Sunday 23 February 2014

Major Project - Uncanny Gallery - Thumbnails

Here are some thumbnails outlining some initial ideas for my uncanny gallery. As described the motivation is to create representations of living masses. So I envisage most of them moving, or convulsing in some way but this will be very subtle when it comes to animating them. I really enjoyed producing these because I just sketched whatever came to mind. The next stage is deciding which organisms will be used, from there I will develop more detailed concept art.  

Friday 21 February 2014

Major Project - Uncanny Gallery - Location Scout

After talking with my tutors, the idea for my major project has evolved into something new. It will still be a study of the uncanny, but the way I am approaching (and presenting) it has changed. Instead of creating a completely CG focused animation, it will now mix live footage with CG elements. This decision was made after a discussion with my tutor Alan regarding realism and animation. He made me realize that mixing real footage with computer generated objects will emphasize the uncanny effect as it will call into question what is real and what is not. Therefore, my proposal for this project is to create three computer generated uncanny exhibits in a real world environment. I immediately thought of my local village hall as I know it is a large space that can be easily hired as and when I need it. I dashed home this week to scout the location and took some initial photo's and video footage of the hall.....

Now that I have a location, I've been thinking about what kind of uncanny elements should populate this environment. As described the uncanny can be attributed to a wide range of objects, but for the sake of this animation, it will focus on our perceptions of what is alive and what is not. So I did some research to define what constitutes a living thing and discovered that they must have the following qualities: movement, respiration, sensitivity, growth, reproduction, excretion and nutrition. Therefore my three objects will in some way incorporate some of these qualities. I have begun to produce a series of thumbnails with this in mind which I will post shortly. From here I will develop the best ideas into more detailed concept images before creating an animatic. At the same time I will be researching how to prep a shoot and all of the techniques needed with regards to matchmoving, HDRI and environment image based lighting which will be needed later on in the pipeline. Lots to be getting on with.

Monday 10 February 2014

Major Project - The Uncanny Gallery

After some deliberation, I have decided to move forward with the idea of creating an animation based on the "Uncanny". I want to build on the notion of designing a virtual gallery, with multiple rooms indicating different aspects of the uncanny. At this stage I need to formulate a plan of action and decide what and what not to include. As described the uncanny can be applied to a variety of objects and environments, so I may need to focus my investigation on specific aspects. From my dissertation research, I established that Freud and Jentsch agreed that automatons elicit the uncanny response so I'm fairly certain they will feature in some shape or form.

Freud and Jentsch also argued that the uncanny reaction occurs when an individual is unable to determine if something is alive or not. With this in mind I've done some more research on other exhibitions with the same theme and I found this video of an art installation by Adeline De Monseignat. It's from the Ronchini installation in London (2013) and the artist is definitely asking the audience if they think this is alive or not. I had a picture of this particular piece in my last post, it initially reminded me of grey matter or a brain in jar. This video shows it could be something else entirely.

I think this piece really works as it is simultaneously alluring and repulsive. I believe my animation should aspire to do the same. What I find interesting about this installation is that it is set in an orthodox room. It made me think that a virtual gallery could be uncanny in and of itself. Freud and Jentsch mention that the less orientated an individual is in their environment, the more they are likely to experience an uncanny sensation. So the gallery could be set in a maze or labyrinth to emphasize the eerie nature.

I'm still very much brainstorming at the moment, but I think there is a solid idea in there somewhere which will hopefully get some traction in the coming week.

Friday 7 February 2014

Major Project - Initial Ideas

Over the last few months I have been focused on intensive research and academic writing for an extended dissertation. With this completed, I am looking forward to returning to a more creative challenge for my final project. At this stage I have a couple of ideas that I'd like to share before settling on a course of action.

The first idea is based on the concept of "lucid dreaming". This is when an individual realizes they are in a dream and with this awareness comes the ability to control it. I have experienced this phenomenon from time to time which could explain why I like films and literature that explore the idea. For example Christopher Nolan's "Inception" (2010), Michel Gondry's  "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" (2004) , "The Science of Sleep" (2006) and to a certain degree Phillip K. Dick's "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale"(1966). In most of these examples, fictional technology assists the process. After some initial research I have found that there are techniques to encourage lucid dreaming, such as performing reality checks during the day and keeping a dream journal at night. I started to wonder if a short animation could be produced that incorporates all of this information in an interesting way. In terms of style and presentation, my thought process took me to Bill Plympton's animated shorts "How to Kiss" (1989) and "25 Ways to Quit Smoking" (1989).  I believe that Plympton's distinctive, comedic style could be combined with the surreal nature of lucid dreams to make a short 3D animation.  It could be presented as a companies promotional video, demonstrating their "products", services and guides to lucid dreaming.

(Snippets of Bill Plympton's "25 Ways to Quit Smoking" and "How to Kiss")

The second idea grew from my research for my dissertation which is based on "The Uncanny". In psychological terms, the uncanny is a negative emotional reaction to an object, person or environment closely related, but not exclusive to fear. The German psychiatrist Ersnt Jentsch identified the term in his essay "On the Psychology of the Uncanny" (1909) and defined it as a product of intellectual uncertainty. This concept was later elaborated on and developed by Sigmund Freud in his essay "The Uncanny" (1919). Freud related the uncanny to repressed infantile fears, surmising that it is a peculiar mixture of something familiar in a unfamiliar context and vice versa. Although Freud was dismissive of Jentsch's "intellectual uncertainty" argument, it nevertheless recurs in his own essay. He also concurs with Jentsch that robots and wax figures provoke an uncanny response. Further research established that the uncanny is often associated with the sight of corpses, the return of the dead, the paranormal, telepathy, cannibalism, being buried alive, doppelgänger's, the nature of the world, the nature of oneself.  

With this list of uncanny themes, I wondered if an animation could be created as an aesthetic investigation. Having discussed the proposal with my tutor Phil, an idea emerged of creating a virtual gallery, with each room devoted to different aspects of the uncanny. In essence the animation could be virtual tour of what is eerie and disturbing. For example, one room could depict the uncanniness associated with robots, wax figures and puppets; the next room could represent the notion of the double with mirrors as a theme. There is a substantial list to pick and choose from which will help in terms of time management. I can develop a range of rooms in pre-production and ascertain what is feasible within the time frame. I also like the idea of writing a poem or sonnet based on Jentsch and Freud's work which will narrate to the audience throughout the tour. With this in mind I have investigated other exhibitions with an uncanny theme.

Robert Gober - Untitled (Leg) (1989-1990)

Ron Mueck - Auo-portrait

Ronchini Installation

Hans Bellmar - Adjustable Doll (1935)

Herbert List - Surgery for Squint (1944 - 46)