June 21, 2010
Ina Dorthea Thuresson
MA Visual Art Digital Art
Unit 2 Essay
When I first applied for this MA Visual Art Digital Art degree I applied with a project proposal that is pretty much exactly the same as I am finishing with, although possibly a bit better worded. I wanted to make my digital prints move, and that is pretty much what I have done.
I came to England almost 5 years ago to study for a BA (Hons) in Fine Art at The University for the Creative Arts but back then it was called Surrey Institute of Art and Design. While I was there I developed my current artistic practice.
It started with the idea of wanting to create something beautiful out of something disgusting. I make digital collages mixing found images, my own images and hand drawing. The work is highly decorative and from afar can appear to look like a floral pattern, but when you get closer it is revealed that it is made up of bugs, slugs, worms and meat, as well as feathers, flowers, toys and sweets, and those are the same kind of things I have used in my final MA project. All the work has an element of dark humor in it; I never wanted to be too serious about my work. I always use a lot of symmetry and repetition to create the illusion of beauty.
The thought of animating my images was always in my mind and in the summer after my BA ended I was lucky enough to see some of my work animated for me. It was used for Madonna’s 08/09 world tour, sticky and sweet, and it was really great to see my work moving and screened so big! It was very motivation and I wanted to be able to do it myself, and do it my way. A moving image piece that would not need music, but work on its own. So when I came to Camberwell to do my MA that is what I wanted, to make my own prints to move, but I did not want destroy them, I wanted the moving images to be similar to the printed images: nothing fast moving or flashing but more organic and growing
I started out making animations using Photoshop, as I felt comfortable using it, and knew it well. I quickly learned how to use Photoshop’s animation feature, but I soon realized that it would not do what I needed it to, though it did come in handy for parts of the project.
In order to get the organic feel to the work I wanted to make time-lapses of things growing, melting and decaying, but the only camera I had available was a digital SLR, a Nikon D40x. I researched time lapses that are made with DSLRs and found that my camera did not have the correct features to set it up to take photos at regular intervals, but that Nikon D200 would be able to do so. And it just so happened that my father is a photographer, and he had a D200 spare as he had just gotten a newer camera. So with the D200s “interval timer shooter” option I started making time lapses.
I borrowed a light cube and some stronger lights to help me make better films. A light cube is basically a white cube, 50x50x50 cm with an opening, using it with the lights outside makes the light levels that interfere with the animation easier to control and keeps drop shadows to a minimum. Once I had finished the animations I used the Photoshop to put together the video and render it. I created over 30 time lapses of various flowers and fruits rotting and also did a few of meat.
I also did a series of stop motion animations. I tried using software called iStopMotion, witch allows you to take photos using a DSLR via a computer, and it then makes the video for you. I found it a bit annoying to use and did not allow for the same freedom as just using Photoshop. I had never done stop motions before and found it fun at first but tedious in the long run. With a bit of tweaking I managed to make it do what I needed it too and I did stop motions of various toys and also meat and an octopus.
In my original proposal I mentioned wanting to learn how to use Adobe After Effects, but I was dreading having to start. But after it was recommended to me about four times during the mid point review I decided to jump in to it. Using various Internet tutorials I quickly grasped the basics, and found that my past in Photoshop was very handy. Using After Effects I started animating some of my drawings, and eventually I started putting together the final film.
The final piece is made up of layers on layers on layers, once I got near the end I would do a low quality render every evening, and in the morning I would watch the video back, taking notes of what I need to change, until one day I decided not to make any more changes, and I thought the hard work was over. Turns out I was very wrong.
Now I had to learn about compressions, resolutions and frame rates. I started the final render using the same settings as I had before, but after 30 hours it was obvious I would not be able to finish the piece on time, so I stopped it and spoke to some friends of mine in the film business. I had created a monster, now I am in the process of taming the monster. I have to re render bits of the video in order to lower the levels of layers and compositions. Then I have to lower the resolution of most of the work and choose a compressor that makes the files smaller. After all that I can try again to render the final film.
I was always sure that I wanted to create the video in HD, and I was very naïve about the process. Making the video is easy enough, but playing it back turned out to be more of a problem. I wanted to show the video large scale, using an HD projector, and thought I would use a Blu-Ray player. After a talk with a visiting lecturer I realized the Blu-Ray was out of the question, creating a disc would cost far more then I had ever imagined. So I set out trying to find a different solution, I could play the video from a Computer, with a HDMI adapter, but after a test it turned out that non of the computers made available to us would be powerful enough to play the video smoothly enough. I thought about an up-scaling DVD player, but my video would be unable to fit on a regular DVD. However I did find a solution, or my classmate Bill did: The Western Digital HD TV Media Player, a pretty cheap and brilliant solution, it lets you play HD off an external hard drive. It plays just about any video format, and audio format and lets you view any picture format, and it’s little. Little enough to sit nicely inside the plinth I am building to hide away the projector.
