted the spatial feeling of this work – which was built up in my head – translated as well as possible, in order to bring the physical spatial experience back to life.


  • Remediation: Understanding New Media, Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin, 1999, The MIT Press
  • Object to be destroyed: The Work Of Gordon Matta-Clark, Pamela M. Lee, 2000, The MIT Press

Published by Dennis Molema

Educator in Art and Technology. | postphysical art spaces | digital art conservation | copyright and the commons | utopian politics

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