La sempre più diffusa abitudine alla fruizione digitale del patrimonio artistico rischia di allontanarci dalla originaria dimensione materiale delle opere d’arte e dai rispettivi contesti storici di provenienza, impedendoci di comprendere quel legame in ogni epoca fortissimo tra modi di fruizione e modi di visione, ovvero tra contesto e significato, tra luogo e percezione, tra oggetto e punto di vista, tra illuminazione e qualità dei materiali. Posti adesso al servizio della ricerca filologica, gli strumenti di elaborazione digitale delle immagini, insieme a specifici espedienti di illuminotecnica possono contribuire a ricreare virtualmente e concretamente, all’interno dei musei e presso i siti storici, quegli effetti di illuminazione artificiale (prodotti da torce, candele, lucerne a olio…) per i quali le opere d’arte del passato erano state pensate al tempo in cui la luce elettrica non esisteva. La proposta progettuale intende così indicare un orientamento di metodo storico-critico finora per niente seguito, che possa avere importanti ricadute non solo nella didattica e nella ricerca storico-artistica, ma anche nella collaborazione tra il mondo degli umanisti e quello delle imprese e delle attività produttive.
Abstract del progetto
From the remotest antiquity of human history up to almost the present day, artistic masterpieces of every age and culture have always been exposed to very different lighting conditions from those created by modern light bulbs and electric spotlights. The most precious works of art were in fact admired according to specific fruition methods that we have completely lost the memory of: the objects were placed in suggestive dimensions of darkness, illuminated by candles, torches, directional oil lamps to allow the appreciation of the formal qualities and the ability of the materials to react to the luminous solicitations produced by live flames.
Electric light has certainly revolutionised viewing habits and ways of perceiving art history. But today, works of art from the past are exposed to light sources that are sometimes distorting and violent, incorrectly oriented and disrespectful of the qualities of the object and the original social habits of fruition. However, while the problem of light pollution, which prevents people from enjoying the beauty of the starry sky in cities, has been discussed for some time, too little is said about the possibility of using monuments of the past in a philologically correct manner, exposing them to lighting conditions that are more respectful of their historical contexts and the environment.
The research activities of the Dark Vision Experience project aim to indicate a fundamentally innovative approach to the history of art, understood no longer only as the history of visual values, but as the history of objects and bodies interacting in every age in the spaces of human society. The philological examination of ancient sources will be used to develop a number of technological devices (LED lighting, projectors for videomapping, 3D virtual reconstructions) to create specific immersive environments in museums, churches and theatres, for educational or cultural entertainment purposes.
The DVE project stems from the need to rethink the methods and techniques of teaching and enjoying art history. The widespread use of digital images leads the modern observer to uncritically “replace” the actual reality of an art object with its digital reality, to the point of eclipsing the object behind its immaterial virtual image. The result is that not only young people but also scholars and teachers lose the correct historical perspective on our heritage, regardless of the physicality of the artwork, its functions, the conditions of visibility and light for which it was created. Today’s viewer is addicted to digital reproductions and artificial lights projected onto the works, which distort the perception of materials and colours, flattening them abstractly.
Dark vision Experience (DVE) aims to develop certain lighting tools, as well as to elaborate and modify the brightness effects of digital images, respecting the original lighting conditions and the social prerogatives of the places of artworks, according to an accurate study of the historical evidence – textual, archaeological, figurative – concerning the original use of artificial light.
The first phase of the project concerns the selection and philological examination of historical, archaeological and literary evidence from all ages, in order to trace the original forms of illumination of the artworks. The time span will be as wide as possible: from prehistoric caves to 19th century museum rooms. The written accounts of artists in the modern age, from Leonardo da Vinci to Canova, suggest various criteria for use and lighting techniques during the day (Leonardo’s “lume alto”) and at night (“lume particulare”). It will also be useful to reconstruct the debates of the 17th and 18th centuries on the themes of museology and fruition, with specific reference not only to the lighting habits from above, but also to the contemporary fashion, particularly popular in Papal Rome at the time of the Grand Tour, of organising nocturnal visits to the great museums of statues.
To complete these investigations, is also planned a systematic lexical and comparative examination of the terms used in Greek, Latin and Romance languages to indicate lighting instruments. Literary evidence on the physical and psychological effects of light from all ages, from the Homeric poems to Proust’s Recherche, is invaluable. The feasibility of this first phase of the project is guaranteed by the presence, at the University of Rome “Tor Vergata”, of a Laboratory dedicated to sources, for the study of art history and of an Art and Technology Laboratory closely linked to the teaching activities of the University Master’s degree course in Art History and of the MANT second level University Master course.
The results of this initial textual philological and multidisciplinary work – in view of the historical, literary, archaeological, philological, linguistic and museological skills required – will be used to develop the following operational phases of the DVE, aimed at defining the methods for using technologies capable of simulating the original light effects on the artworks.
The following tools will be developed:
1. Light projectors for videomapping. Videomapping is a form of augmented reality (included in the “mixed reality” category) that enriches sensory perception and turns every surface into a dynamic display. Software will be used for the construction of animated graphics, such as After effects and Photoshop (Adobe), Cinema4d (Maxon), Maya (Autodesk), and LED projectors with a high number of lumens (between 5.000 and 15.000) for high-resolution light projections, even in open spaces.
2. LED systems and directional spotlights. In order to produce a truly immersive experience within exhibition spaces, the project involves the use of low consumption lighting systems capable of simulating the warm, flickering light of flames. The specific directional LED lights, with temperature and colours respectful of the original conditions, will be chosen following the results of the first phase.
3. 3D reconstructions to be modified within virtual environments for simulating lighting conditions and for producing images to be projected on high definition screens. Two operating modes are envisaged: photogrammetry and structured light laser scanning.
Photogrammetry allows 3D models to be produced from 2D photographs: a versatile technique, suitable for reconstructing large environments (such as frescoed rooms and architectural spaces) at a low cost but with a high level of detail. The use of a structured light laser scanner is optimal for building 3D models of sculptures: the scanner’s light pattern can reproduce objects of complex shapes.
4. Criteria for photography and light processing. The project involves the use of photographic techniques. Photogrammetry makes it possible to build 3D models starting from subjects photographed with lighting that is not always adjustable, especially in closed environments. Post-production interventions make it possible to correct any chromatic and luminous alterations thanks to software such as Lightroom or Photoshop.
In this second phase of research, it will be necessary for humanists to establish a dialogue with engineers and computer technicians, who are capable of adopting lighting devices and systems.
In order to apply DVE technology in different contexts (museums, churches, historical palaces), a report card will be prepared with which to assess the lighting conditions of the sites and to suggest interventions. It is intended to define standards valid for companies and other activities in the sector, public or private, which will be awarded a Quality System Certification.