Recent developments in image-making techniques have resulted in a drastic blurring of the threshold between the world of the image and the real world. Immersive and interactive virtual environments (VEs) have enabled the production of pictures that elicit an unprecedented reality effect, creating in the perceiver a strong feeling of ‘being there’, namely of being incorporated into a quasi-real world. In doing so, they conceal their material mediateness (by simulating immediateness), their separateness (by aiming at unframedness), and their referentiality (by emphasizing presentness), paradoxically challenging their status as images, i.e. as icons: they are veritable ‘an-icons’.
Factum Arte’s prodigious industry since the mid-nineties means we will have to rethink what we mean by original, copy, and authenticity. Technologies developed under its aegis mean it is now possible to capture and record data about an artwork to an accuracy of 100 microns (100 million measured spatial points per square meter) – and for the first time, this year, these works can now be rematerialized to an accuracy of 20 microns. This is, as Simon Schaffer says, marks a ‘complete revolution in the last two decades’