Images, Stretchy Containers and Real Time

Real-Time Simulation, Day One

My first day using the Unreal Engine and editor. The studio was modelled in Cinema4D with stills initially made using another 3rd party renderer. The process of moving geometry between these programs is supposed to be (or should be) almost frictionless. It isn’t. A day of making mistakes and compensating for them.

At this moment, there’s a difference in quality between a rendered digital still or video frame and real-time simulation. Shadows, lighting and a range of effects are resolved to a higher level of detail in the rendered frame. But the difference is acceptable and will, in time, disappear altogether. The colour, texture and lighting can be improved signifigantly, in this work, in the days ahead.

In the scene/simulation, I sequenced three cameras on a loop. The language and analogies used within the program are not unlike other digital video editing platforms and refer to the legacy of film with a few significant mutations. 

Stretchy Containers and the Image

I’ve been wondering about the economy of images (both system and spareness) and the persistent images of virtual video feeds. It’s unusual (but appropriate) that the terms’ industry’ and ‘economy’ have been grafted to an array of categories (“creative industries”, “cultural industries”, “creative economy” being the least offensive) and adopted without objection. My time in two photo studios in early 2021 was spent photographing books with a digital camera. This act and the locations drew my focus to a set of behaviours and inclinations that similarly appear unusual, both within myself and more broadly, though are all but normalised. 

In the photo studios, I was alone only with instructions regarding the task. The purpose was to make digital images of the texts and the volumes themselves in both instances, and the requirement for this is obvious. However, when necessity appears to be the overriding motivation, it’s difficult to pause and ask if a task should be done, rather than “are we capable of doing it?” The context had me question what class of image should enter public discourse and visibility at this moment, what physical space should be used, which groups ameliorated or cooperated with?

Later in 2021, I visited Derry for a residency at Art Arcadia. The protest billboard near the beginning of the Glenshane Pass reminded me on each journey of the toxicity of the encroaching gold mining industry. The public relations documents provided by this organisation and their industry are fascinating. A mix of geology, machinery and authentic community integration and cohesion. The rarity provides the value. “How came gold to the highest value? Because it is uncommon and unprofiting and beaming, and soft in lustre; it always bestows itself.” Apologies.

These two series of events and the microclimates that surrounded them bookended 2021 and fused with how I’ve been thinking about images, about photographs, about painting, their production and the networks that enfold them. While rarity, lustre, and the betterment of the “locals” are highly regarded and noble – it’s always worth noting what waterway the sluice pipe is poisoning.

The quality of this perpetual, simulated image appeals to me not because it is separate from the landscape of media images but because it’s of that environment. It appeals to me that this work will exist only as heat, light, electricity and sound, for a short time - or potentially continue without definite conclusion on a server “out there”. As with the digitised text, this image comes at a material cost while presenting an illusion of frictionless immateriality.

While previous generations aspired to dematerialisation and the insufficiency of that objective evident in every retrospective, monograph and recapitulation – it can often seem like all territories of the image are valueless and spent. The interactions and behaviours that underwrite our new industries and subsets are anything but new. Still, the surfaces are – and consequently available to be charted, at least until the novelty dwindles or the thorns are made apparent once again. After all, there’s always a cost, but whose and how much is something I (or we) should be curious about, I suppose.