Friday Flashback #148

Faux Pas (1989) by Softimage, Daniel Langois, Georges Mauro and Char Davies.

When I was Six (1993) by Michelle Robinson

Some commentary from Algorithmic Video Art: an internship report

Exemplary for this stage is the use of the Softimage software in some of the ISEA videos. Softimage is the creator and publisher of software tools for artist whom work with computer generated imagery (CGI). Though Softimage mainly focuses itself on graphic tools for the creators of commercial films and video games, the company also supports educational and artistic projects23. During an early ISEA symposia one such project was Faux Pas (1989) created by artists Daniel Langois and Char Davies amongst others. This short animation of the anthropomorphism of a giant board of chess on which a rook (a chess tower) stumbles to his death, is surprisingly (hyper)realistic for the time it was made. One revels in the level of technological complexity, rather than in the tragedy which befall the chess pieces. Softimage is credited in both the animation itself and in most background information on the video. This means the technology used is flaunted explicitly and it becomes an important element of the work itself (almost to the point of it being an advertisement for Softimage).

The display of the capabilities of the current technology in Faux Pas, as if it were a technical experiment, seems to outweigh the artistic content. Through its derivation of conventions of realism, technology becomes the object of the work. The video When I was Six (1993) by Michelle Robinson uses Softimage software as well, but here the technology seems more secondary to Robinsons creative input. When I was Six is an animation filmed entirely from one perspective. Presumably it is the perspective of an imaginative six year old lying in bed and scared of the dark, for we see a dim room with bedchamber furniture which turns alive (much like the chess pieces in Faux Pas). The furniture, such as a closet and a chair, looms towards the “camera”, casting eerie shadows and threatening the viewer/six year old.

Although the software has undoubtedly improved since Faux Pas, it does not appear to be the main focus of Robinson. However, the film still derives conventions from other media forms such as animation and cinema. The graphic technology used in this work is no longer the object, but more of a means to an end and though the basic aesthetics are visibly different from the aesthetics of either animation or cinema, not much has changed in either form or content. These videos exemplify the critique Greenfield refers to on computer art which merely uses technology and software as a set of tools.

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