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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter 2020

Herat 1487: Early Virtual Reality

From the book Symbolism 2019

  • Laura U. Marks


This essay is a version of chapter nine from Enfoldment and Infinity: An Islamic Genealogy of Media Art (MIT Press, 2010), which argues that the algorithmic media arts of our time have deep roots in Islamic art, philosophy, and theology. Six chapters pursue parallels between tendencies in media art and movements in the history of Islamic art. I analyze these in terms of manners of unfolding, the ways artworks unfold the infinite through an informational filter. This chapter looks to arts of Sufi and Shi’i mysticism that reveal the infinite in the image. Informed by Islamic Neoplatonism, the infinite arises from the infinitesimal, microcosms reveal macrocosms, and monadlike artworks contain the whole universe from their point of view. Mystical figurative art refers to its divine “metadata.” The eastern Islamic concept of imaginal realm describes the collective digital imaginaries of our time. Finally, I argue that Islamic and algorithmic art work on the body to engender the “dynamic sublime.”

© 2019 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Munich/Boston
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