Immersion I

For John Dewey, immersion is a basic feature of art. Art is different from dream because the recipient connects with an object, a work of art, in such a way that his feelings and ideas are fused with the object, a work of art. It cannot be distinguished whether they are the feelings and ideas of the beholder or those of the picture. Feelings and ideas of the beholder must be saturated by the work of art to such a degree that they no longer have an existence independent of the work of art. This saturation is what Dewey calls „immersion“. Diving into an object like this is a necessary condition for perceiving this object as a work of art 1

If immersion is a basic feature of art, how has its importance changed today? If it has been around in art forever, you do not need to invent a new form of art. Is the essential change that immersion, as a kind of technique, has moved from art to commerce (video games and advertising) 2  and now art must reconquer this technique for being able to reflect on this technique in a critical way?

In the history of the arts, there seems to be a race between the development of ever new techniques of illusion and the competence of the recipients to see through these techniques and regain their distance from them 3. Today, what is being called „immersive art“ is in the vanguard of this movement. The dominant impulse, however, seems to be the wish to overwhelm, to eliminate the distance between the work of art and its recipient, the „increase of the power of suggestion“ 4. Of course, the aim is also to make transparent this power of images, the influence of suggestive techniques, by using ingenious concepts of art. And that is what is required if immersive art wants to assert itself as a kind of art: it requires the „development of an efficient antidote against the hype of virtual-immersive images, which is so widespread today“ 5.


  1.  „An esthetic product results only when ideas cease to float and are embodied in an object, and the one who experiences the work of art loses himself in irrelevant reverie unless his images and emotions are also tied to the object, and are tied to it in the sense of being fused with the matter of the object. It is not enough that they should be occasioned by the object: in order to be an experience of the object they must be saturated with its qualities. Saturation means an immersion so complete that the qualities of the object and the emotions that it arouses have mo separate existence.“ John Dewey, Art as Experience. New York: Penguin Perigree, 2005 (first 1934) p.288

  2.  „This new mode of storytelling is transforming not just entertainment (the stories that are offered to us for entertainment) but also advertising (the stories marketers tell us about their products) and autobiography (the stories we tell about ourselves)“. p.3 „And that immersiveness is what blurs the line, not just between story and game, but between story and marketing, storyteller and audience, illusion and reality.“ p. 15 Frank Rose, The Art of Immersion: How the digital generation is remaking Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the way we tell stories. New York: W.W. Norton & Co, 2012

  3.  „Books, movies, television, virtual worlds – century after century, we port our willing suspension of disbelief to whatever new and more immersive medium appears. So, what do we do when the universe this latest medium spins for us begins to fall apart – as inevitably it will?“ Frank Rose, op. cit., p. 319 and Oliver Grau, Oliver Grau, Immersion und Interaktion: Vom Rundfresko zum interaktiven Bildraum, p.11/13

  4.  Oliver Grau,  Oliver Grau, Immersion und Interaktion: Vom Rundfresko zum interaktiven Bildraum, s.a. p.14

  5.  Oliver Grau,  Oliver Grau, Immersion und Interaktion: Vom Rundfresko zum interaktiven Bildraum, s.a. p.31

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