This work was created, directed and produced by

is a visual artist who's been working as a filmmaker for the past 10 years. Hisham studied filmmaking at Boston, Harvard, and New York Universities under the direction of Vladamir Petric, Raul Ruiz, and Miklos Jancso and later worked with them on various film projects in Boston, New York, and Budapest, Hungary. Hisham has made several films which were shown in international festivals in the Louvre, France, South Korea, Canada, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, New York, Boston, Chicago, etc. Hisham's current work is in virtual environments, digital film, and computer animation at the Electronic Visualization Laboratory.

is an Assistant Professor (and mad scientist) in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science department, and member of the Electronic Visualization Laboratory, at UIC. His work focuses on collaborative virtual reality environments, and he dabbles on the art side in projects such as this.

is a just recent (this semester) graduate of the Electronic Visualization Lab. She completed both her Master of Fine Arts and Master of Sciences degrees. Her work has included interactive collaborative virtual spaces and research into the development of graphical user interfaces.

with the talents of Kyong Park, Javier Girado and Michael Gold.

Project Description

"Las Meninas" is a painting about representation. Velazquez challenges the viewer by making the spectator the model to be viewed and vice versa. The viewer is thereby put in a privileged position but is also in an inescapable position by virtue of the point of view of the characters of the painting. The canvas is forever invisible to the viewer. VR alters this relationship, allowing us to challenge the notion of the painting - that we will always remain static in our relationship to it, by providing dynamic interaction with the elements, and the perspective that VR can provide.

"Las Meninas," painted by Diego Velasquez in 1656, challenges the viewer with its enigmatic subject matter. The viewer faces a riddle embodied by both the subject matter of the painting itself and by the artist's canvas which is forever hidden from the viewer. The painting raises multiple questions about the nature of representation, seeing, power, and metaphysics.

Our presentation of "Las Meninas" in virtual reality looks at these questions from different perspectives. What happens, for example, when two dimensional representation extends into a three dimensional world, and how does it affect perception? Is the viewer able to solve the enigmas in the painting when he/she is able to explore the hidden space through virtual reality, or are further questions raised?

In "Las Meninas" we examine these and other questions. We focus on the pictorial enigmas, such as the hidden canvas and the mirror. We place the painting into its historical context, and ask what it means for us today.

Technical Details

This piece runs on CAVE-based virtual reality hardware such as the CAVE (tm) and Imersadesk (tm) developed at the Electronic Visualization Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The graphics are implemented using OpenGL and Performer from Silicon Graphics. In addition, the interface to the CAVE is possible via Dave Pape's Performer CAVE library. Video avatar graphics are realized with Joe Insley's video avatar library. The models were created with the SoftImage modelling package.

For more information, please contact us via our email addresses above, or

Las Meninas Project
Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL)
University of Illinois at Chicago
851 S. Morgan St. Room 1120 SEO (M/C 154)
Chicago, IL 60607-7053
EVL Phone (312) 996-3002
EVL FAX (312) 413-7585