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4 August 2010

Music by Amasa Gana

Sometimes art hides in irony and nostalgia as a way to sidestep serious criticism. I'm personally looking for mystery over irony or nostalgia- mystery about authorship and context in general. So if I include anachronistic elements in something, I'm likely trying to displace a work in time (or make it ambiguous). A mysterious artifact wins over a signed product (This is why recordings of number stations can be more evocative than intentional experimental music -also, Trash Humpers with no credits attatched would have been a very different movie). Unfortunately to create art that incorporates the work of others and leave them uncredited (even if it makes the resulting work very mysterious) is to be a huge dick.

This video relies heavily on a few key components. Firstly it obviously centers around the music of Amasa Gana. You can read a little about the band and our previous video together here. Secondly, the video incorporates some drastically altered and retimed clips from the Italian horror movie Stridulum. A great deal of the look of the video uses the excellent hyperdither dithering algorithm by John Balestrieri (I'll admit to succumbing to nostalgia here. I am very invested in the feel of early black and white Macintosh art, since I cut my teeth on SuperPaint and Hypercard as a kid). If I could post the full-sized, uncompressed video online you would be able to appreciate the subtle patterns of the hypercard dithering better. Compression is a persistent challenge for me.

Mpeg compression methods (all the top web compression standards are variants of mpeg4) are based off the traditional "persistence of vision" model in which video portrays objects in motion (or static) in time and space, and that a sudden change in the whole frame is a "cut" where an "I frame" is to be placed. My videos lately are largely abstract and tend to be focused on particle systems and grain which confuse compression or are interpreted as noise. Since the web is the only real delivery medium there's no way around this (You could for instance encode at a very high bit rate, but the higher you go, the larger the file, and the less viewers you will have). It's not acceptable to expect people to download giant files in non-lossy formats. This challenge has been what has kept me creating 'noisy' motion graphics. The musical and visual aesthetics of the 90's shoegaze and experimental music movements that I identify with are not well suited to the world of the internet, that values signal over 'noise' and accessibility over fidelity. I've accepted the challenge, and I feel like compression is a temperamental artistic partner that guts out my favorite bits of work and then leaves blurry patches where they once were, to be filled in by the minds eye, which is as eager to makes shapes out of noise as the compression algorithms are.

I have loved glitch artwork for a long time, but I think it's a little overdone now and tied too closely to electronic music. I had a disturbing 'experience' as a teen watching Mexican television that had a malfunctioning satellite feed. This was the first time I saw the mpeg compression artifacting that we now associate with "datamoshing". The effect may be ordinary now, but I still love the floating, abstract stretching you get as one image is mapped onto another, and I used it here with some NES roms that had their video ram corrupted using the excellent OpenEmu Quartz Composer patch. Finally, I used a fragment of the beautiful Traer physics iris processing sketch by Jonathan McCabe and Cath of the OpenProcessing community, which is a huge resource to programmers and visual artists. I feel like her sketch alone is probably more impressive than the whole rest of my video and here is the creative commons attribution for her code:
Iris fibres (ish)
by Cath, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 and GNU GPL license.
Work: http://openprocessing.org/visuals/?visualID=9738
License: </p>