The second aim in my application was to further develop the contextual background of my work, and to research in to what we feel disgusted by and why.
I started off the year by creating a website, www.disgustingbeautiful.com,
It allowed people to write down what they thought were disgusting or beautiful. The website had over 7000 visitor and left me with a great resource: a list of over 2000 beautiful and disgusting things.
The most important part of reaching my second aim was the research paper. In it I wrote about the theories that philosophers and scientists had said and thought about disgust over the decades. The research was incredibly interesting and helpful. I learned how the thoughts on disgust had changed, from believing that disgust was an instinct, an inbuilt defense mechanism in all humans, to believing that disgust is a thought emotion. I read, among others, ideas by Darwin, Freud and Kant.
In Kant’s book The Critique of Judgment (1790) he wrote:
“There is only one kind of ugliness that cannot be presented in conformity with nature without obliterating all aesthetic liking and hence artistic beauty; that ugliness that arouses disgust” It is this quote that became the main inspiration for my final project. Kant is basically saying that nothing can be experience as both beautiful and disgusting at the same time, as disgust is such a powerful emotion that it destroys all aesthetic beauty in a picture or a space. With this project I wanted to prove Kant wrong.
Over the last year I have taken part in two exhibitions along side my studies. The first one, in November, called “Exit Vestfold”, allowed my to exhibit my work in Norway for the first time. It was a great experience exhibiting along side some really great and more experienced artists, and it’s amazing to think that my work has hung on the same walls as Edward Munch and Andy Warhol! It was also an educational experience, having to organize shipping and also printing in another country (even though it is my own country). As part of their education a group students studying teaching and art at the local college had to write a long paper on one of the artists in the exhibition, and later I had the ones written about me sent to me. Its really great seeing another person’s thoughts and opinions of my work, as well as very humbling. The papers have been another great resource for me, and offered a lot of new artist references that I had never thought about.
The second exhibition I took part in was a much smaller affair in Brixton, at the Red Gate Gallery. The title of the show was “How Beautiful Ugliness can be…” so a theme that fits my work perfectly. It was great to see other artist whose work with similar themes as me, and how different from mine their outcome is.
I have never been very good to sticking to my own deadlines or time management, but threw the constant use of the blog I find that I have become more organized.
The blog has been an incredibly useful tool for me. It has made writing essays and other texts much easier, and it has been very useful to help keep my brain uncluttered; it’s a kind of external hard drive for my brain. I cannot imagine not using it in the future!
When we started preparing for the final show I somehow accidentally ended up in charge of the organizing, I’m not sure how it happened but I have enjoyed it a lot. It has been a lot of work, and seeing it finally take shape is a great thing. I have discovered that I really enjoy bossing people around and making decisions, researching products, emailing and calling after prices and getting discounts. I even enjoy emailing people nagging for money. But I am very happy we are a small group of only 26, for my BA degree show we were 65 people.
It has also been incredibly tiring, and some days I would end up only sitting on my computer writing and responding to emails, over the last weeks I have had between 20 – 50 emails every day. But its great how many talented people we have on our course, who have done some great work for the show, Jean Baptist De Marco has created a whole branding concept for the show, with a great logo, posters, postcards and even a jingle, and Susan Mortimer is single-handedly printing and binding our catalogs.
The time spent doing the preparations for the show has taken a lot of time away from my project but in the end I think it’s worth it as I’m sure the skills I have gained will come in handy again in the future.
When I finish the MA I aim to continue working as an artist, and keep developing new video work, as I really enjoyed the process of making this work. If I can’t do it full time then I will do it in my spare time. I always wanted to be an artist and I’m not much for giving up.
I really hope that the skills I have gained over the last year can help me get a job in the creative industry. I want to continue using After Effects and the other software’s I have used during this MA, I want to get more confident with them. I finish this MA with all the tools I would need to keep working so I have no reason not to.
I will keep applying for exhibitions and residencies, and I hope to get an internship or two in something more work related, so that I can get some work experience in a wider field, and also create a more commercial portfolio. I also want to continue the reading and researching that I started with my research paper, and perhaps eventually go for a PhD.
I named my final piece “Disgusting/Beautiful”, it runs for 40 minutes, and loops continually, building up and breaking down. I don’t want people to feel like they need to watch the whole thing, but they can come back to it after a while and see something different. It’s not a movie or a film; it’s a moving print, ambient and organic. It’s full HD, 1920×1080, projected with an HD projector, and played off a Western Digital Media Player. The player and the projector are hidden in a self-built plinth, to protect it. It has been a pain to make, but it’s worth it because I really love it!