Mimesis, which has been doing the rounds in art since ancient Egypt, reaches a terminal point in this 15-minute film by recent graduate Duncan Poulton (what you see above is just a cut down version).
They may not be artists. It is hard to imagine them with such pretensions. But out there on the web are a small army of visualisers, who are to the imagined body what the camera is to yours or mine.
Poulton says that these renderings circulate online, where their creators vie with one another for ever greater levels of realism. So now, like Dr Frankenstein, he has appropriated these to make a narrative.
And indeed, it’s a creation myth, as a generic male figure develops an armour of muscles, a dextrous pair of hands and finally a soul, or at least a pair of dilating windows onto one.
In the final shot here, you’ll notice he’s clothed. Until then, he’s sexless. So even in a digital realm where you might think anything goes, we still have the fall and the subsequent physical shame.
Gamers already use avatars like these. But dare we hope that most of us will retain what David Foster Wallace calls, “a kind of retrograde transcendence of sci-fi-ish high-tech for its own sake”?
That’s from his novel Infinite Jest, in which the first generation of video callers buy into polybutylene resin masks and Transmittable Tableaux in order to deal with “vanity-related stress”.
Now, as this film demonstrates, we have the prospect of perfect hair, teeth and bodies for all our dealings online. That could be another fall from grace. In the meantime, we have a warning.