Direction, production, photography, motion design, post-production: Peter Thiedeke
Electronic Music: FASE
Live improvised Cello: Linda Hwang
This research is an investigation within the field of digital photography as new media and deals with its convergence with other mediums through the meta-medium of computation. New media objects, including digital photography, can be materially deconstructed and converge with other digitised media. In scholarly literature they are described as having the following characteristics: numerical representation, they are composed of digital code; modularity, images are discrete and maintain separate identities; automation, they may function automatically in their creation and dissemination using algorithms; variability, they can exist as potentially infinite versions; transcoded, they can translated into organisational file formats such that they can be used across many software applications and hardware (Manovich, 2001).
The research demonstrates ways in which digital photography can become malleable and emerge as a spatially and temporally distinctive species of media released from the static two-dimensional frame. To date, photography isn’t often conceptualised in this way despite the widespread discussion of the digital image. This research does so through iterative processes of transformation from print and screen based still images into a multiplicity of forms including non-linear moving image sequences, interactive representations and immersive aquatic installations.
The work consists of 5 parts and 22 creative pieces which have been exhibited and published in 2015 and 2016 including: Forecasting a collaborative immersive installation at the Spring Hill Baths curated by the BARI16 Festival (Brisbane Artist Run Initiatives); Plenty curated by Professor Marian Drew and exhibited at the Brisbane Powerhouse; Spirited Away an editorial publication in Condé Nast Traveller, March 2016 (UK Edition) with a circulation 80,000 copies worldwide; and Precious: The Lure of Skill, the Griffith Centre for Creative Arts Research’ exhibition curated by Professor Ross Woodrow and shown at the Bosz Gallery in Brisbane in 2015; TWIFSY (The world is fine save yourself) QCA Project Gallery, documentary work in progress.
Above: Prototype for a virtual reality fly-through constructed from still photographs (as at right).
Right: Still image captured at 1/19000th of a second at the moment of my exhalation.
Above: 2:25 moving image, high speed capture at 16,000 frames/second at the moment of my exhalation
Left: Still image captured at 1/19000th of a second at the moment of my exhalation.
Above: Interactive prototype for a water consumption data visualisation made from the the still images (as at left) - touch the concentric circles.
Perhaps the greatest material shift in photography is, as Crowther (2008) describes, the ontological character of the digital image. In contrast to autographic images such as drawings and paintings, which can only exist in one location and can be expressed as an absolute token or type, the digital image can be realised simultaneously, or at different times, on multiple devices or spatial modes (p.164). Crowther contends that although digital art will never supersede traditional art, it may perfect some of the structural and visual properties of pictorial art and that there may be signs that traditional art objects will be transformed by such factors (p. 170). He claims that “many new media works combine visual, written and audio material in ways that obliterate traditional boundaries between traditional art forms” (p. 162) and he supports this hypothesis by considering key points of difference between traditional media, such as painting and drawing, and computer generated or modified images. Crowther further suggests that three-dimensional pictorial representations in traditional art cannot be significantly and further developed so as to sustain radical new movements or isms due to the constraints placed upon them by their structural features and physical nature. Affirming that ‘artists and tendencies refine or innovate by reworking the relation between key structural features so as to open up new possibilities for other artists’ (p. 161), and hence creativity may be bound to the specific conditions of software design. Crowther insists that digital artists ought to break the boundaries of innovation by re-directing and refining these conditions (p.167).
This final iteration of the creative works in h20 Immersive investigate the fifth conceptual mode of this project, the relationship that dynamic, moving and interactive digital imagery has with the screen in terms of immersion, illusion and our perceptions of reality. This relationship can be considered from a variety of perspectives, from early insights into perceptual psychology through to the explications of the technologically complex interactivity of virtual reality. In the case of digital photography, as typically two-dimensional objects that are most often experienced as transient phenomena through the ubiquitous LED screen, significant opportunities and implications are posed for it as a medium.
