Recent Shows: Another Space at Testing Grounds

Some shots of the video 'Secrets' projected inside a shipping container in the sculpture park at TESTING GROUNDS (Melbourne AU)

Exhibited in the show Another Space, curated by Yandell Walton, June 2017.

Another Space Opens June 2 @ Testing Grounds, Melbourne

The Centre for Projection Art presents Another Space, bringing together seven contemporary artists from the US and Melbourne. Because of our increasing dependence on the virtual world of the Internet, we inhabit a space where the physical and virtual are increasingly overlapping. The artists in this show attempt to access this 'in between' space embracing contemporary culture through their use of technology as a tool for creating. Curated by Yandell Walton.

Testing Grounds is a temporary exhibition & curatorial space for creative practices encompassing art, performance and design.

These 80s Videos Are Why I Got Into Computer Animation and Video Art

I've been slow to realize the early influences on the work I'm doing now. I never really addressed issues of artificial embodiment & figuration except at the very start, and now. Avatars, talking heads, animatronics, CGI, digital clones, haunted houses... and once these memories opened up, I remembered that my first childhood career ambition was to be a ventriloquist. No joke!

This Kraftwerk video was created by pioneering digital/interactive artist Rebecca Allen in 1983 using then-state of the art facial animation software and beautiful low-poly avatars of the band.

I don't mind confessing that Matt Frewer's Max Headroom persona was a huge revelation. Not only the pseudo-AI character himself but the morphing, ambient modernist/new-wave grid background environments that prefigured 'screensaver art'. The first and only cyberpunk stand-up comedian? (Matt, are you listening? Let's work together!)

These funny skits from Laurie Anderson feature her interacting with a greenscreened altered 'clone' of herself and aired on the PBS show Alive From Off Center. At the time they seemed like magic -- how could any artist have access to the technology to make this?! -- and they are still really witty.

Everybody was creeped out and fascinated by this ground-breaking music video for Herbie Hancock's instrumental 'Rockit' from his album Future Shock. Directed by Godley & Creme and featuring a terrifying domestic tableau of fragmented, spasmodic androids by British robotics artist Jim Whiting. Hancock himself appears only in a talking-head partial view on a TV screen.

This seems like where I'd insert an easy reference to TRON, but before there was TRON there was this mostly forgotten 1981 Michael Crichton action thriller 'Looker'. In this movie, a shadowy corporation run by James Coburn (doing his best bad Bond villain impersonation) is creating a database of 3D scanned human models that are programmed to be "perfect" virtual advertising actors and political candidates... after which the original human actors are murdered using a perception-altering ray gun. Yup! I don't know I was allowed to watch this film but it had some wonderfully prescient ideas about the media, and a hilarious shoot-out finale with the real and virtual characters 'interacting' before a horrified audience. Quote: "You don't need people anymore. You use computers to create perfect commercial images! ... Don't look at the screen! They use computer animation to put a hypnotic light pulse in the eyes of the commercial."
This scene is a stylish high-tech ballet where Susan Dey gets 3D scanned for the first time.

I'll continue to add to this post as I remember more ... stay tuned.

Neo Past Forward: Light Year Program 22 Curated by Lee Wells

These images are from the past weekend, "Neo Past Forward v1.0", a group show of video projections on the Manhattan Bridge in DUMBO, Brooklyn. Curated by Lee Wells of IFAC for Brooklyn's Leo Kuelbs Collection/Light Year, this show took place simultaneously as both a physical and streaming event between NYC, Berlin, and Athens. Regarding the selection of works, Lee writes (paraphrasing Godard): "The so-called ‘digital’ is not a mere technical medium, but a medium of thought. Yet theorists try to define our times through terms like Post-Internet, Post-Truth, and Post Reality, artists return to praxis by directly engaging their environment through the creation of new philosophical labyrinths and continued détournement of etheric physical situations. Once what was common space and restricted to the city square has now become a public global sphere of influence. Today the public hypersphere has given agency to an inclusive borderless private/public dimension. A super modern avant-garde is investigating and challenging this public/private authority and opens new windows of opportunity in strategic attempts to create new meaning."

It's nice to return to the DUMBO bridge underpass, the site of my 2009 piece 'Camera Rosetum' and innumerable video-oriented public events since. The selection of works for Neo Past Fwd included the animation 'Imaginary Atlas' (click to enlarge) ... a morphing 'map' of a colorful, speculative landscape.

Light Year is an ongoing projection project; visit the Light Year website here.

Photography by James Ensor Parker.

Production notes on The Metamorphosis

I was recently asked to provide some additional notes for a presentation of my video "The Metamorphosis: Daphne in 4 Parts". I held off on responding until the last minute, as usual, but when I finally sat down and got my head into it, I realized there was actually a story there. The preproduction process was a very interesting experience for me, but I don't assume it would be to anyone else. Anyway, here's the full transcription of my account, which I wrote and shot off in a single go. I'm glad to have a history of it down in one place, anyway.

