A couple of weeks ago I was away with my wife, we were taking a break from the city, whilst staying near the Santa Elena’s woods, we ended up watching a Netflix show called Amazing Interiors (we saw the whole season). I discovered 4 different examples of interiors packed with imagery and colour and this made me think about caves and how we humans set up the places we live in, these people and their homes, made me think that perhaps, some humans enjoy (or need ) images more than others, these examples were quite extreme ones and I am making this post so I can revisit this idea in the future.
Last week I accidentally came across this artist as I was doing some research on psychogeography and was looking for Guy Debord, one of the founding members of SI or Situationist International. Whilst watching an old Youtube video, I found out that Giuseppe was also one of the founding members of this movement and accidentally saw a very interesting piece called the “Antimateria Cave”, a huge installation that uses lots of canvases to resemble a cave. So far, I haven’t found much information about this artist but I wanted to keep a reference to him for future research.
On April 2017 I was invited by Artist/Reader Jennet Thomas to do a 5-week residence at Wimbledon College of Arts, so, from April 19th until May 18th and for two days a week, I had the opportunity to set up a VR camp in the middle of the Print and Time-Based Media (PTBM) Studio, a big and well-illuminated room located on the second floor of the College’s intelligent building.
My plan was to display and allow students to experience a VR piece that I had already presented at the Tate Exchange event; Landscape #12. My goal was to connect with students in order to have meaningful conversations about VR technology and other related topics like 3D modelling and 3D animation.
During the residence, I had the opportunity to talk and share ideas with more than 10 students and 5 members of staff.
As a practitioner, I think this was a wonderful opportunity to talk to others about my practice and reflect about all the process of delivering a VR piece to the public. As a student, I enjoyed the opportunity to inhabit a different studio and to talk to students with different practices, I especially enjoyed the opportunity to meet BA students as I felt that they have a fresher look on things and are still quite open to new ideas. I believe that this kind of exercises provide a unique opportunity to create connections with peers and have meaningful cross-disciplinary conversations, I really think that this should be happening more often around UAL.
When I started using photogrammetry, a year ago, I did understand that 3D models made with it are far from perfect, however, at that moment I managed to take advantage of this to create a weird character for the collaboration I did with Jennet Thomas.
At the beginning of this year, I decided that I was going to use this technique again to create a piece for my final show. It made sense as I wanted to create an accurate 3D model from my landscape#13 piece. Since then, I had spent quite a good amount of time making/fixing the 3D model and this has made me also wonder about the challenges inherent to this technique:
180 Vs 360 degrees
One of the first things that I learned is that making 180 degrees single-sided pieces is a lot easier than making 360 degrees double-sided ones. Illumination becomes a nightmare and it is really difficult to get shots from 360 degrees inside my MA studio. I did try to hang the model from above but this did not work thanks to the micro wind currents so at the end I had to change my approach and decided to make chunks instead of a whole piece.
Another thing I learned from this project is that a number of photos you take on a particular region will affect both the density of the mesh and the quality of the texture, this becomes particularly relevant when you are making a 360 object as you might get fewer visual references in comparison with flat-shaped pieces like my landscape#12. Stitching up nightmare
Stitching and photoshopping
After creating all the 3D chunks, I imported them into Blender software. I discovered that all spatial references were gone and both the orientation and the scale of the objects was off. After arranging all the chunks I discovered that the lighting around the joining areas was uneven and after doing most of the stitching I felt that the end result wasn’t good enough. I thought that the best way to fix this would be using photoshop in order to fix the textures but this ended up being an impossible task as the whole texture of every chunk is actually a collage of 20 different and overlapping images. AT THIS POINT I WANTED TO KILL MYSELF!!!
Merging textures and reshaping UVs
Finally, after doing a lot of research I discovered that there is a procedure that allows you to bake all different textures into a single one, but before I made this, I had also to figure out how to change the existent UV layout in order to get decent size islands that I might be able to edit in Photoshop. FINALLY, I SEE THE LIGHT!
After 3 months trying to sort this out, I feel that finally, I’ve found a workflow that will allow me to produce bigger and more complex pieces. I feel that this process has forced me to change my approach several times and that the limitations/restrictions of this particular technology had had a great impact in the way I plan to make new work, I keep thinking about digital as a medium, I really feel that the way photogrammetry works will have a direct impact on how I create my future pieces.
Last month I visited the British Museum for the first time, my goal was to find pieces that could be linked to my concept of the META-IMAGE, I saw images on top and inside of Sarcophagus, covering Greek pottery, various sculptures and a box to collect money from people attending a religious ceremony.
Images seem to be a quite important part of these objects, however, I was surprised to conclude that in most cases the image followed the function, a function that goes beyond artistic expression. This made realise that my work is quite different as the image is the one that actually dictates the shape of the object.
