Illusionary art evolved in indivisible union with modern science during the Renaissance and is considered one of the greatest achievements of the human genius. From Giotto to the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, illusionary art has been the visible aspect of science.  For Leonardo da Vinci, drawing and painting were, as a qualitative science, simply a medium for interpreting the universe. Without wanting  to set  ourselves  such a formidable task, we - the  authors  of "A Walk into Fiction" - see new possibilities open up in virtual space for thrilling adventures in the spirit of the classic genre.  

Ivan Iliev's, conventional painting "Landscape with Mushrooms" is the starting point for such an adventure (acryl and ink on cardboard,1991). The painting was modelled by the artist in 3D using the software package 3D Studio Max, and was animated by Emanuel Wenger. The work was implemented on a commercial Pentium II PC with 166Mhz and 256MB RAM within the framework of a project for the Commission for Scientific Visualisation at the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna. "A Walk into Fiction" exists as an animation as well as an interactive computer installation.

The computer installation is part of a more comprehensive project currently under development in which interactive and "self-confident" images appear to change form coincidentally with time and interact with the observer, gather information from the environment and integrate this into the image. The "illusionary" image no longer behaves as a static flat object, but becomes a seemingly living organic volume continually undergoing transformation, which disappears and evolves again, has its own will, reacts to the environment, collects and saves information from it.

The observer is initially confronted with a scanned two-dimensional image. Gradually the image morphs into a three-dimensional scenery which moves and changes form, whose components fall apart only to re-order themselves. The installation was achieved on a computer with a "pointer device" (i.e. a mouse), a camera and a microphone. The "pointer device" enables the observer to interact with the installation, whereby he or she can only trigger changes and neither control nor repeat them due to built-in random generators. The camera and the microphone record information from the environment which is then processed by the computer and introduced to the scenery, for example as a texture. This allows for the evolution of an almost infinite multiplicity of virtual worlds which are always variations of the original image. This can be compared to a conventional jazz improvisation where the theme (in our case the original image) varies, but is never totally destroyed. Single motives or parts re-appear repeated.

Due to the modest hardware components currently available, we have been unable to realise interactivity. For the present installation, short image sequences were calculated as AVI files. These are demonstrated in varying sequences using an AVI player. The sequence of the AVI files is controlled by a random generator triggered by the observer by mouse clicks or movements. At present, the observer can only influence the sequence of metamorphoses of the image (the sequence of AVI files). We are working to achieve the full interactivity of the installation.