The following text is based on a reading of my own sketch - ‘Dragons’ - which you can try here.
I see a blank white screen, with a small black loading bar, and a ‘Unity’ logo. Above this logo reads the text: “Unity Web Player | Fun” Behind this screen rest my feet, and behind that, another screen lists IP addresses for my home network. I bring back this text window into my focus and type that statement. Switching back to the window now, the first thing that catches my attention is a energetic yellow train. It sits there buzzing repeatedly, and a plume of grey smoke is venting from the front of this train. It appears to be steam powered. Slightly forward of it, and to it’s right - sits a large pink, cartoon reptile. I know it must be a reptile of some kind as it appears to have stegosaurus-like plates protruding from it’s spine. It must be a dragon or a dinosaur, an older lizard, even though it is clearly cartoon like. I cannot see it’s eyes as it is facing away from me.
Deep Blue liquidity is beyond these two entities. I cannot make it out, and it’s not clear to me, but it seems an unsteady shifting of blueness there. The world is completely silent and still. As well as this excitable train, this stoic lizard, and this shifting blue I see large, yellow, bubble-shaped text, not fully in view, the letters “ELLO WORL”. I imagine a person with poor enunciation saying this now. I even imagine him saying that extremely slowly.
Time to push some other keys, apart from these ones I keep pushing rapidly to type this up. My keyboard has a set of arrow keys I know will be useful. Glancing at them I notice the ‘up’ and ‘down’ arrow keys appear fused together, and the ‘left’ and ‘right’ appear separate. I push the ‘right’ key.
‘AW.’ A sound plays, the dragon moves directly right. He seems to have left something behind, but I wasn’t able to see it quickly enough, as immediately the yellow, ceaselessly buzzing, silent train moves to it, and covers it up. I push a bunch more right arrows to make the dragon move over so I can see what they are.
‘AWAWAWAWAWAW’ the dragon sounds, and moves further right. I can see clearly what the things he has left over are. Reddish, Pinkish, vibrating numeric symbols from one angle, they also read as tracks. These tracks are disconnected, and throb silently in sequence, at the same speed as they had been laid. The train has now embedded itself within the face of dragon as I write this, and the viewable text now reads “O WORLD”.
I continue right, and why not? I guess I identify with this dragon, come to think of it, especially since I just unintentionally said ‘I’. If my eyes move right, my hand is pushing the right key, and the dragon moves right, it must be me who is, in fact, doing the moving. I am now the dragon.
I, as dragon, have reached a wall in the space. The Wall is thick, nondescript, and Blue. A different sort of blue from what I saw before - that shifting blueness now seems more purple to me. I can go right no more. Beyond the Wall is just aqua green. Nothing more than that. A slightly darker, greener than aqua green, triangle sits at the top right of the frame. I don’t remember putting that there. My deductive mind tells me that that is probably beyond the edge of a large quad, that contains an additive shader.
Time to go back the way I came. I take a random path across the shifting blue, knowing I can’t escape this frame. How can I be surprised by any of this? I see the wide open eyes of the dragon, who is me. I know he cannot recross his tracks. The now cut off text reads “HELL”
I begin to draw now, as dragon. I begin to frame the entire “HELLO WORLD” with pink tracks, shifting around the top of the text, in a playful way, reminding me of a banal city skyline. The excitable train lags behind me as it struggles to round those corners, and I manage to escape it for a time. That is until I stop at the end, and it catches up to me. I felt a little bit free in those small moments when the train wasn’t embedded in my face. I now notice the train, perhaps if positioned slightly lower, could probably fit in my dragon mouth, which has not shut this entire time. I think to myself - that’s probably enough of a reading, (as I look down and notice my word count) and I close the line of the track. In fact, I am not able to create a perfect ‘track loop’, and now sit uncomfortably in between the train, and it’s possible continuation loop. I imagine impatient train drivers and passengers wanting less staccato a journey. I also notice the track continues to pulse.
In my scoping paper I was considering the different points of view I was analysing from a recalled dream, and remarked how easily I was able to shift, and feel between them. I only read Stern on a very surface level, and considered his idea of movement, thought, and sensation as being part of a heightened embodied process. The sensation in the dream was so strong, but I am numb whilst I write this and read this ‘little’ work in the darkness. I feel apart from all this but at the same time, I was just the dragon, wasn’t I? The dragon who did not want self reflection? I’m still the dragon now? Stuck in that shifting blue world behind this word processor screen?
I am a dinosaur, technologically unequipped to deal with the shifting nature of the world.
My spine is exposed and bones protrude out from it.
My face is a cartoon surface, with my mouth open, silent. Perhaps.
I make bountiful small works that pulse in sequence and time.
The aggregation of these works sometimes amounts to a banal skyline.
That feels right. I even made an image of a banal skyline this semester.
If I was a person who did not want to engage in self reflection, would this recreated experience be what it felt like? Maybe I’ve unintentionally made a work that talks about my process, and the process of making work in the way I currently make it. Maybe this is better automatic drawing. My self doesn’t want self reflection, and my past process has probably created aggregate works as walls as much as revelations.