I have to say that It has been more than 3 years since I wanted to do this exploration.
I believe that it was around 2013 when I started wondering about how to project and fix an image onto a 3D surface. At that moment I was doing a lot of screen printing and also was exploring projection mapping.
It wasn’t until this year’s low-residency, that I had the opportunity to go back inside of a dark room (my last time was around 1993). this is how I met John, he is a great technician from Camberwell and he helped me to do quite a lot of photographic weirdly shaped pieces of photographic papers.
This experience encouraged me to take things further, and John was kind enough to introduce me to Hayde, she is an expert on liquid emulsion, and after a few weeks she was able to help me do pretty interesting experiments over a couple of sculptures.
In her words “this was a very successful attempt”, basically because I was able to keep the emulsion on the surface and also because I was able to reproduce bits of images.
This has encouraged me to keep pushing things forward, my plan is to spend most of the following week, devoted to create my first photographic meta-image.
Since the beginning of this year, I started thinking about social media and how one interacts with other people through this digital platforms, at one point I realised that it is possible to compare the dynamics of these interactions with the ones occurring inside of a marketplace where content becomes the main commodity supporting all transactions.
These transactions work a quite differently from the traditional exchange of goods and services between buyers and sellers; people offer content in exchange for likes, comments and content sharing. Of course, there is a commercial dimension to this, but I rather focus on the social interaction.
It is possible to think that this social market is actually a visible feature of the consumer society, a society completely permeated by the market values.
In this talk, Michael Sandel is talking about the role of money in our society and the effects it has on interactions and even on the “commodities” it buys.
Although my focus is on social exchange, I think there are a lot of interesting things about money and power and I really feel that in order to be able to depict present times, I have to deepen my research on this topic.
Again, although my focus is not on money, it is unavoidable to think about Exploitation and Degradation as pretty important facts that affect a huge chunk of the population.
I understand that my intention to depict reality has to embrace both global and local views, I am aware that my visual language has to evolve in a way that is able to zoom in and out from both conflicting and unrelated facts of existence and I guess, that my next course of action, should be to create a diagram or a map about this reality.
Recently I was accepted on a peer-to-peer event called Pop-up common room, and one of the things we had to do was to read a book called Ways of seeing by John Berger, I did not read the book although now I think is worth to take a look to it, instead, I saw a four-episode collection of videos on youtube.
I have to say that this was a very positive surprise, and I feel that many of the things said by him resonate a lot with my ideas.
There are particular passages on this videos that I am planning to share at the research discussion due on the 9th of March.
The first fragment is about how we see things and how images are manipulated and transformed by the use of the camera to reproduce them, I really feel that there is a strong link with my research paper.
At the end of this same fragment, I found a strong connection with my present practice and how images could be used to create space.
The next fragment gains a huge importance within my current practice as I am able to use still images in combination with a moving camera and even sound. I really like it when he talks about the corridor between the viewer and the painting.
This other little fragment resonates with my idea of the META-IMAGE
This other fragment from episode 4 also enriches my idea of the META-IMAGE
At the moment I am quite interested in two specific topics i.e. spatial metaphors and the Meta-image, Berger has given me wonderful insights about images and the way we use them and abuse them, I think I should take a look at his book and also look for references to other authors that reflect about visual culture.
I was reading Zygmunt Bauman’s book “Globalization”, and there he was referring to cheap communication. how the electronic means liberated information from its physical boundaries.
When reading this, it is easy to think about how digital media and especially social media present us with a collaged reality that clashes with our immediate reality, so our brains are constantly challenged in order to make sense of this chaotic expanded reality.
Made Cheap / Cheap made
One could say that there is always a cost associated with the creation of an image and that this cost could be expressed in time and effort (including learning curves), in the cost of materials used and involved in the creation process and even in resources involved (like tools and places).
One could also add that thanks to the means of reproduction, these costs are most likely to be divided between the copies created from an original (something very different happens with value) and this could allow you to make images cheap. Thinking about digital images allows concluding that they are even cheaper thanks to the means of replication and transport.
I guess that a very important fact to take into account is that today, more than ever, people are exposed to images; both digital and physical images have flooded our reality. One interesting thing about this is that, although images have become cheap, common and ephemeral, they had also become a fundamental part of how we communicate and interact with each other.
What does this mean for a painter?
I watched this video and I was fascinated by the idea that our experience of reality is actually mediated by an interface that helps us to deal with it without having to deal with more complex elements of it, similar to what computer interfaces allow us to do when interacting with the machine.
I think that this video supports and validates my quest for a visual representation that escapes the restraints of de frame and perspective systems. I think that in the future I might use this analogy of an interface as a way to address the function of the work of art. An interface that represents my experiences on reality.