 Production still from 'The Metamorphosis: Daphne in 4 Parts', 2014

Production still from 'The Metamorphosis: Daphne in 4 Parts', 2014

Dec 9, 2016
To: Barbara P
Re: Daphne-Metamorphosis

Dear Barbara, hi and thanks. I'm not sure what to say beyond the usual exhibition statement:

"The Metamorphosis (Daphne…) is a staged retelling of Ovid’s poetic myth of desire, punishment, and arboreal transformation. Here, the nature spirit Daphne is presented as a subject in a stylized interview, framed in the manner of psychological case studies, or reality-TV talking head confessionals: unstable but lucid, defiant, continuously morphing and dissolving into her own delusions and narratives. As a response to sexual violence, the transmutation of Daphne’s self into an aspect of the natural landscape (an efflorescing tree) serve as a kind of defense mechanism, a “screen memory” — but also as an act of radical self-affirmation, a willing destabilization of physical form in favor of generating a more fluid notion of identity.

As with all fables, the language of myth invites the audience to commune with historical forms and themes that resonate with contemporary concerns.”

Perhaps some pre-production notes would be more illuminating (to me as well):

When I first embarked upon this production, I was interested in the media form of the ‘talking head’. A conveyor of truth, news, emotions, stories, or as simple portraiture.
Around this motif, I was making work with actors (or just interesting people I knew) who I would direct to perform monologues in a semi-improvisatory way. Some of the material they recited was purely biographical; some was information that I supplied or would guide them to say on the spot; some of it was poetic or literary material from other sources. My goal was to construct a ‘media personality’ that dissolved the boundaries between fact & fiction, documentary & acting, or at least raised the question in the viewers’ minds about how they look at and learn from media-staged characters. This process would begin with me asking the actors one question: “do you have any memories that you know are false, but seem more real to you than what actually occurred?”

‘Daphne/The Metamorphosis’ grew out of these experiments, combined with my interest in ‘adapting’ motifs from classic mythology and science fiction. I constructed a framework around “what if Daphne were a person alive today, and how would a mythological, morality-lesson story be interpreted through a contemporary lens — and from her point of view?”


I chose the NYC-based transgender performance artist Nicholas Gorham to play the part. I wasn’t trying to make a particular point about gender, drag, or trans-identity at this stage; Nicholas was simply someone who I knew and felt was the perfect person to play the role.

I interviewed another friend privately, a woman who I had known to be a survivor of sexual abuse. I wanted her perspective on how a rape survivor might communicate such a trauma, and rationalize it within herself, so that I could speak to this subject matter in an authentic voice. Proceeding from this, I devised a loose torso of a script that would contain certain themes and talking points, which reconstructed the original narrative of Daphne and Apollo, and put the characters into a contemporary context.

I presented these notes and ‘concept images’ taken from art history (Bernini’s ‘Apollo and Daphne’ being the most famous) to Nicholas. He developed the costume and mannerisms based on this, with the idea that she would be lucid but delusional, and residing in a mental institution. We shot the ‘interview’ in one sitting, with me off camera in the role of the ‘psychiatrist’ and director. My voice doesn’t appear in the film, and aside from a few specific directions and key lines that I had scripted, the performance was entirely and brilliantly improvised by Nicholas. He struck the right balance between ‘pathos’, ‘camp’ and sincere emotion that I was looking for.

At this point I still didn’t have an idea about the visual direction of the piece. I imagined incorporating some special effects, some trippy visuals like in the other videos I made, but basically the character would be presented as she was shot. It took me a full year and a half between shooting and final editing of the interview; several sequences were ultimately cut about Daphne’s ‘father’ (a river god who was actually responsible for casting the spell of transformation on her, in a spectacular act of "blame the victim for being too beautiful to resist"). At some point during editing, I began experimenting with the 3D computer-generated look that rendered Daphne in a way that reflected her inner psychological state in a more interesting way than the usual ‘weird’ effects would do. So this process ended up being a lot more time-consuming and deviated significantly from my original vision, but for the better, I think. It took that much time for this piece to let me know what it wanted to ‘be’, if that makes sense.

The sound design was also all composed by me, inspired by some campy electronic recordings of ‘music for plants’ that I had come across while researching this whole human/plant hybrid concept. Finally, I designed a series of 'chapter headings' -- the "4 Parts" -- as interludes, using extra bits of footage I had, mostly as a way to give the viewing audience a break but also to accentuate some of the 'punchlines' delivered by Daphne and give this long video a bit more of a narrative structure.

 A more abstract moment; one of Daphne's less lucid moments

A more abstract moment; one of Daphne's less lucid moments

Dec 10, 2016
To: Sean Capone
Re: Daphne-Metamorphosis

It is in an hour and a half and this text is of GREAT HELP AND INTEREST

Thank you so much !