Paradox of Plenty (Futurology) begins with a “study” of futuristic edifices such as the Auckland Sky Tower, airport terminals, a natural gas cargo ship, and the Seattle Space Needle. Each of these structures is mirrored along a single axis, a minor adjustment that has a major affect: the ordinary, practical edifices become features of a fantastic, Flash Gordonesque City of the Future – or the assets of a post-apocalyptic military force.
The work’s futuristic “ships” have a double nature that goes beyond their mirrored symmetry. They are practical and functional, like the industrial constructions they are, but also dream-like. They are aspirational, but also threatening, with a military or bomb-like aspect. However much they are altered by their mirroring, though, these remain recognisable as structures that exist now, in today’s world; structures that are vaguely dystopian: mundane, transitory, bad for the environment, or just outmoded.
A battle in a pine forest segues into a 3D cartoon representation of the Simpsons -while dissolving into an apocalyptic 3D version of The Simpsons’ nuclear factory. The landscape is devoid of characters mapped with a satellite image of the USA Midwest in winter as ashes fall.
When I was young, many of our generation were convinced that the future would be more in line with the George Jetson’s elevated homes (modelled in part on the 1962 Seattle Space needle)… or apocalyptic - if we survived the expected nuclear war, we’d be living in a post-apocalyptic nuclear winter. Fortunately neither happened. This is the present as failure to meet up to the aspirations of the past, but also as a success of sorts—we’re still alive, the nuclear apocalypse has not (yet) come to pass. Really, nothing much has changed. (edited by Amanda Wayers)
Floral juxtaposes international military and environmental fear (both perceived and very real) with the pristine natural beauty and pacifism of New Zealand. A video is accompanied by a hanging sculpture, Sleeper (which resembles a large globe yoyo). In this installation, I use the stunning natural beauty of the southern North Island hill country as a trope for the enduring dichotomy, mythical and actual, between the potential for global apocalypse and the hope of regional utopia.
In some sections I have combined and composited 3D animations with high definition video footage. For instance, I have included a 3D animation of a revolving globe (in a twist on standard motion picture company branding) … from the perspective of the Southern Hemisphere. A floral pattern emerges as a growth on the globe ...then segues into a slow flight of two NZ Wood Pigeons. In other sections, the footage is used as is; or with keying effects and/or motion effects, so that trees slowly vanish and flowers pop out of a swamp.
The small population and isolation of New Zealand place it in a unique position in the world ecologically and militarily. Its military spending is one of the smallest in the developed world with the military relegated primarily to peacekeeping missions. Although NZ has on some levels a poor per capita environmental record, its relatively low population density, ample rain ...and judicious use of herbicides provides an illusion of a clean green paradise; and indeed, its natural resources of hydropower and ample wind provide one of the world’s highest levels of renewable energy.
One central feature of the video incorporates examples of “pedestal erosion”, a form of erosion common to the hill country of North Island New Zealand in which a hill is eroded underneath a single tree. Pedestal erosion often produces a strikingly symmetrical conical hill with a single tree at its apex. Native wildflowers and homage to Herzog’s Aguirre, Wrath of God (Aguirre: who hallucinated a galleon in the trees of the Amazon) also feature in this magic realist series of linked vignettes.
Up River Blues is a dreamlike series of vignettes featuring the region surrounding the Whanganui River valley. The Whanganui River is New Zealand’s longest navigable river with rich historical significance. The abandoned Shangri-la commune of Ahu Ahu Ohu, on the Ahu ahu tributary of the Whanganui is the central feature of this video. In 1974 the NZ government found an “Ohu Scheme” on public land to establish communes - “intentional communities”. Most failed. This was one of the longest lasting "Ohus". A sense of apocalyptic foreboding was created through special effects including 3D animations of a stranded Russian submarine rusting on a steep inland hill and black helicopters flying over Ahu Ahu Ohu. (In fact, helicopters are a reality in this region in the government‘s search for marijuana crops; the hills are indeed former sea beds.) The video ends with a crop duster reversing into a cloud of dust - in line with my general theme of over 25 years in combining apocalyptic paranoia with irreverent whimsy.
Tunnel is a video that explores the enigma of hope. It was created almost by accident after recording a crowd exploring an abandoned railroad tunnel in New Zealand. While adjusting for the exposure of the darkened tunnel, the exterior became overexposed. The area outside the tunnel was bathed in a white light reminiscent of Hollywood and tabloid tales of near death experiences and alien encounters. I simply introduced slow motion, an almost clichéd tool that produces a dream-like effect and an ominous sense of mystery. The digital noise of the darkened interior suggests the spontaneous nature of filming an auspicious lemming-like stroll. It is available in high and standard definition.
The installation “Rural Vignettes” projection is a series of short related videos of apocalyptic dreamscapes reflecting nature and culture. The vignettes obliquely refer to psychological, environmental, and social-political dislocations set within paranoid, yet whimsical rural settings. The video projection is accompanied by sculptures created using rapid prototype technology from digital files that are duplicated of 3D files composited within the video The videos were created compositing photorealistic 3D animations with digitally altered footage of rural New Zealand. I have also added a few subtle palindromic effects as a trope of nature (where in nature “most genomes or sets of genetic instructions, palindromic motifs are found”). The resulting effects create an ambiguity of scale, material, reflection, and perspective producing a believable but skewed setting that is both convincing and unsettling. Music credits: Wanderer, Harold Budd, All Saints RecordsTranslation, Jason Molina (Aka Songs:Ohia) Jadetree Records
Self Portrait as a Spanish Anarchist is a series of 3 vignettes based on the Spanish Revolution that took place during the Spanish Civil War of 1936 - 1939. During this revolution, new forms of economic exchange and political equity flourished against all odds in a self regulating collective economy that tended towards political egalitarianism. The anarchists democratised industry, the military and agriculture as well as initiated radical social reforms ...with some remarkable successes (and some failures). A great depression had gripped the world, and like today, it was clear that other social experiments such as Stalin’s Communism had miserably failed. Anarchism seemed like the last hope and indeed had proved to be the brightest light of the left before it was brutally extinguished.
