[-empyre-] Animating Google: or Dragging a Fridge Across the Kitchen Floor

T Goodeve tgoodeve at gmail.com
Mon Feb 22 08:03:36 EST 2010

Hi everyone

It’s my week to introduce topics along with Richard Wright.

I must admit I can only stand on the outside and ask large questions and get
you all to talk among yourselves. Although I draw, my love of animation is
my own and not as a scholar or practioner but writer and ranges from the
Quays and Yuri Norstein to Robert Breer and early Windsor McCay to round
bouncing early Disney and Krazy Kat and Felix, to anime, Miyazaki and
Kentridge and now David O’Reilly thanks to Melanie Beisswenger. I am also
working with the artist and inventor (ZOOB) Michael Joaquin Grey who makes
computer based film animation objects that he just showed at Sundance and
also at P.S. 1 this summer. We can talk about these at some point because
they are their own species of cinema/sculpture/digital/animation live action
objects. Renata asked me to participate because of my knowledge and
friendship with the Brothers Quay and their work.

Here’s a tiny aside: what animation does which I will never get tired of, is
really what is its most simple, -- take a blank space and with only one dot
or one line —whether it be ink, zeros and ones, cut paper, hair, a bowling
ball or kitchen sink— + movement  make the simplest magical, moving,
astounding, anything. It’s as simple as that. And really, the more I’ve been
reading and thinking and watching these past three weeks, any talk re:
complexity, gee gaws, digital cinema/animation, cinetism/anemtism/new media
etc, while expanding its variables and opportunities re: theoretical
questions, does not change this. In fact I am blown away by the line rather
than the character but that’s my taste or rather, when the line itself and
the blank space becomes character.  I guess it goes back to the quote I
think Chris Sullivan introduced from Yuri Norstein that the more animation
moves toward realism the further it moves away from animation or something
like that. (I saw him speak at SVA too. His Overcoat section had me in
tears.)  I think this is so true. Vivian Sobchack talks about this as
why *Final
Fantasy* failed in the anthology Suzanne edited “Animated Worlds”.  It has
something to do with animation not being about “realism” – in fact the
opposite, why Paul Ward’s discussion of documentary and animation is so
interesting. Does anyone else remember the huge disappointment when the
Clutch Cargo cartoons came on? Yes, this was about a shift in hand drawn
cell animation to a more assembly line animation so the mouth didn’t
articulate but it was also supposedly more “realistic” and rigid and because
of that it was disappointing.  I had that trouble with anime at first—the
main characters were too “real” except Miyazaki changed this but here we can
also be talking about taste and genre. But it also seems to be about what
animation “is.” But we’ve spent a lot of time on the “isness” of animation.
 But the non-cartesian possibilities and transcendent plasticine magical
physical univse of what Eisenstein and Noel Carroll and others have
mentioned seems to be it: it has no laws but its own. It’s a perpetually
moving Klein walking talking (or silent) bottle.

I digress! The topics I wanted to introduce are sound and time. I’d like to
start with sound and maybe make that the discussion just that. It fascinates
me as a molding and shaping device since I know it is as essential to the
Quays as the visuals. *In Absentia* started as a project when they were
paired with Stockhausen. They received the Stockhausen music first and made
the film, which is both live action and animation. They also received the
score for *Street of Crocodiles* from Leszek Jankowski separately. Larry
Sider who does their sound is a master and has much to do with the evocation
of space and atmosphere and point of view.

Everyone has talked a great deal about the visual aspect of animation. Are
their animations with no images and just sound or is this not animation?
Frankly I don’t care if it is or it isn’t I’m more interested in the
discussion of sound in general across to use Suzanne’s language “animated

But please… there’s been so much… the pedagogical question was so

And time…space/time is animation, they emerge at the same moment, this has
been mentioned  but I’m reading the book From Eternity to Here…(I think
that’s the title)… we are in moving paradigm re: time… things to say, later
in the week.

This may all be distraction re: Richard as he is a practioner so do as you

I’m kind of a lurker! A happy lurker…Thyrza .

On Sun, Feb 21, 2010 at 12:41 PM, Richard Wright <
futurenatural at blueyonder.co.uk> wrote:

> Yello everybody,
> here’s my opening gambit for the empyre…
> For several years I worked as a “new media artist”, which I originally  thought
> would be a logical progression after some having spend some time making
> computer animation, digital film and video. Things went reasonably well and
> I ended up working in one way or another as a full time artist. But a couple
> of years ago I finally gave it up after coming to the gradual realisation
> that “new media” is an unsympathetic environment for the moving image and if
> I continued working in this field I would drift further and further away
> from forms of animation and moving image which I regard as my “core
> practice”.
> The reasons for my disillusionment are connected with the way that “new
> media” has come to be dominated by ideas of the network as its overarching
> model. And as opposed to time based media, the network has developed (so
> far) as a spatialising mode of expression. By this I mean that in this
> concept of the network, everything is treated as happening simultaneously
> across the entire system. Messages travel from one desktop to another but we
> are only interested in them when they arrive or the pattern of their
> interactions, not the “travelling” itself. You can see the effects of this
> everyday, when you use Google for instance. Google is supposed to be a
> search engine, but the one thing you never see is any “searching”. You just
> type in a keyword, press the button and results instantly appear (or so we
> tell ourselves). The actual processing involved (which is what computers are
> really about, their transformations, exchanges, collisions) are compressed
> until they recede from human scale, out of sight. The only form of duration
> that is admitted is latency – the “dead time” of waiting for a request to
> complete, staring at the little disk or hourglass spinning in some kind of
> suspended trance, unable to continue with our work or understand the path of
> a progress bar which habitually gets stick at 95%.
> This perhaps gives some idea of why I would argue that “new media”, digital
> media, networked media, has developed as a distinctly spatialising media.
> Along with this, in the new media art world, conceptualism has been adopted
> as the aesthetic and critical framework of choice. This would make sense,
> because a concept is an essentially static object (unlike an “idea”). The
> temporality produced by an artwork such as when simply watching a film, the
> sense of an articulated structure of time which unfolds around you, seems to
> have no place here. It is not even really understood (Note 1). Digital
> artists make artworks about time but not in time. In the online world things
> are constantly updating but not moving. Film brings you to the world but the
> internet brings the world to you (who said that?).
> There is a struggle to find (to construct) a temporality for the machine,
> algorithm, the information society. Even in Lev’s famous book the only
> temporal structure in new media he admits is the loop. Something that I
> think you might agree has a very specific kind of structure (perhaps more
> akin to music?). Now I’m not claiming I am the first person to notice this.
> Recently I saw David Rodowick, the film theorist, quoting artist Babette
> Mangolte saying “why is it difficult for the digital image to communicate
> duration?” I remember Sean Cubitt has commented about this (note 2). There
> is also some connection with the arguments of Kittler, for whom the ascent
> of writing has imposed a spatialisation on other media, reaching its
> pinnacle with computer code which digitises and erases all other forms. But
> perhaps writing, like music, is a different case…
> So for the last year or two I have been experimenting with ways of using
> software technologies, especially those most often associated with networks,
> to construct my idea of what a time based new media might look like. What
> would it look like, for instance, if Google was redesigned as an animation?
> My first attempt used a large database of images from random Google searches
> that I compiled for a previous project (my Mimeticon “baroque search engine”
> - a work that will probably be my last ever new media piece:
> http://www.futurenatural.net/projects.html#mimeticon). The result was
> “10,000 Copyrighted Images”, a flicker film made by rendering 10,000 random
> images, one image for every frame. I called it “crime at the limits of human
> perception”. It has a certain hypnotic, rhythmic quality to it. And I like
> the fact that if you pause the playback the image you see is completely
> unpredictable. But for me it’s only a token first step. (I’ll add a link to
> this soon)
> At the moment many search engine companies are developing image recognition
> engines to provide the ability to search by visual similarity instead of
> entering keywords (in fact The Mimeticon project above used a simple open
> source image recognition engine). I want to see if I can use this
> technology, which is being aimed at organising databases and searching
> networks, to elucidate a quality of time. I am currently processing a film
> called “Psycho Similar” which reedits Gus Van Sant’s remake of Alfred
> Hitchcock’s film of Robert Bloch’s book based on serial killer Ed Gein who
> couldn’t separate himself from his mother. The word “reedit” doesn’t really
> capture what is going on as my software will resort or reorder every frame
> on the film according to their visual similarity (all 148,000 of them).
> Of course I could plot out these 148,000 columns of similarities spatially
> in an enormous rectangle, about one and a half kilometres wide, and it might
> be quite an attractive example of data visualisation (or ‘data mining’ or
> ‘cultural analytics’). But the project is to reconstruct a new sense of
> continuity or development, using visual similarity to rethread the film,
> perhaps against the algorithm’s own static logic. So far the results are
> curious (l’ll try and upload an excerpt some time). Because of Hitchcock’s
> use of long takes (and Van Sant’s copying) many of the shots are retained
> intact although sometimes reversed and with a constant nervous twitching as
> frames are substituted. But otherwise I believe the film looks as though it
> is being held back, straining to move on against the force of the
> similarities that try to keep each subsequent image as close to the
> preceding one as possible. Like pushing a heavy fridge across the kitchen
> floor that keeps getting caught on a protruding tile just when you think
> you’ve built up enough momentum (perhaps also a good metaphor for animators
> trying to work with new media…)
> Richard
> Notes (desperate attempt to cut down the length of this post):
> 1. What has happened to film as a time based medium in the age of the
> network is not the same as what has happened to music and (to a lesser
> extent) sound art. Music typically employs a different form of periodicity
> than film. Music is a much more repetitive artform - those beats, choruses,
> tunes, undulations. Sometimes I think there should be a general moratorium
> on music in film until we figure out a better way of how to use it.
> 2. I have come across a few attempts by other artists to address the
> network through the moving image. One strategy is to concentrate on the
> traffic of material across the network or the linkages between nodes as
> though we are taking a journey through it, transposing the “journey”
> structure of a film. Michelle Teran made a work called “Looking for Mr
> Goodbar” that just won this years transmediale.10 award. She used Youtube to
> find all the videos made by people from a certain town in Spain. Then she
> organised a coach journey for the “audience” that travelled through the
> town, visiting each of the amateur video makers in turn. People would watch
> the next video on the coach monitor as they travelled like a mobile cinema
> across this actualised network.
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
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