Contextual Statement

“to animate means to endow with life; it refers to a process of making vital.” - Deborah Levitt (2018)

Creative processes in my work take place more and more frequently in virtual spaces. I make in this way as an attempt to understand my position as an artist living in strange, contemporary environments that are relentlessly permeated by the ‘digital’.

Considering this, I mainly use TouchDesigner and PremierePro to make my animations. TouchDesigner is a software that uses a visual programming language; this means that code manifests as graphic outcomes instead of being expressed as text.

I’m drawn to the neutral grey, void-like workspace that this technology provides. It’s a space that allows for complete technological freedom. Its only limitations arise from either an unfamiliarity with the language or from how easy it is to get lost in the spectactle of it all. 

Firstly, I add a tube to the void [place a pre-constructed node* into the workspace]. Then, stemming from this point, I create a string of interlinking nodes. At the end of this process, a digital network appears as a virtual rhizome that spreads its calculated tendrils across my screen. 
I disrupt the geometry (material make-up) of the tube by animating ‘noise’ and ‘twist’ functions. I do this until I reach a visual abstraction that I feel effectively reflects my ongoing theoretical studies (see bib.). Then, I render the animation and export the movie file to PremierePro where everything is refined. Here projects are given life using colour grading, (more) noise, montaging and mirroring... Segments are over-layed, cut up, repeated, slowed down and sped up to fiction futures in which the ‘being’/consciousness of AI is unravelled from human-centric visions.

My digital avatars (also ‘spirits’/’organisms’) disappear and reappear as they weave in and out of the cloudy membrane that separates our perceived real from the multitudinous worlds beyond our screens. Their transcendence of these boundaries transforms them in unexpected ways, collapsing their form into organic abstractions that recall elements of our natural world. I.e. [macroscopic] planets or [microscopic] cells.

My processes are influenced by contemporary discourses that examine how effects used in cinema can give the viewer access to multiple realities simultaneously. I look at montage in Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera (1929). I am also inspired by the CGI and biological sci-fi explored in Annihilation, the style of animation in Ghost in the Shell and looping in Tacita Dean’s Disappearance at Sea (1996). The aesthetics of the organisms that I render are further influenced by artisitc practices of surrealist painter Leonara Carrington and abstractionist Hilma af Klint.

Sometimes, I get lost in the fictioning of these beings and neglect to think about how they are encountered by a viewer. Frustrated by the increasingly ‘perfect’/hyperreal resolution of new technologies and the singular plane of screens I began to be drawn to archival modes of production; painting and stone carving. These meditative practices enabled me to reflect on the importance of moving image in my work and encouraged me to experiment more freely with different methods of installation. In the future I want to use physical computing to add interactive dimensions to my installations. (e.g. reactive flash/ monitor combination that I wanted to add for Chimera). I’m also interested in pursuing a longer form of digital animation that blends sound and light to tell a more immersive narrative.

* A node is the basic unit of a data structure - it sends, receives, stores or creates information. It communicates with other nodes in the network to produce an outcome.

- Elizabeth O’Brien

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