Sunday, October 29th 2017
Emissaries is described by Ian Cheng as a "video game that plays itself" – an area I believe is wide open for future exploration, and a starting point for my own project as something that, once wound up and started, requires no further interaction.
Although Cheng is the credited artist for the piece, there was a supporting cast of visual and AI programmers, producers, and so on. Cheng was inspired by the The Origin of Consciousness and its theory that people in ancient times did not make conscious, reflected decisions.
One wayEmissaries informs my work is that it is infinite, and would potentially run forever without repeating. It also speaks directly to my domains of systems, simulations, and behaviors in a virtual world.
Artist, architect, and industrial designer Luigi Serafini wrote this encyclopedia of an imaginary world in the late 70's. His motivations are unclear, but there are clear parallels to the mysterious 15th century "Voynich Manuscript" and Hieronymus Bosch's paintings. Filled with unreadable text (that may or may not be meaningless), it contains endless detail about a strange and fantastic world.
The Codex was interesting to me as a precedent under the auspices of several of the domains I'll be working in – world building, imaginary ecosystems, and the grotesque. There's a wrongness about a lot of Serafini's artwork, with human-animal and animal-other hybrids evocative of the fantastic artwork of medieval manuscripts like Wonders of the East.
For my work, I want to use some of that wrongness and those constructions that require a double take, combined with a similar thoroughness of constructed world-building. I'm envisioning a simulated environment, rather than an encyclopedia.
Cool 3D World is the deranged product of Brian Tessler and Jon Baken, and their work is filled with grotesque imagery and heavily distorted 3D figures, grounded in landscapes and objects that are familiar or even mundane.
Their work is mentioned in Alan Warburton's short documentary Goodbye Uncanny Valley as part of the contemporary "3D wilderness" – a world of low fidelity and bizarre forms that have dropped out of the conventional Hollywood/game studio race toward total photorealism and complexity.
Cool 3D world intersects my project in two places, their wink to self-awareness of the genre and their extensive exploration of nightmarish, constantly changing form.
Warburton created these projects from captured human motion, and then generated a series of 3D renders exploring the limits of crowd simulation software. These are a critical response to the increased use of crowd simulation in film and television, obviating the need for extras. It's also more generally a look at the power of simulated behavior extended at scale to the human form.
This project informs my own both through it's spare, "primitive" aesthetics, and its emphasis on simulated behavior. It also shows how powerful simple forms can be when repeated at scale.