Once upon a time, I was sitting in a middle school English classroom, when a classmate of mine asked a peculiar question. "Did we dream in black & white in the past?" This of course was brought on due to a class discussion on black & white television and photography. And almost 15 years later this question still baffles me as I think about how disconnected we are from the humans in the past in understanding just how similar they are were to us. We look at vintage photographs of the early 20th century, and imagine that those people lived in a completely different world from us, that Victorian people were all stuffy and serious. All entirely based on how we perceive the medium available at the time. But the reality of it is that people have always been people, and the past isn’t really as far away as we think it is. Which is something I'd be interested in exploring.
Now, how does this tie in at all to Roman Villas and tactile digital worlds? Simple. The world has always been full of color, rich, decadent color that we as humans have tried to capture. So isn't it a little weird that we always perceive the height of Greek and Roman art as these colorless marble sculptures? Many reasons are attributed to why many of these sculptures were scrubbed clean of the vibrant colors they once held. But the truth remains, that to fully immerse yourself in a scene of what would have been a home in the height of the Roman Empire, you needed color.
I've come to realize just how much color impacts how we relate to media. While my initial interest in this project specifically dealt with the touch aspect of these objects, I'm noticing that mapping color to the models of these sculptures and giving them the vibrancy they would have held in their prime will also be a great gateway into creating an immersive environment. A perfect example I've seen recently was at the Roman Baths in Bath, England. Behind a glass case you can see a full-size, gilt bronze statue of the goddess Sulis Minerva. Near the statue however, there is a cast replica of the same head with a sign reading PLEASE TOUCH, encouraging visitors to engage with model and bringing them closer to the past. There have been various projects to scan and recreate models from these crumbling artifacts that we hold on to, and I think these two concepts can be combines into one.
While a bit far fetched from where this project might go, I rendered below how I would imagine recreating a scene with a fragmented piece of a statue could be simulated. A base body could hold the 3D printed replica in its correct placement. Once the headset was put on, the rest of the body could be filled around the body form, before then adding the rest of the world and the color of the sculpture itself. I'm still figuring out if this project should be a VR or AR undertaking, but we'll see where it goes.