Sure, ok

The other day, during a discussion at our lab about virtual reality and the nature of perception, I related a variation on the wonderful story about Picasso on the train. You may have heard a version that goes something like this:

Pablo Picasso got into a conversation with a businessman during a train ride. Recognizing the famous artist, the businessman remarked that he didn’t get all this modern art. “If somebody paints a portrait of my wife,” he said, “I want it to look like her.” Picasso asked what the man’s wife looked like. The businessman took out a photo from his wallet. Picasso pondered the image for a while, then said “She’s very small.”

One of the people in the room, somebody I had just met, said “Oh, that’s a dad joke.” I hadn’t expected that response.

I was tempted to disagree. I wanted to reply that this parable was, in fact, a profound meditation on the dynamic relationship between our ever changing technologies of representation and our shared language of aesthetic norms, and the effect this relationship has on the resulting evolution over time of our cultural consensus on the nature of reality.

But then I remembered that I didn’t know this person, and that I shouldn’t assume too much. So instead I said “Sure, ok.”

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