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Indepth Arts News:

"Perfectly Real: Women in Bits and Bytes"
2003-10-18 until 2003-11-11
London, , UK United Kingdom

If you had the opportunity to design your ideal woman, how would you shape her looks? What’s your idea of physical female perfection? A shapely, blue eyed brunette or someone unusual from deep within your imagination?  Welcome to PERFECTLY REAL, an exhibition devoted to the world of digital animation where virtual female characters are created with such life-like looks and behaviour/personality traits that what is real, and what is computer generated, is instantly blurred—producing realistic human forms is the biggest challenge for computer animators today.

At PERFECTLY REAL—an exhibition created in conjunction with cutting edge publishers TASCHEN who published ‘Digital Beauties’ to much acclaim last year—you can witness the process involved in making a virtual woman from the initial sketch through the 3D software used; visitors can even play around and make human figures using Poser software. The process is both exciting and absorbing: 3D modelling is akin to traditional sculpture—animators build a wire frame of the body parts and then apply layers of skin, clothing, hair and other features. 

There’s no doubt we’re encountering the virtual woman more and more frequently. We’ve had the infamous Lara Croft (now a merchandising dream) and the virtual newscaster created by news agency PA’s New Media division, Ananova. And there’s Webbie Tookay, the world’s first virtual model. John Casablancas left his position as chairman of model agency Elite Group, to devote himself to Illusion2K, a company which develops and manages models, actresses and virtual celebrities, special projects for the Internet and licensing. Tookay was his key creation and she makes total business sense - a stunning model who’s reliable and committed, won’t gain an inch of fat, doesn’t have tantrums or a bad hair day and can be in thousands of different cities at the same time!  

Accepting the increasing interest in virtual women, PERFECTLY REAL also raises key questions and consequences. As the 3D software becomes more widely used, the number of virtual characters will increase. And if virtual women increasingly replace real women, what impact will it have on employment? Especially as new software will constantly seek to improve and refine the realism of animated characters. Will we eventually ask why we’re bothering to pay real women? Psychologically, too, if men are happy to respond to animations, what impact does this have on the ordinary, imperfect real woman? Lets not forget that the Internet has also meant the film and music industries are faced with serious copyright questions for digital material. This copyright battle is also fierce around virtual characters as they become full characters with personalities rather than simply flat images.

And ultimately, does reality even matter in an age of animated game and film characters which make us laugh and cry? Will people even care that they’re watching a virtual woman read the news, strut the catwalk or performing sexual acts?

Setting out the cultural and technological challenges facing all of us today, PERFECTLY REAL is an astonishing exhibition, one not to be missed.


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