Project Proposal v1.0

Research Question

I wish to explore digital film making, but by taking scenes from the story outline I wish to break these down into exploratory tech modules, which I can properly examine. The modules can manifest themselves in the form of installations, coding exercises, open source Arduino mash ups, beautiful moving screens, Pure Data/Ableton Live  adventures, customised Tinkerbot Robots, 3D print outs, LED displays, computer simulations etc. The traditional narrative and conventional story telling arcs are to be disrupted, challenged and randomly upset . These ‘Tech modular microcosms’ can be viewed individually or incorporated into the overall finished films and screens if appropriate. The individual module research and development will force the scenes into a dialog with the overall narrative, and reconvene themselves into another bright, shimmering magic reality [1] upon the screen.

Please see below a ‘Transparent Church’ in Belgium, this actually exists as a physical building in the real world, it gets close to one aspect of the look/feel I hope to arrive at.

church

Added to the final stages of colour grading, editing, soundtracking, another layer of digital interference would be introduced at editing stage and sprinkled into key areas along the timeline.

The working title for the first film exploration is ‘Hail Fellow Well Met’.

Keyline: “Come with us West, to the very edge of Europe, there we will build another kingdom of zeros and ones.” Please see below an actual ‘Triangular’ house from the location I have scouted in a seaside village in the West of Ireland.

tri-house

This triangular house above or ‘Data Temple’ would be a nerve centre for some of the films key scenes with many of the module and installation pieces slotting in here.

In the storyline, to appeal to a younger demographic, there are four sinister teenagers (see pic below) as key characters, here they sit and code all day or converse on social media, watched over always by the old crone Brigid, sometimes she allows them to venture out into the world to cause mischief in their  ‘Arduino wearables’, see picture above. The combination of rustic, real film footage with computer generated overlay.

arduino-reeds-children

The Context

In my reading and project realisation I have been drawn back to some pioneering 90’s digital collectives, like the Dutch Jodi Art Collective who focused on software art and computer game modification, their infamous jodi.org (wwwwwwwww.jodi.org) site frozen now in time like a digital ‘Mary Celeste’, a signifier from an earlier age, with clunky late 90’s html, hypertext links and garish gif imagery.

The London based Anti-Rom (www.antirom.com) who formed  “as a protest against ‘ill-conceived point-and-click 3D interfaces’ grafted onto re-purposed old content and re-packaged as multi-media” [2] and also FAT, who straddled Architecture and the emerging digital technologies, known for their ‘Anti-Opedial House’, a cut and fold they disseminated at the time archly explaining ”The parents occupy the arch-modernist glass house where they fulfil their neurotic passions for dinner parties and obsessive cleanliness”. [3]

Their original interest in hypertext leads me to non-linear narratives such as Michael Joyces ‘Afternoon’ [4] or Borges text ‘The Garden of Forking Paths’ [5], stories whose meaning could change dramatically depending on the path taken through its lexias on each reading.

Another digital pioneer to catch my attention is John Gerrard an Irish artist based in Vienna, known for his sculptures which take the form of digital simulations displayed using Real-time computer graphics.

john-gerrard

He uses technology to remind us that we are living in an increasingly simulated reality, one that we have imagined into being and are continuously recalibrating. He regards realtime 3D as a medium that enables us to work with time in new ways, working with Virtual worlds which include time as one of their dimensions thus allowing time to become a sculptural component.

TeamLab (www.team-lab.net) are a Japanese ‘Ultra Technologist Group’ comprising of UI engineers, CG animators, web designers, software architects and mathematicians. Their founder Toshiyuki Inoko believes “Technology and culture can evolve society” and that “the start of the information age was a revolution in Society” [6] and it will be looked back on in a few hundred years as a Renaissance and a new dawn.

I like the fact that they take from ancient Japanese culture and thorough experimentation and innovation blur the boundaries between science, technology, art and design.

teamLab

Methodology

We lived once in a world where the realm of the imaginary was governed by the mirror, by dividing one into two, by theatre, by otherness and alienation. Today that realm is the realm of the screen, of interfaces and duplication, of contiguity and networks.”