The mental processes that occur through immersion, whether facilitated by computer mediated processes or not, may be comparable or analogous to the experiences of many media including reading books and watching films. Early analysis of the relationship between immersion and interactivity tends to focus on technologically determined classifications and conditions for such a relationship. Assessing the problematic nature of virtual realities, literary theorist Ryan (1994) supposes that interactivity is the very power of the user to modify their environment, deriving their entire satisfaction from the exploration and active involvement in the virtual world. She clarifies the distinctions between immersion and interactivity is that immersion may be a response to a basically static form of representation whereas interactivity requires that the system must respond to a user’s actions. She assures us that the greater the freedom to interact in such a system, the deeper the sense of immersion will be and that this will result in our bonding to the virtual environment. Ryan reinforces her position by citing Steuer (1992) and his efforts to analyse the experiential and conceptual aspects of immersion in relation to other types of mediated experiences through the mapping of measurable variables that can be applied to interactive systems. Ryan broadens her argument by referring to the work of virtual reality experts, Pimental et al (1995), whom actively worked in the industrial development of virtual reality. She quotes their profound realisation that ‘the question isn't whether the created world is as real as the physical world, but whether the created world is real enough for you to suspend your disbelief for a period of time’ (Pimentel, Teixeira, & Teixeira, 1995, p. 15). Ryan further quotes Jaron Lanier who famously coined the term ‘virtual reality’ in 1989 and also stated that the ultimate illusional goal in virtual reality was that ‘with a VR system you don't see the computer anymore, it's gone […] all that's there is you’ (Lanier & Biocca, 1992, p. 166). This idealistic speculation may be brought to balance by the principals of perceptual psychology and Gibson’s (1979) explication that ‘the user’s cognitive biases may lead to irrational behaviour, illogical interpretations or inaccurate assumptions about the environment’ (p. 106) and the premise that visual perception is created by the relationship between the information received by the eyes and the body's physical relationship to the ground and space.
More recent discourse highlights other levels of complexity, underlining the futility of oversimplification and rigid definitions that are dependent on hardware and software designs, particularly in an ever-changing environment. Extolling the idea that all art, and in particular modern art, is interactive Manovich (2001) states the seemingly obvious in that ‘once an object is represented in a computer it automatically becomes interactive’ (p. 55). Insisting that it is easy to specify interactive structures and to follow pre-programed associations (p. 61) Manovich emphasises the difficulty of theoretically dealing with a user’s experience of interactive structures. He defies any literal definition of interactivity, deeming it a term ‘to broad to be truly useful’ (p. 49) and urges that in doing so would be at the expense of psychological interactions which are required to comprehend any text or image declaring that –
The literal interpretation of interactivity is just the latest example of a larger modern trend to externalise mental life, a process in which media technologies - photography, film, VR - have played a key role […] which can be related to the demand of modern mass society for standardisation” (Manovich, 2001).
Crowther, P. (2008). Ontology and Aesthetics of Digital Art. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 66(2), 161-170.
Gibson, J. J. (1979). The ecological approach to visual perception. London;Dallas [etc.];: Houghton Mifflin.
Lanier, J., & Biocca, F. (1992). An Insider's View of the Future of Virtual Reality. Journal of Communication, 42(4), 150-172. doi:10.1111/j.1460-2466.1992.tb00816.x
Manovich, L. (2001). The language of new media. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.
Paul, C. (2012). The myth of immateriality - presenting new media art. Technoetic Arts: a Journal of Speculative Research, 10(2/3), 167-172. doi:10.1386/tear.10.2-3.167_7
Pimentel, K., Teixeira, K., & Teixeira, K. (1995). Virtual reality: through the new looking glass (Vol. 2nd). New York: Intel/McGraw-Hill.
Ryan, M.-L. (1994). Immersion vs. Interactivity: Virtual Reality and Literary Theory. Postmodern Culture, 5(1), 39. doi:10.1353/pmc.1994.0058
Steuer, J. (1992). Defining Virtual Reality: Dimensions Determining Telepresence. Journal of Communication, 42(4), 73-93. doi:10.1111/j.1460-2466.1992.tb00812.x
Left: From inside the installation as experienced from the audience point of view. The experience could be described as an immersive, shared, float tank with a responsive musical improvisation.
Right: Video documentation of the collaborative installation with >3 and cello improvisation by Linda Hwang. This wide shot, of the 10:41 piece looped over 2 hours, shows the location and intermittent audience interactivity.
Full program download
Exhibition Details / Powerhouse website
Exhibition Details / GCAR website
Micro-site design and development for AELA call to action (Australian Earth Laws Alliance).
Editorial print publication / Circulation 80 000 copies worldwide.
Curated by Professor Ross Woodrow
Exhibition Details / GCAR Website