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Lisa Frank's wide open art cave

December 21, 2011 | Hogan Keyser
December 16, 2011 by Karin Wolf via -- If you have lived even a few decades, you know the excitement that comes with technological advances that change your assumptions about reality. Photographer Lisa Frank's master's thesis exhibition "Pattern for a Virtual Environment" takes viewers right through such a gateway to the future.

To experience Frank's wonder cave one must pass through three security clearance checkpoints and descend deep into the underbelly of the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery (WID). After passing glass enclosed research labs and sci-fi like computer equipment, one eventually arrives on site, ready to contemplate perception, reality, illusion.

There are fewer than 10 CAVES in the country that allow for a fully immersive 3D virtual environment. CAVES are typically used to prototype new devices, in this case, an unprecedented collaboration made possible by researcher Patricia Brennan and her Living Environments Laboratory who opened Madison's CAVE up to an experimental art project. There is a giddy energy in the CAVE's narthex as exhibition goers remove their shoes and wait their turn.

The docent explains that if you feel nauseous inside of the 10x10 foot cube in which 3D images are rear screen projected on three sides, the ceiling, and the floor, you need only close your eyes to regain composure. Guides issue special stereoscopic LCD shutter glasses (think View-Masters on steroids) needed to produce the illusion of depth in Frank's environments (now think Star Trek Holodeck).

The technology is fresh and kinky. Every day new things go wrong. Fifteen minutes before opening night it did not look like the environments were going to load. But these small dramas just add to the heady feeling of pushing the limits of innovation.

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