MikeP Draft Project Proposal V2

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What do you want to make

My goal is to create a series of drawings and animations that will be presented in a gallery exhibition format. The exhibition will consist of screen-based 3d animations and a series drawings made on plotting machines. Both the animations and drawings start with the same source material of virtual human bodies in motion disturbed by layers of technological distortion and manipulation.

The animations will be a 2 channel work, with a running time of approximately 6 minutes per channel. The animations will feature an intense over-saturated color palette, while the drawings will contrast with a starker black and white, pen and ink format. Both types of work will reference a new number of key periods in art history, from Mannerism , the Baroque to more contemporary forms of digital and media art .

How do you plan to make it

Plan: Animation Component

I’m currently in the the initial stages of generating the animations. I’ve been working with different cloth simulation engines, after some initial failed experiments with Houdini’s version 16 cloth solver, which was incredibly slow and would fail in some catastrophic ways after simulating for over 20 hours and only generating 30 seconds of animation. I’ve been having much more success with Maya’s nCloth solver, the simulations which are more forgiving, but can be not totally physically accurate (which isn’t a deal-breaker in this case). Houdini just released a new version of their software in October, with a totally new cloth solver, which runs much faster than Houdini’s other solver (but not as fast a nColth). The new solver may also be helpful, especially for more complex setups.

The overall production plan for creating the animation is as follows:

  • Record new motion capture sequences
  • Select figure models to map motions on to human figures.
  • Perform rag-doll physics pass.
  • Create volumetric models with UV maps.
  • Paint and color the figure models.
  • Create environment setting for the models to interact and collide with, paint the environment models .
  • Run cloth physics pass on the rag-dolls.
  • Create camera paths to follow the simulated characters.
  • Create system to motion-capture and record camera movements using the VR headset and hand trackers for hand-held footage.
  • Lighting and rendering.
  • Editing and Coordinating with composer for the music.
  • Select stills from the animations to be used for the drawings.
Plan: Drawing component

For the drawing component I plan on expanding on some of the techniques I used last year in making the first series of plotter drawings. I intend to develop some new tools to modify the geometry of the 3d figures so that I can have more a greater variety of line types and styles. I would also like to experiment beyond using only wireframe lines. I will attempt to reproduce other drawing techniques on the plotter such as fills, hatching and shading. By using a variation of line qualities, I will be attempting to add more visual depth, with a focus on layering contrast between light and dark, shape and form. These techniques will explore the balance between creating drawings that look explicitly machine-made versus lines that look more “handmade” or random.

To achieve these goals I may need to write custom code or develop a custom software pipeline for randomising the lines. One potential area of exploration will involve using simulations so this could be using hair simulations, as a way of generating large amounts of hatched lines, that can also react to the movement of the figures. As the the use of simulations is a central component of making the animations, also using simulations in the drawings may be a good approach to keeping things consistent both technically and conceptually between the two differing outputs.

What is your timetable

My current process has been one of generating large amounts of material, I create a workflow with a set of practical limitations and then produce variations based on those limitations. I have already established a workflow for generating the motion sequences and setting up the various simulations that will distort the motion sequences. I’ve received much feedback that editing and selection is essential to the success of the work, my intention is to set a deadline of after the Christmas break as the point where I will end the phase of the project where I am generating material for the animation and start focusing on editing a selecting material after the Christmas break.

Render times are a major time constraint for my project, it will take several weeks of continuous rendering to create the final frames for the animation. While the animations are rendering I will be focusing on the drawing component of the project.

Who can help you and how

I’ve reached out to Jacek Doroszenko, a composer, to help with creating a soundtrack to the animations. Additionally I have been in contact with two composers I have worked with in the past, Arjen Jongeneel and Aaron Aldend’s studio Robot Repair, who may also contribute music for the animations.

I’ll be working with my colleagues in the Interaction Station to use the new motion capture suit the station has purchased, to create my own motion capture sequences so that I don’t have to rely exclusively on preexisting motion capture sequences from online libraries. To use the motion capture suit, I may need to collaborate with dancers to create some of the motions that will be the source data for the animations and drawings.