Jean Baudrillard from ‘Xerox and Infinity’ 1993. [7]

facsOsc-2

Although two decades old the above quote still resonates today. In this instance code is the language that is created to instruct all the devices around it, technology can manipulate and control objects and screens.

At a recent workshop the tutor touched on the world of Pure Data and reminding me of the Rhizome like world of MAX/MSP’ I was intrigued and am slowly delving into it, I downloaded a copy of PD-extended and am exploring a patch at the moment called FaceOSC which hooks up with Ableton Live and basically generates sounds through face recognition. I also want to explore the possibility of alternative film endings, either by some kind of script or virtual generator.

I have also been examining the world of Arduino mash ups and have been amazed by the infinite range of possibilities presented, from Ardusat the satellite that kids can upload space experiments to the Pebble Watch that raised over $20 million in crowd funding to full on wearables with built in sensors and pads, and the open source learning guides on Adafruit.

I am also interested in a German robot building set called Tinkerbots, designed primarily for kids, you can snap together their ‘power brain, kinetic modules and passive pieces’, it is like living Lego and the blocks are crying out to be customise

There is no wiring or programming involve. They are yet to become available, and i am trying to get/buy an early prototype.

I am going to attend an exhibition called ‘Boolean Expressions: Contemporary Art and Mathematical Data’ [8] at the Lewis Glucksman Gallery in Cork. This is to commemorate the legacy of George Boole, the self taught mathematician who originated Boolean logic, a lot of whose ideas are now seen to be years ahead of his time.

The artist John Gerrard I mentioned above has a piece there called ‘Dunhuang’ which I want to see. Firstly it interests me, as it is “stunningly mounted, displayed in custom-made brass box frames that transform the frequently dissatisfying experience of viewing screen-based artworks into something akin to seeing an old master in in a gilt frame”. Christin Leach Hughes, Sunday Times. [9] and also addresses the issues of time and a strict set of rules dictating outcomes. As Christine Paul observes in her excellent book ‘Digital art ( 3rd edition )’, “This has strong connections to previous art movements, among them Dada, Fluxus and conceptual art…using formal instructions to create an artifice that resulted from an interplay of randomness and control”. [10]

The piece ‘Dunhuang’ works on many levels. Denied access by the Chinese authorities Gerrard commissioned a commercial company to take a 10km square scan of the area from space, he then worked with a team of computer programmers to produce a hyper-real 3D virtual landscape based on the satellite photos. Into this world he places x 38 human characters who partake in a kind of knockout game as they move through the grid. The characters are virtual portraits of workers in a Chinese motherboard factory who he filmed. He later had these workers ‘played’ by real actors whose movements were motion-captured to produce three actions: walk, wait or sit.

As the program runs, the characters actions are dictated by an algorithm, they must cross the grid using the shortest path. When two meet, the algorithm decides based on how far they have come, who will carry on or who will lose. The game ends when only one man or woman is left standing. Viewers follow the leader’s progress from three ‘camera’ angles on three screens as the game unfolds, with landscape, drone and satellite views. When a winner emerges, the whole exercise starts up again. So in a nutshell, a group of resigned souls walking though a bare landscape, endless actions unfolding in a virtual world based on a real place, populated by virtual characters based on real people played by actors!

This works he says is a form of  ‘virtual collage’ with ‘implications of ‘computing on the landscape’. This interests me greatly, and brings me to IoT or the ‘Internet of things’. How do I take from one extreme the land around me, inanimate objects such as rocks, living things such as grass, water or clay and make them ‘talk’ to the connected world? As always someone maybe has a solution, I have discovered a company called ‘Relayr’ [11] that are affiliated with Arduino, their tagline is ‘bringing things to life’! They have an open source development kit and interface called ‘Wunderbar’ [12] which via sensors, app and cloud can track the state of an object, connect it online and then the sensor data is then visualised into information, useful or otherwise. I can then see how the grass is, or tell the state of a rock, or edit a Bog database ! 🙂

Resources

I now have an iPhone 5S, it will suffice for filming. I hope to buy a Canon-EOS-70D camera with decent filters and tripod, this means I can start to properly with screen composition.

I also hope to do a proper workshop soon in Pure Data, so I can continue my research into it. This would be in the RUA RED Arts centre in Dublin where I was introduced into the world of Arduino.