Re-visiting the Virtual in Byzantine Iconography: A Case of Immersion, Embodiment and Power

By Elena Stylianou.

Published by The Arts Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper will examine the nature of the virtual as a philosophical concept that reflects our embodied experiences with artworks through the sense of immersion. The discussion will move beyond contemporary understandings of the virtual wanting it coupled with technological applications or computer generated three-dimensional environments. The paper will instead examine the notion of the virtual in art in relation to immersive experiences following historic and philosophical attempts to define the virtual. Such definitions include: Bergson’s 1880s view that the virtual reflects the immateriality of memory and the ontological distinctions between the possible and the actual, and Deleuze’s idea that the virtual is the condition for actual experiences. The paper will specifically look at the virtual through Byzantine iconography; the latter an art form of great immersive potential, even though this often falls under the radar of orthodox art history as well as of contemporary theory. This immersive potential is the result of: a) the icon’s unique aesthetic and b) the icon’s function as a means of devotion defined by the intentions of religious power. In effect, the paper will argue that the nature of the virtual in art can be separated from neither aesthetics nor art’s context of production.

Keywords: Virtual, Byzantine Iconography, Immersion, Affection, Religious Power, Bergson, Deleuze

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp.233-242. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 604.506KB).

Dr. Elena Stylianou

Nicosia, Cyprus

Elena Stylianou is a lecturer in Art History at the Department of Arts at the European University Cyprus. She previously worked as a research postdoctoral fellow at the University of London, Institute of Education (UK) investigating the relationship between technology and museums. She holds a Doctorate from Columbia University, Teachers College, New York with specialization in Art Theory and Aesthetics (2007) and a Masters from Columbia University, Teachers College, New York in Museum Studies (2004).


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