After deciding on wanting three models for the installation, I thought it was about time to start doing some tests with some scale models and experiment with different glitch projections.
The first step involved getting some source images to work from of myself. With the help of a friend, I frolicked around for a little bit as they took pictures of me in different poses giving me a starting point for modelling. This process was inspired by the way Gormley operated, using his own body for his sculptural works. From here I then took some measurements of myself, did some quick maths to work out scale sizes and sketched up some ideas. These are shown below. I have no idea what most of these numbers mean anymore but at least it provides evidence of… something. For the mini models im working at 1/8 scale so that they’re around 22cm tall. Using the measurements I took, I started designing a couple of models in Cinema4D at the correct scale, This allowed me to visualise better how they would look before moving to physical materials. It also gave me the dimensions I needed to quickly and easily cut out the foamboard and glue it together - Each one still took over 5 hours to make though! You may have noticed that the standing model has a different ‘aesthetic’ to the other two - this is because I reused one of the scale models I had built before as I didn’t want to delay progressing by another day to build yet ANOTHER scale model.
The arrangement of the models in this scaled version is rather arbitrary, I just placed them in a way that seemed acceptable to project onto with a single projector and cover a sufficient amount of the surfaces to make it look cool. Ideally in the real model I’d like to be able to project directly downwards onto the sculpture, inviting people to come closer and view the projection.
Mapping onto this was kind of a nightmare. With such complex shapes, it’s quite a task to perfectly map onto them so I had to settle for some rather crude mapping with quite a lot of bleeds - thank God this is just a prototype. I built a VDMX layout so that I could work with the different sculptures and easily be able to customise the projection for each one.
After a long time setting up, I was finally able to start projecting some different ideas. I’ve made a quick compilation video to show some of the different types. It’s worth noting that this is very difficult to film as the camera on my phone struggles with the crazy flashing lights. Below is a commentary about each test to share what the idea was and my thoughts on it.
Standard glitching: This one was the logical starting point moving from a singular sculpture to a three. The Glitch has the same settings across each model, but with a different seed so that the exact glitch pattern isn’t the same. While it looks alright, it doesn’t seem to have any depth or meaning, it’s a bit dull in the grand scheme of things.
Standard glitching plus: This is a slight variation on the first clip, but with the addition of the Glitch FBO effect in VDMX to the lying sculpture. This effect basically mangles data from the graphics card resulting in some wild, fast and crazy glitch effects. I changed how the mapping works a little for this one so that the projection from the lying sculpture can slightly interfere with the other two - it doesn’t come across very well in the video but it totally does it. The idea for this one was associated with freud’s notion of the id as the unconscious mind and primal desires. I imagine this being rapid, quickly changing, chaotic.
RGB: This idea is inspired by the red, green and blue colour separation of displays (and by the cones in our eyes). It separates the three colours, one to each sculpture and then just adds some glitchy effects to it for good measure. I think this idea has some potential but I’ll need to rationalise the colour separation, and better utilise it to communicate something.
Dark sculptures: In pretty much all of my tests prior, I started with some base colour projection, usually white, then add the glitch to that. This meant that the sculptures were always lit and bright. In this idea, only the glitches introduce bright, fast, colourful flashes of light which are chaotic and disorientating. Unfortunately I had to film it in quite a bright room as my camera couldn’t handle the sudden changes in light levels very well, but I assure you it looks very good in a dimly lit room. Scaled up, I can imagine this effect being quite incredible as the sculptures fleetingly flash into life and disappear and instant later. If the room was dark enough it would be difficult to take in the sculptures as a whole, instead they would be interpreted through brief fragments as they show themselves then disappear back into the darkness. This idea definitely has potential (especially as I really like it).
Nature imagery: This idea is inspired by discussions had with my tutor and peers. For it I chose some nature videos from YouTube pretty much from random, just to test the appearance of projecting imagery onto the sculptures rather than simply ‘glitch’. I then glitched them in VDMX. The result was quite interesting. The glitchy videos were very chaotic which I found entertaining and hypnotic. Having them constantly glitch meant that it was quite difficult to comprehend what the imagery was of. Plus the shape of the sculptures themselves don’t really commend themselves as canvases for watching 16:9 video content.
Audio-reactive nature imagery: Because I could, I made the glitches audio-reactive so that they would turn on and off and change intensity based on audio detection. This is just an example of a potential interaction method, as I would like to add interactivity to the project if it can help get a message across. Having the glitch controlled by mused created a sense of purpose or intent for the glitch, as it if had some more solid meaning for being there.