To create the drawings I will work with Joseph Hughes in the drawing station at WDKA to work with the drawing stations (soon-to-be-purchased) large format plotter. I have discussed plans with Joseph to create modifications to the plotting machine to allow for different types of drawing implements to be added to the machine, such as adding an air compressor and valves to allow for blow-pens and airbrushes to be used in addition to more standard drafting pens.

Relation the previous practice

The body of work that I am planning to make continues many threads seen in my previous 3d work both thematically, technically and visually. Like the work I have done in the past, the new work has a focus on the human body as it relates to technology with a strong undercurrent of the uncanny. Within the work is a self-reflexive focus on the tools and technologies used to record and represent the human body. The processes used in the creation of the work embrace the potential for glitches, errors and translation artefacts that occur during the creation process. Formally there is an approach to color, which is intense and discordant.

Relation to a larger context

In looking at texts that can help me situate my thinking about this project I’ve been researching different approaches to looking at the human body as a system of information. This ranges from the cybernetic systems described by Norbert Weiner where he states "The individuality of the body is that of a flame rather than that of a stone, of a form rather than of a bit of substance.” (Weiner, 1950) to more contemporary approaches such as Benjamin Bratton’s position of "The User" in his Stack metaphor. Bratton uses the example of the Silicon Valley obsession with the quantified self, using data as a means of knowing and having mastery of the self. In becoming a data stream, the subject also has to acknowledge the outside data streams that act on him. Where the subject begins and where the subject ends in this flow of data starts blur. (Bratton, 2014). In terms of visual culture this is echoed in Steven Shaviro’s Post Cinematic Affect and his analysis of Grace’s Jones music video for Corporate Cannibal, where the image and representation of Grace Jones as the central figure in the music video is one of constant change modulation, her form is variable. (Shaviro, 2010).

As the project draws inspiration from art historical sources, I’ve been doing a lot of visual research visiting museums and exhibitions. One area of research has been looking into the use of plotters and drawing machines in the history of art and media art from artists such as Jean Tinguely, Manfred Mohr, Sol Lewitt, Vera Molnar and Patric Tresset. I’m specifically looking at the overlap between early new media art practices, conceptual art practices and current digital art.

I’ve also been looking at artists such as Glen Brown and Marc Quinn. I’m interested in Quinn’s bread sculptures, which use an approach similar to (digital) generative art and the instruction-based conceptual art of Sol Lewitt and Yoko Ono, where Quinn sets the process in motion but relinquishes a degree of control over the final outcome. With the work of Glen Brown, I’m interested in his use of direct historical references, his quoting of Rembrandt and other golden age artists. Formally I’m interested in his use of deceptive brushwork, implying impasto but then rendering them in flat, clean, almost mechanical precision. His use of the illusion of an illusion making technique and denial of the medium’s imperfect material qualities serve as a point of inspiration for my approach of making drawings with the plotting machines.

Additional areas of interest as they relate to the current body of work are: the idealised forms of the human body as found in classical sculpture of Greek and Roman antiquity, the distortion and exaggeration of the human form in Mannerist art, the interaction of multiple figures, the flowing and undulating forms of Baroque art. Are these animations that look like paintings, that reference the composition of paintings ? Are they 3d models that look like sculptures ? Can the animations and drawings, through quotation, appropriation, reference and inference situate themselves in an art-historical context, a longer lineage than might be assumed through the use of cutting-edge contemporary technology?


Parisi, L. (2015) 'Simulations', in Cheng, I (ed.) Live Simulations. Leipzig: Spector Books, pp 125-132

Batchelor, D. (2000) Chromophobia. London: Reaktion Books.

Steyrl, H. (2017) 'Ripping Reality: Blind Spots and Wrecked Data in 3D' in Steyrl, H. (ed.), Duty Free Art: Art in the Age of Planetary Civil War. London: Verso Books, pp 177-189.

Bratton, B (2014). The Black Stack. E-Flux Journal, [Online] Volume #53. Available at: https://www.e-flux.com/journal/53/59883/the-black-stack/ [Accessed 23 May. 2018].

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Shaviro, S. (2010) ‘Post-Cinematic Affect: On Grace Jones, Boarding Gate and Southland Tales’, Film Philosophy, vol. 10-1, pp 1-102.