Concept, creative direction, direction, production, photography, motion design, post-production: Peter Thiedeke
Music: Stranger by Th'fika
Performance: Hsin-Ju (RAW) Ely, Hayden Jones, Sam Foster, Alicia Min Harvie, Joshua Thomson
Agency: Guerrilla Digital
Client: Bleached Arts Ltd
This research is within the field of applied new media and digital photography in which commissioning agents increasingly require innovative solutions to visual problems across a variety of media including print, digital and broadcast. The transference of the working methods and techniques from one media to another, within a common software environment, is referred to as deep remixability. It has become a hybrid visual language and the ‘dominant aesthetics of the era of globalisation, affecting and re-shaping everything from music and cinema to food and fashion’ (Manovich, 2013).
My innovative work alters the material and dimensional nature of the photographic image by treating digital photographs as 3-D units in a similar way to that of computer generated imagery (CGI) in games design and digital cinema. Despite the widespread discourse of the digital image, photography hasn’t been conceptualised in this way. To the best of my knowledge, this transformative hybrid process hasn’t been used with pixel-based digital photography before. This represents an amplification of the definition of digital photography.
Selected and commissioned by Bleached Arts Ltd, I creatively directed and produced the visual identity for the Bleach* Festival 2017 that appeared in the following media: 30,000 printed catalogues; more than 130,000 outdoor print media insertions; 8,473 views of the launch video on Facebook; 3,853,000 people reached through television; 45,152 visits to the Bleach* Festival website; 1,612,333 Facebook impressions and 4,513 Instagram follows were recorded from 974,738 unique users. I have since been commissioned to creatively direct the visual identity for the Bleach* Festival 2018.
The Bleach* Festival program explores the relationship between sport and art — emotion and motion. The creative direction and visual approach, through the capturing of aerial performances with high-speed photography, also addresses the need for a cohesive visual treatment required for the cross-platform integrated communications campaign involving motion design, still and interactive image components. The image database that lies at the heart of this work consists of more than 25,000 images captured in numerous bursts or sequences of high speed action. I developed a new method as a simple solution to a complex problem by reverse engineering a technique, typically used to capture the bullet time sequences (also known as time-slice), brought to the mainstream in feature films such as The Matrix. The origins of this multi-camera array approach date back to 19th century experiments by still and moving imaging pioneer Eadweard Muybridge. My innovative adaptation, using a single camera set-up, allows me to capture motion in 360º in real-time and then spatially re-organise the subject matter through digital post-production. This was achievable by rotating the subject during capture, rather than the image plane, as with time-slice techniques. In contrast to multi-camera array techniques that temporally represent one fraction of a real-time second of a single event, my continuous image sequences of multiple takes of action record the temporal and spatial changes that occur through prolonged time. These parameters can then be re-configured in post-production. The images were spatially composited and temporally re-timed frame by frame to form new sequences and new fictions. Questioning photography's indexical relationship to reality, the choreography that you see in this live action imagery did not actually occur during the performances, but only in the virtual realm of the database, the virtual 3D workspace and the timeline of the interface.
This work investigates the second conceptual mode, spatial and temporal dimensionality, by considering new media’s spatial and temporal dimensions and how the complexity of new media work is significantly extended where the spatial practices of computer-based compositing and the temporal aspects of montage converge.
Through his analysis of software operations on images, Manovich (2001) asserts that the technologies, theories and practices of new media privilege the spatial whilst those of traditional film privilege the temporal. He supports this argument by challenging film theory with the notion that the moving image is ‘no longer just a subset of audio-visual culture, the digital moving image becomes a part of audio-visual-spatial culture’ (p. 157). He extends this by referring to space as a cultural form whereby ‘spatial constructions in new media draw on all existing media traditions – but they are also fundamentally different in one key respect […] space becomes a media type’ (p. 251). Declaring compositing as ‘the key operation of postmodern or computer-based authorship’ (p. 142), Manovich specifies that a new media composition subordinates time to space and can be understood as a set of independent objects that, once on a timeline can change over time, with the temporal unit of the moving image’s frame being subordinate to the spatial unit of the object. Likening filmmaking to design, Manovich (2013) later declares that ‘a film is re-conceptualised as a graphic design that can change over time […] by adding new properties and working methods computer simulation fundamentally changes the identity of any given media. (p. 287).
The work also addresses the third conceptual mode, hybrid aesthetics of remix and illusion and the discourse of the combination of convergence, remix and illusion as a cultural and formal practice. Driven by software, new media works’ variable spatial and temporal qualities can be distinguished from those of traditional media. With its plasticity, the digital image is subject to extensive aesthetic manipulation and the diverse processes alter the meaning and interpretation of the image. The nature of how lens-based imagery changes and is perceived in terms of realism and illusionism, in contrast to computer generated imagery, is profound. The significance of this varies depending upon the nature of the original image and the identity of photographic image as an authentic document, often perceived as a reflection of reality, may further diminish.