Two animated vignettes are bridged by clips and stills documenting activities of the anarchists of this period. The clips are collaged with contemporary left protest footage and stills. Their restructuring of society were undermined by the Communists and eventually crushed by Franco’s forces. The first vignette is a simple fly-over of a circular semi underground ring lined with embossed posters of the Spanish civil war. An old TV-like object sits in the center.
The second section includes brief clips of the anarchists in Spain 1936-37, a quick snapshot of a contemporary “anarchist” transitioning into chaotic natural and manmade phenomenon (weather, and a motor wake). Although they couldn’t be further apart in a political sense, “chaos” and “anarchy” are often synonymous in the media and colloquial language...and neither is all that chaotic. In the grand tradition of the self-portrait, the third vignette encompasses a still of two members of the CNT in which one’s face slowly morphs into mine, while segueing into 3D model of my head (taken from a 3D scan). Iconic symbols of workers organizations of the Spanish Republic move across my forehead (using 3D displacement maps). This section was initially inspired by a unique facial scan of me by Geometric Informatics.
The final vignette is collaboration with the artist, Andrea Gardner. The short vignette is a virtual “camera pan” of a wall wallpapered with a repeated photo an anarchist feminist rally in Barcelona. An old fashioned megaphone is extended from a wall. A portrait of Andrea Gardner, with a bird flying out of her mouth is mapped onto the megaphone. The song Rin Del Angelito (with a reference to a “little bird”) by political activist and singer songwriter Violetta Parra is on the soundtrack for this vignette. The soundtrack that backs the fist ½ of the overall video is El Tren Blindado sung by the band the Ex from the CD/book 1936 The Spanish Revolution. (They have given their permission.) As the possibility of a new great depression looms, many again are looking for alternatives...including building on the legacy of Spanish anarchism (such as Parecon).
DVD Spin n’ Spite (widescreen): The video Spite n’ Spin is composed of 2 interrelated video sequences.
The Spite sequence is a series of 4 short videos clips and animations linked with the common thread of both real and manufactured fear. The title, “Spite” originates from an article on a study of chimpanzees by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. According to the article by Colin Barras, the study reveals that, unlike their closet biological relative humans, chimpanzees are capable of aggression and vengeance, but are not capable of spite. “In showing that chimps lack spite, the researchers may actually have shown that a set of connected emotions remains unique to humans. Many differences obviously remain ... Humans actually care about outcomes affecting others. The good side of that is altruism. Spite is the evil twin that can't be separated from it”. The music soundtrack Witchcraft Rebellion is by the group Old Time Relijun (permission granted).
Spin is a work of whimsical apocalyptic burlesque that consists of a series of short pieces that includes composites of actual video footage and virtual 3D animations obliquely referring to the word “spin”. In this video, objects spin; the earth spins; spiders spin... And a smiley face (the ridiculous pastiche of compassion) spins. One clip, 3 Boots includes a floating image composited of 2 satellite images of landmasses resembling boots, with a 3D animated boot emerging from the image, all superimposed over a video clip of the Castle Bravo hydrogen bomb test.
“Spin” is defined as “rotating”; “creating a web”; and the fabrication of possible truths by the public relations industry …whose spin doctors often “spin a web of deceit”.
The “Vignettes of War and Business” (shown at Lopdell House last winter) is a series of recent interrelated short 3D animations woven together that obliquely refers to the US “permanent war economy” These vignettes reflect on the paranoia and real fear that is inherent in such a system. “Fleece Blackout”: a short video animation of a 3D model sheep that stands (mostly) stationary and statue-like in a mountainous landscape while cruise missiles fly by and the woollen fleece on the sheep slowly turns into a photographic floral pattern.
“Masquerade”:a whimsical vignette of manufactured fear -“starring” a clown based on a 19th century cast iron bank, and a news commentator in a gas mask in Kuwait. “4 Heads”: 4 heads with balaclava-like mapping of textiles wiggling their ears and noses. (with clips morphed from the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers) “Red Cap”: indirectly referring to the Citizen Kane inspired lost innocence. The Return of the Body Snatchers: The Return of the Body Snatchers is a 3d animation (obliquely influenced by the original Siegel movie The Invasion of the Body Snatchers) that takes into consideration the current global social-political climate of fear. “Girl in the Canoe”, the sheep from “Fleece Blackout” float down a river. It is followed by an inner tube and rubber duckie. A “girl on a canoe” is reflected on the water.
(The soundtrack is by myself and the addition of three musical clips: by Alistair Galbraith and Constantine Karlis from the CD Radiant¸ “In Prelight Isolate” by Set Fire To Flames, from the album “Telegraphs in Negative”, and “Translation” by Songs:Ohia. “The term "permanent war economy" is attributed to Charles Wilson, CEO of GE, who warned at the end of World War II that the US must not return to a civilian economy, but must keep to a "permanent war economy" of the kind that was so successful during the war: a semi-command economy, run mostly by corporate executives, geared to military production”. - Noam Chomsky)