I considered Jim Crawford’s (2012) work - ‘Frog Fractions’, in relation to this too. I desired an immediacy - a feeling that ‘something is finally happening’ and thought, and talked, about how the continuous fourth wall breaking produced a certain kind of immediacy that I desired, and aligned to Stern. Maybe now that fourth wall breaking is a kind of candy surface that is only sometimes useful, and after you break through the shell, suck the life out of the thing, and leave it minimally pulsing, that calm and silence then it can show you its true value. Play, or reading, at over-extended length, sometimes reveals the true values of the thing. In videogames it’s not often you get a chance to stare into the void, reflectively and meaningfully, after the immediate action has finished.
‘Drop!’ - the second work I produced, and interrogated via public exhibition at the game developers meet up, perhaps showed me the lengths people will go to in exploring possibility space, or the lengths they will go to in over-extending. A programmer from a large game company was the person who spent most time with the work, but reading it at a technical, physics simulation level, he also sucked the life from that thing, and left it minimally pulsing too, and as he left, stated that he ‘felt he pretty much explored the possibility space of the thing’. I wonder what was going on inside his head?
Could he have been making calculations of ‘how he would do it’ whilst watching these things pulse on the screen? That guy’s mind must be real interesting, and at play. That guy behaved as a body - as in Stern’s ‘incipient activity’ - and he was an integral part of what made that work interesting for me, and spectators. I recall people coming up to me and telling me who this guy was, as if I should be impressed by the fact he was spending so much time with the work. I wasn’t interested in his social status, but he and the work, and his social status is part what made the play interesting for others that day. I’m making a lot of assumptions here, but the relationships that are being played on through the work there, invisible strings that bound the microcosm resonated when those ‘important members’ chose to play with them.
"When we move and think and feel, we are, of course, a body. This body is constantly changing, in and through its ongoing relationships. This body is a dynamic form, full of potential. It is not “a body,” as thing, but embodiment as incipient activity. Embodiment is a continuously emergent and active relation. It is our materialization and articulation, both as they occur, and about to occur. Embodiment is moving-thinking-feeling, it is the body’s potential to vary, it is the body’s relations to the outside. And embodiment, I contend, is what is staged in the best interactive art. “(Stern, 2013, 2)"
One of the reasons I’m at a university in the first place is the desire to have work presented to a community that accepts and partakes in the work - and to view emergent relations that arise from it. Embodiment as community is crucial to development as an artist. If I can also shed light, and make work about the invisible structures that make up the community - even representationally or spatially so - unless the influential members of any community engage with the work, most likely my career as an artist in any community will continue to be as outsider. I consider my history, and my future in time to be the same kind of materialisation and articulation of self - but also of leaving a trail of tracks that in turn reveal something about the space that surrounds me.
Coming back to process, I wonder if this process of reflective making reflects much more than I intend it to. If there was a grain and surface to the total complex forces within the environment, a highly reflective individual might, if the metaphysical laws allowed, be able to shine light into this grain from many angles, revealing and illuminating the many dark places. I wonder if the metaphors for the materiality of this process hold true - a completely reflective individual self becoming invisible, and the only means of deducing the individual’s presence is through the waves that they generate as they move and create through the wash. I think that as psychological spaces and relational architecture of community shift so frequently, this process of art making is more ‘dipping in’ into the process, like weather reading or shamanism, or like sectional studies of psychological spaces. Currently I must be simply be investigating my own, but I wonder what might change if I was investigating a larger population, or even a small group of individuals. I think with a larger group the process becomes something like investigating drama, but with an excavation focus instead of a creation focus.
My last serious reading was the film Synecdoche, New York (2008). This film I find resonant due to this complex process exhibited by most of the characters in the film, and the affect is has on their lives. In creating and dreaming their lives the stage and structures are revealed and wrap and fold into all parts of their existence, til it becomes harder and harder to tell what is outside of these spaces. Is it possible to create in this way simply with software and have those same warping, psychedelic moments? Certainly, current software and media exists that has a pervasive influence on culture, and on a population’s perception of reality. I wonder if I’m simply looking to plug into this hierarchy utilising a simplistic technique, or if any intervention or break can be staged at all.
Pinchbeck, D. (2003). Breaking Open the Head: A Psychedelic Journey into the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism (1st edition.). New York: Broadway Books.
Benjamin, W., Tiedemann, R., Eiland, H., & McLaughlin, K. (2002). The Arcades Project. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press.
Jim Crawford on Making Games More Mysterious | Post Product Dev on WordPress.com. (n.d.). Retrieved April 07, 2014, from http://postproductdev.com/2014/04/07/jim-crawford-on-making-games-more-mysterious/
Moore, B. (2014) You’ll Want to Play This Game — If You Can Ever Find It. Retrieved April 04, 2014, from http://www.wired.com/2014/04/frog-fractions-2-kickstarter/
TwinBeard Studios (2012) Frog Fractions [Flash videogame]. Retrieved from http://twinbeard.com/frog-fraction
Kaufman, C. Jonze, S. Kimmel, S. Bregman, A. (Producer), & Kaufman, C. (Writer/Director). (2008). Synecdoche, New York [Motion picture]. United States: Sony Pictures.
Stern, N. (2013). Interactive Art and Embodiment: The Implicit Body as Performance (1st edition.). Gylphi Limited.