Manifest (After Thomas Cole)

Manifest (After Thomas Cole) is a virtual installation created in Unity Game Engine comprised of two main features: the first is a floating block-text definition of the commonly misused verb ‘manifest’ via “to make clear or evident to the eye or the understanding; show plainly.” The second is a natural rock wall upon which each of the five works within Thomas Cole’s The Course of Empire series (1833–1836) is mounted or leaned. These two features are positioned within an impossibly pristine and untouched nature setting, evoking that of the first Cole painting in the series, The Savage State (1834). Like Cole’s paintings, the piece serves as a warning of the catastrophic effects of insatiable development and expansion: by revisiting these nineteenth-century landscape paintings in a uniquely contemporary setting (the virtual) and juxtaposing them with the word ‘manifest,’ one might ‘make clear to the eye’ that Cole’s original warning is still as relevant as ever to the modern condition, particularly as the climate crisis makes itself increasingly known.

This project was designed for Professor Alexandra Bal‘s RTA220 New Media Art History course.