Advanced Beauty is a wondrous new DVD compilation comprised of 18 visuals by 20 artists, or rather sound sculptures, as curator Matt Pyke of UK-based Universal Everything would say. These transient pieces made by processing are for us to see how far you can really push the aesthetics of software generated visualisations and play around with an art genre that uses the screen as canvas. PingMag lets Matt expand the concept of moving still life imagery.
Written by Verena
You created this whole series of clips based on synesthesia, a little-known field for most folks…
It’s something I’ve always been interested in because the way that we work, we place as much importance on the desire and creation of the sound alongside the visuals. My brother [Freeform], who worked on all the sound design for Universal Everything, has made the soundtrack for the Advanced Beauty project as well. It’s the idea of marrying the two media together in a very tight way, so that the sound almost grows the visuals and the visuals can almost affect the sound.
How did you work with the artists then?
Sometimes it was quite traditional where the artist had a piece of music as a point of inspiration, or used programming based on the sound to create the visuals. Sometimes it was a parallel where the visual artist was given some sounds and started off with a basic structure and then created the animation. Then the musician created more layers of sound in response and it went backwards and forwards like that. And sometimes the musician was given an abstract sculptural piece of video and then created a soundtrack in response to that.
Was it to try and see how far you could push it aesthetically with processing?
Coming from doing broadcast design, I’ve always found it interesting that you don’t have to fill the screen with information all the time. It can be very minimalist; it can be a pure white screen with one pixel moving across it. It’s just exploring what you can do with the screen as a canvas rather than as a traditional TV beamer as it were. It was tiring to make it feel more like a video painting medium or video sculpture medium rather than the traditional motion graphics. Besides, the reason why is was a white background on all the pieces is to give a sense that they are all in the same space, the same virtual gallery. That way all the artists had a space to work in and all felt connected in the same environment.
However, most of the clips are non-representative visualisations, depicting organic shapes and forms made transforming particles. Meaning it’s a purely visual-based thing; there is no real storyline. So, what would be a next possible step…?
We’re working on a real-time version with a similar concept in processing right now for the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. It’s purely generative. Generating the music as well as the visuals for the first few years maybe. It would be constantly creating new sounds and video sculptures. For us, that’s a pinnacle of what we’re trying to do with processing at the moment — creating a piece of artwork that you see one minute and then it’s lost forever, always changing and always transient.
I find the transient aspect of processing very intriguing too…
Instead of designing the finished artefacts, you’re designing its parameters. Interestingly, you can create 20,000 unique T-shirt designs, or posters. A nice way to pay all of the creative energy at the beginning rather than throughout the process. It’s a bit like hand-made pottery, only now in digital format.
Digital pottery! Ha! And a play with the random factor… You told me earlier that you chose artists “who were trying to advance motion graphics with something that wasn’t cliched and explore what the zeitgeist was.” Specify, please!
For example, besides the motiongraphers there is also one French architect, Jelle Feringa on the DVD who worked with fluid dynamics engineering software to create a nice sculpture [See visual above.]. He was thinking in terms of spatial form, using software that emulated how water flowed through a building.
There were people who used more traditional animation forms, others used purely processing programming so that the visuals were entirely born from the nature of the sounds that were played through it. I think the underlying theme for everybody was that they all work with a sculptural sense.
Where do you see processing as a medium for art developing within the next couple of years?
I think it’s important that people will be sharing the source code and the knowledge they have in the ways that it works with web design. That’s the way that the ideas will advance, become familiar and become acceptable in the bigger industry. At the moment, it’s becoming so powerful! We’ve used it on bigger projects like for Nokia and for galleries where it has to be very robust. Because there are so many people involved improving it since it’s open-source software, who knows where it’s going to go? At the moment there are some amazing things going on using real-time processing and processing from a mobile as well.
It’s interesting to see how this is becoming one more subgenre of computer graphic art. What would be your favourite visual?
I really like the ones which are the most extreme in terms of their minimalism. I love Carl Burgess’ visual with the skull because that was one of the first ones that happened [watch below]. It really set how minimal and engaging the genre can be because it’s very still and nothing is really happening, and then you get this big surprise at the end… I love that sense of using the screen as a sculptural pedestal instead of a non-stop movement. In a similar style would be the one by Thomas Traum with the snow on the mountain [Watch the visual over here.].
Inspiring! Thanks, Matt, for your beautiful Advanced Beauty compilation. Folks, get it in HD for your personal visual pleasure! A limited edition DVD will be out by the end of November, and the worldwide release follows in January 2009.