Manovich (2013) specifies remix as the new hybrid visual aesthetics that emerged in the 1990s and that also became the ‘dominant aesthetics of the era of globalisation, affecting and re-shaping everything from music and cinema to food and fashion’ (p. 267). He extends the concept of remix with what he refers to as deep remixability or the deeper interactions between both the content and the working methods and techniques within a common software environment. Previously unique to different media and processes, 'the languages of cinematography, animation, computer animation, special effects, graphic design, typography, drawing, and painting ‘have come to form a new metalanguage’ (p. 268). He assumes that before software, artists worked with different media and developed parallel visual languages influencing each other’s aesthetic sensibilities, and that with software and the compatibility between software applications, artists are enabled to use the same techniques and strategies across media types and the aesthetic results reflect this. ‘Exactly the same techniques, compositions and iconography can now appear in any media’ (p. 307). Manovich (2001) also confers that lens-based imagery, once digitised, ‘loses its privileged indexical relationship to pre-filmic reality’ (p. 300). He affirms that software does not distinguish lens-based images from computer-generated images in that, at the material level, they are all reduced to pixels and although a modified image may retain the visual realism unique to photography, it is still reduced to a graphic raw material and obtains a plasticity that was previously only possible in painting or animation (p. 301). Furthermore, he states that when subordinated to these processes, the photographic image becomes a subset of computer animation (p. 305). ‘The moving-image culture is being redefined once again; cinematic realism is being displaced from the dominant mode to merely one option among many’ (p. 308).
Crowther (2008) also legitimises the disconnect of a digital artwork from its referent, however in a manner even more specific to photographiy. He claims that the causal reality of lens-based digital imagery, which is inherently designed to be manipulated spatially and temporally within software, is much less constrained by the real (p. 165). Describing digital imagery as imbued with an enhanced modal plasticity that goes beyond its causal relation to reality. He emphasises that ‘it has the power to virtually reconfigure the real in trans-causal terms and to do this in a sustained and ever-transforming way’ (p. 167). Conversely, Soraya Murray (2008) insists that limiting the digital aesthetics to its inherent material qualities under-represents the more profound impact of advanced technologies on art. In her discussion of the digital aesthetic in Cybernated Aesthetics: Lee Bul and the Body Transfigured, Murray expresses the need to develop a model of experience of new media informed artworks that not only considers the impact of electronic and digital technologies upon their aesthetic production, but of human experience at large where ‘art becomes a mutual exchange or negotiation’ (p. 39). She argues that particular attention must be granted to cognitive frameworks (p. 42) without assigning particular material qualities. Although she acknowledges new media art’s departure from traditional art, citing Manovich’s five properties of new media and Paul’s terms of reference to new media’s materiality (p. 40), she emphasises through her analysis of the digital and new media sculpture art of Lee Bul and the work of conceptual video artist Nam June Paik, that cybernated aesthetics needn’t necessarily manifest in the form of digital or electronic artefacts alone and that data may take on an embodied rather than a disembodied experience.
The idea that the form of the artwork casts an overwhelming shadow over what that artwork can mean is a technologically determinist stance that underestimates the artist’s voice, and also fails to understand those technologies as integrated within society (Murray, 2008, p. 48).
It is reasonable to assume that the hybrid aesthetic characteristics, regardless of how diverse these may be, will be somewhat limited by the design of software applications or at least the formally accepted ways of using software. In which case, Murray’s suggestion that escaping technological determinism might alleviate some such limitations on a conceptual level. However, such a pathway may nevertheless be regressive, equally beholden to Crowther’s structural limitations and ultimately detrimental to the lens-based image’s modal plasticity and therefore its potential elevation to the trans-causal. On the other hand, and perhaps more significant for the identity of the photographic image, is Manovich’s subordination of digitised imagery as raw material to the subset of computer animation. Liberated from its implied indexical relationship to reality and acquiring what Crowther refers to as ‘illusional purity’ (p. 167), the digital photograph may come to represent the future rather than being imprisoned in the past as Manovich implies. Yet, if these liberal synthetic affectations do render it dependent upon more complex interactive characteristics to fully achieve Manovich’s reality effect, then the hybrid digital image will most certainly become something greater than the sum of its aesthetic parts. The question of how audiences may interact with and experience such complex and distinctive photographic forms still remains.
Crowther, P. (2008). Ontology and Aesthetics of Digital Art. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 66(2), 161-170.
Manovich, L. (2001). The language of new media. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.
Manovich, L. (2013). Software Takes Command (1 ed.). New York: Bloomsbury.
Murray, S. (2008). Cybernated Aesthetics: Lee Bul and the Body Transfigured. PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art, 30(2), 38-50. doi:10.1162/pajj.2008.30.2.38
Above: Festival Program front cover
Above: Festival Program back cover
Above: Festival Program inside reverse cover
Above: print media for Weekend One
Above: print media for Weekend Two
Above: print media for Weekend Three
Above left: Bleach* Festival 2017 Launch, Gold Coast, February 2017 Above right: outdoor transit LED Adshell, City of Gold Coast
Below: Industry review in Campaign Brief, 15th February 2017
Rehearsal, testing and production stills (social media insertions)