MADA1 – project proposal

Tim Pickup, February 2008.

working title:
Long exposure photography, video and sculpture.

I have had my solutions for a long time, but I do not yet know how I am to arrive at them.
(Carl Friedrich Gauss)

To create life-size full color sculptures which model every space passed through by human beings in motion.
These artworks will be supported by print, video and virtual 3D studies.
I’m aiming to produce digital art which is commercially viable. By which I mean, work that is not digital anymore but physical!

* Research history of motion study
* Expore high speed photography
* Explore long exposure photography
* Explore slit scan photography techniques
* Explore high speed video
* Develop long exposure video techniques
* Explore 3D scanning technology
* Explore 3D game techniques.
* Research 3D virtual galleries
* Develop 2D/3D morphing/tracing techniques.
* Learn 3D character animation techniques.
* Learn 3D modelling techniques.
* Learn 3D virtual modelling technologies.
* Learn suitable rapid-prototyping technologies to create the sculptures.
* Learn suitable coloring techniques to finish off the sculptures.

I desire to see these sculptures. Throughout history artists and scientists have explored the concept of motion and
what it means to move through space and time. By precisely realising simple movements as 3D sculptures I hope to add
to this exploration and at the same time produce ‘beautiful diagrams of life’. It is possible that 3D data acquired in the process of making this art may be useful to other artists/scientists studying motion.

I have been what is called a digital artist for several years and while I have made a living by applying my programming skills in a commercial arena, I have always found it difficult to be paid for my ‘digital’ art. By projecting digital techniques (ie the use of 3d modelling & programming) into the physical realm I hope to remedy this shortfall. A visiting tutor Ed Kelly, described my process as going in the opposite direction to most digital artists who may start with sketching or drawing and then take these studies into the digital realm. I am happy to work in this contrary direction. It is important to me that what I do is not possible (or at least very difficult) for most artists. This is what I think I can offer to a potential audience, and hopefully forms the strength of my art.

I don’t see this project as being that original, just something that is currently doable. There have been several instances this year already, where studies I have made, concerning the collapsing or compressing of the element of time, have turned out to have already been realised by other digital artists. Not just roughly done, but in some instances exactly done, which may be a price paid for working in a digital (and explicitly copyable) environment. I’ve found these discoveries to be bemusing, but at the same time they have forced me to refocus my attentions on the simple main goal of making these sculptures. A strong reference point for the project was a technological updating of Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase No 2 (1912) a painting I always find fascinating (and which I’ll soon have the opportunity to see in the flesh at Tate Modern). Duchamp was inspired by the motion studies of Etienne-Jules Marey (who also inspired the much better known but scientifically (aesthetically?) weaker work of Eadweard Muybridge). Marey forms the cornerstone of the project and he even made a few stabs at rendering his studies artistically, although he was primarily a scientist. This boundary between art and science has always struck me as an interesting place to be, and I usually strive to position myself around about there through the appliance of programming. If the project can stretch me in these three areas: art, science and programming then I will consider it a success.

To render at least one full size full color sculpture.
Because this project is on the limits of what is achievable by an artist on a finite budget, I’ve had to build various fallback positions into my ambitions. It may be that I will have to settle for smaller pieces, indeed most commercial/educational rapid prototyping machines produce works scaling to several inches, not feet. At the very least the pieces can have a full size, albeit digital, existance in a 3D virtual gallery, and will be documented in images and video. As virtual (or digital) works the pieces become harder to place within an art market, which is unfortunate, as this is one focus of my project. I will need to research other potential financial outlets for this type of work. One possible idea is to position the works as scientific studies of the sort that would appear in a museum; much in the way that Gunther von Hagens, a German Doctor, displayed human anatomy studies recently. There are existing bodies such as the Arts & Humanities Research Council which broadly speaking can offer financial support to art projects that can provide ‘data’ that may be of use to other practitioners. The cost of producing large scale sculpture may require this type of funding. These type of considerations may be more suited to research at a Phd level which is also something to think about. To restate: I am going to try to create at least one full size full color sculpture. I feel this ambition is appropriate to an MA project.

