Evan Boehm and Parag K. Mital used news feeds to color abstract 3D animations, creating a surreal snapshot of global events.
Flickering forms and half-seen images shuffle into view and take various shapes, spilling into each other to form pools of static or towers of swirling glitches. All this began life as words on a website.
24 hours of news was used to create generative film, Untitled No. 1, by Parag K. Mital and Nexus Interactive Arts artist, Evan Boehm. In the past, Boehm installed an interactive, geometric horse in a gallery, and created interactive online film, The Carp and The Seagull. This time around, the work, created in collaboration with The Creators Project, used the Corpus-based Visual Synthesis visualization software created by Mital, Mick Grierson, and Tim J. Smith to source images based on news stories from December 11, 2013, and then recycled them into a video collage to create an abstract visual representation—an impressionistic snapshot—of that particular moment in time.
"We had a collection of different news feeds that we tried to garner from everywhere—the BBC, The Guardian, Al Jazeera, South China Morning Post, one from South Africa, and more," explains Boehm. "We grab all that and then the script will sort out the main words—Syria, Obama—and the ones that get used the most will bubble up to the top. Then once we have that collection we go to different creative commons image sources and we search for those images. In that way it completely decontextualizes it—so if there is something about Obama and the Middle East but it's just grabbed Obama, it might have him on his inauguration day and it's completely decontexualized from that moment. It's more about the words and the images and how those build up together."
The project was made in two stages: firstly 3D meshes were created in Cinema 4D for the animations—topographical landscapes of Bangladesh and California were some of the inspirations—which were then "colored" using the news images. The second stage involved Mital's software rebuilding the animations using the same images and turning them into a mosaic.
Although the film is computationally-generated, in no way are the results formal. "The visual aspect of this project has a very painterly quality," Boehm notes. "As much as it’s generative, it’s being fed these animations that choose the speed, the colours, the changing in textures, so a lot of the project actually feels like you’re really just kind of painting with these odd, mosaicing pixilations. It’s generative up to a point—it takes in lots of parameters and it’s taking all these images over a 24 hour basis—but the process was almost kind of like painting these things onto the screen."
The piece references abstract expressionism and there's a Klimtian quality to some of the textures, while the constantly morphing shapes capture the momentum of the every-changing news cycle. "The animations that are kind of controlling it, they don’t have an exact context, they don't have an exact figure." Boehm notes. "We're trying to paint the universality of this moment. It's about colors and tones and movement. More like a Rothko or Kandinsky piece."
To learn more, head over to Nexus' website.