My main issue with these last two examples is the introduction of imagery/ video content projected onto the sculptures. Doing so, for me at least, distracts from the fact that they’re sculptures at all. They’re shaped like people, they’re formidable and have a sense of presence. I think this takes it too far from being a sculpture in the traditional sense. Sculptures are motionless, eternal figures which solidify a moment in time and tears itself from its bounds. I want it to look as if the sculptures themselves are glitching, not the content projected onto the sculptures glitching, which is why im apprehensive to add specific imagery. Sculptures don’t glitch. BUT these ones are. They are physical objects seemingly malfunctioning in a digital way. Yet these sculptures are not digital, how is this possible? The combination of glitch and sculpture breaks down the boundaries between the physical and digital worlds. It allows us to see a digital phenomenon more physically, and in a way, something a physical phenomenon more digitally. This idea fits nicely with the paradigm shift in how we consume the majority of our media and art. It breaks from how we usually experience sculptural works. Sculptures are still, calm, serene, but these ones are confusing, chaotic, yet mesmerising. The eternal beauty and stillness of the sculpture is rudely interrupted by bright flashes of colour, fragments seemingly disappearing and reappearing, all in a way which goes beyond our established relationship with sculpture. For me, it breaks the traditional awe associated with physical art and creates something slightly uncomfortable because the fleeting moments of digital chaotic beauty are almost impossible to catch. The beauty is not so much in the form of the sculpture but in the glitch moments, the moments you may never encounter again.
So now you may be thinking: Why are the sculptures people? Why not different trees or something? Well, while writing that last paragraph I had an idea. Using the human form for the sculptures makes them more relatable. They may be abstracted, and expressionless combinations of white boxes, but they serve as a blank canvas for projecting ones self. In my case especially, as these sculptures are modeled on my dimensions I can only imagine the effect will be rather uncanny. Having these three Kurt-sized models staring back at me should be quite an experience. The sculptures are strangely familiar. The variety of poses (standing, sitting and lying) makes them more human, more relatable.
So this brings us to my idea. The uncanny. In an amazing stroke of luck, it brings us back to our good friend, Sigmund Freud, the starting point for the investigation with his work on the human psyche. The uncanny is a psychological concept which describes something that is strangely familiar and foreign such that it creates a feeling of discomfort. It can create a sort of cognitive dissonance due to being attracted to yet repulsed by an object, in this case, the glitching sculptures. Uncanniness was first explored by Ernst Jentsch who described it as a product of ‘intellectual uncertainty’ caused by something which is not fully understood. For me, the digital fits this perfectly, especially when it malfunctions or glitches. Its something most of us encounter on a daily basis, yet in a way it has remained rather mysterious. These magical boxes which light up and allow us to access unlimited amounts of information instantly. Unfortunately the ubiquity of the digital has normalised this, but if I just sit and think, it just astounds me and makes me feel quite uncomfortable. Freud developed the concept of the uncanny, specifically an aspect of the word derived from German etymology. Uncanny comes from the German word unheimlich which applies to things which were intended to remain secret, hidden away, but have come into the open. Sound familiar? In my previous writings I’ve mentioned how glitches serve as breaks in the usual or expected flows of information. They reveal the computational nature of the digital which exists outside of our representations. Glitches unmask the veil of the screen, revealing the true nature of the software behind.
We’re seeing something in a broken or malfunctioning state. I can only really talk for myself, but I don’t usually like broken things. I like things to be precise, perfect, but there is something about glitches which are strangely enticing and beautiful. They’re chaotic and confusing, seemingly beyond my control, yet the flashes of colour in all their distorted glory mesmerise me. This point can be linked back to an argument Frued made about the uncanny. The uncanny is what unconsciously reminds us of our own id, our forbidden and unconscious desires. This is perceived as threatening by our superego. The items and people we project our repressed impulses upon become uncanny threats. For example zombies are uncanny. They’re humanlike, but they’re dead and they eat people. We find zombies uncanny because they’re so almost human but we don’t want to be associated with them. It could also be to do with our fear of death, and perhaps some people’s repressed desires to eat other people. So could the uncanny appeal of glitch be playing on people’s fear of being broken, or being seen in a way that reveals our hidden thoughts and desires? Maybe…
Put simply, seeing human shaped sculptures glitch is uncanny. It’s taken me a while to realise what was so interesting about it and I think I’ve finally worked it out. They’re sculptures, sculptures don’t glitch. They’re people, people don’t glitch. Yet here we are. It’s weird. It’s uncomfortable. It’s uncanny.
A little side note about any arguments one might have to do with me talking about glitch as being a result computational error -
The majority of glitches used in the work thus far are simulations. Theyre generated using a tool which allows for so much freedom in recreating the glitch aesthetic its amazing. This allows me to fine-tune the glitch projected onto the sculptures but they’re still chaotic, random and beautiful. However from the perspective of the audience, they (generally) don’t know that it is a simulation, so they will perceive them as real glitches.
One of the effects used in VDMX does, in a way, result in real glitch. It works by distorting data taken from the graphics card resulting in actual glitches. This, when combined with my simulated glitches disrupts the boundary between real and simulated to the point that no one has any idea whats going on anymore. However this effect needs to be used sparingly as it, due to its nature, can result in crashes - which is not what I want.