3D human modelling
3D modelling
2D/3D morphing
Algorithmic image and video editing
Virtual worlds

Digital Photography & Video
Scanning technology
Rapid prototyping
Traditional sculpting techniques

A large part of this project is finding the right contacts to be able to use state of the art rapid prototyping machines which can be very expensive, running into the thousands of pounds for a human size model. Ideally I will hook up with an engineering course in the UK which has such a machine. This needs a lot of research of the networking variety. There exists a small rapid prototyping machine within the University of Arts London (at Central St. Martins) which I intend to use, also there are a couple of Laser Cutters (mainly used by the Architects at Camberwell) which produce regular surfaced sculptures which may be of some use. I also plan to exhibit the supporting pieces throughout the two year period and make as much contact with the art world as I can. The work is expensive to produce so it would be good to have some kind of gallery assistance involved.

Technically I have to find, what is called in engineering projects, a pipeline. Not just one but several depending on the mediums and outcomes involved be they photography, video or sculpture. For example last term I had a pipeline:

Create animation in Poser 6 -> Export Animation Frames as OBJ -> Import to Rhino 3D -> merge frames -> convert to STL -> upload to Telesculpture2007 in Colorado -> Render sculpture
(This is still to be done, as they’ve had some ‘technical issues’ over there. The size of the piece is only 6 inches high)

By the end of the first year I hope to have many pipelines worked out. Also by the end of the first year I hope to have a good idea of the subject matter I intend to explore. For now I’m keeping the subject matter pretty bland. Simple actions like walking/running/lifting/standing up/sitting down, etc…. More complex subject matter may come about through research – particularily into previous studies of motion, especially in areas such as anatomy, sport, dance, time & motion, & ergonomics. I’m also interested in notions of human absurdity and interrupted micro-narratives (for example somebody walking across a room and tripping) which may become involved if I get over the technical hurdles which are the main imperative.

In the second year the methodology will change to resemble a production line. I’ll be generating lots of models, each of which will be tested in 2D and virtual 3D environments, before choosing which ones will end up being fully rendered as sculptures. As I expect there to be several other people involved in the process it will be important to make sure everyone knows what they are doing and is happy to work with me. It may be that to get the sculptures life size I will have to utilise traditional sculpture techniques to scale-up my models, which is an area I have little experience of and will have to work closely with sculpture tutors + technicians.

risk assessment:
The sculptures are intended for public display so usual health and safety precautions need to be observed.
If the sculptures are heavy then installation needs to be done carefully.
The sculptures may need to be stored somewhere secure and spacious before the show.
The project is in many ways about the collapsing of time, and some of the video studies I have already made involve fast edits of the epileptic variety so due warning will have to be attached to those works.

Winter 2007:
First term, explaining project to others, finding feet at college. Working mainly on suitable technologies on the 3D image generation side, and some video studies.

Spring 2008:
Intend to start contacting people who will be helpful to me. To do this i need to create a portfolio of how the work might look as a 3d model, perhaps a virtual world. Then I can invite contacts to that space to encourage them to help me ‘render this in the real world’. Also need 2D equivalents, calling card etc…develop online art presence, (eg myArtSpace). Look to contribute to several art shows at Camberwell and beyond. Look into applying for funding from AHRC.

Summer 2008:
Finalise the pipeline. Research into more ‘human’ subject matter. Solidify industry / university external contacts.

Winter 2007:
Start producing sculptures. Small scale at first. Test rendering and coloring techniques.
Work on supportive material to try and decide which models work best full-size.

Spring 2009:
Generate full size sculptures.
Color full size sculptures.

Summer 2009:
Publicize and help curate end of year show.

Avgerakis, G. (2004) Digital animation bible : creating professional animation with 3ds max, LightWave and Maya, London: McGraw-Hill
Braun, M. (1992), Picturing Time: The Work of Etienne-Jules Marey (1830-1904), Chicago: University Of Chicage Press
Bachelard, G. (1964), The Poetics of Space, Boston: Beacon Press.
Clegg, B. (2007) The Man Who Stopped Time: The Illuminating Story of Eadweard Muybridge – Pioneer Photographer, Father of the Motion Picture, Murderer, London: Joseph Henry Press
Dagognet, F. (1992) Etienne-Jules Marey : a passion for the trace, New York: Zone Books
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Hofstadter, D. (2007) I am a strange loop, New York: Basic Books
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