The late North Korean leader Kim Yong-il spent millions of dollars creating, in uncompromising detail, a miniature model of Pyongyang. But it was ignored by tourists who preferred to visit the real thing.

Compare this to the success of Legoland, which is patently unreal, and where the process and materials of construction live in dynamic tension with the illusion being created. It offers a much more magical experience because it requires the viewer to be a willing participant in the act of make-believe.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, when people looked at a painting they were expected to ignore the layer of paint and look through the surface at the scene being portrayed. By the end of the century the surface had become important. Brush strokes told their own stories. Flattened perspectives could tease the attention away from the subject and up to the surface. Colours could be ripped apart into their simpler components. The painter's techniques did more than just create illusions, they could both provide their own commentary on the subject matter, and demand a more active participation on the part of the viewer. Eventually the techniques could even become the subject matter itself.

Isn't there a lesson here for actors?

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Jonathan Paul Cook © 2010