The installation Capriccio is a transformation of familiar views of the city in order to render the imaginary visible. The same methods that are used to create illusion in popular film serve as the starting point for this video and painting installation. Borrowing from the filmmaker’s craft by using matte paintings, the work adapts a technique normally used in movie special effects to bring together actual filmed footage with painted scenery, rendering familiar views of Vancouver transformed. In this ten-minute video, the matte painting technique is used to juxtapose video footage of three Vancouver locations with painted scenes from the English Bay area of Vancouver, Florence, Italy and San Miguel, Mexico.
The matte paintings used to produce this illusion are presented along with the video to contrast the seemingly effortless realism of the moving pictures against the laborious process necessary to create them. The paintings work as a counterpoint to the video, negating the dreamlike state of this immersive medium and bringing the viewer’s attention back to the physical.
The title of the work comes from the Italian word used for a form of painting popularized in the 18th century in which contemporary scenes and characters were combined with ancient buildings or exotic locales in highly detailed renderings. Practitioners of this form included the painters Canaletto and Bellotto, whose capriccios stand in contrast to the detailed depictions of urban life for which they are better known. As present-day versions of the capriccio, movies embody the same desire to make the imaginary seem palpable and real, unencumbered by the logic of time and distance.
What Separates Cities?
In a world where the line between the real and the virtual is increasingly blurred, distances are bridged as much by the journey physically taking a traveler to a new destination as by the power of representation that conjures up an image in the mind. In Newton’s mechanical universe, distance could only be conquered through the physical journey, the real displacement undertaken to inhabit another place. In the Quantum universe, however, where uncertainty is a guiding principle and quasi-instant exchange is the norm, distances evaporate before the seduction of immersive imagery, which is experienced virtually in the mind. In such a universe, we have no need for the actual journey because every place is already here.
The post-modern condition, representing a turn away from modernism’s emphasis on reduction and synthesis and moving toward hybridism and juxtaposition, finds expression in the fabric of the city, where incongruity is commonplace and the aesthetic of the collage is a familiar one. A new notion of authenticity is at play here, one where architecture mines the past and the exotic for their aesthetic potential and film, mass media, and personal imagery refocus our grasp on the lived experience and physical surroundings, ultimately reshaping our sense of place.