With stunning cinematography (and no CGI), director Oscar Hudson pays homage to Japan’s social phenomenon of ‘Hikikomori’.
A dreamy, disconnected electronic beat plays as a Japanese teenager wakes up in his bedroom, visibly troubled at the thought of facing the day ahead of him. But there are tricks at play, as he walks through the door, only to find a replica of his bedroom ahead, and of him too, staring into the mirror. And then there is another, and another, till we see a series of bedrooms and the boy in it – only the room appears to be becoming smaller and more crowded as the boy gets bigger.
This linking of the psychological and the physical space plays as the perfect foil to British music producer Bonobo’s inspired number No Reason. Director Oscar Hudson mines the Japanese phenomenon of Hikikomori – when young people find themselves overwhelmed and end up as housebound recluses. According to the government, the number of hikikomori between the ages of 15 to 30 in Japan in 2015 numbered some 540,000.
The cinematography No Reason is inspired by the 2014 Oscar-winner Birdman. The vocals by Nick Murphy (also known as Chet Faker) contribute to the dream-like sequence and the feeling of overwhelming monotony. “We achieved the film using only in-camera physical effects and we designed an entirely new way of moving our miniature camera to get it to fit through the tiny doorways. Doing this film with CGI would have been a thousand times easier, but for me, it’s physicality and imperfections are what make it different, and, I hope better,” said Hudson.
Electric Sheep is a distributed computing project for animating and evolving fractal flames, which are in turn distributed to the networked computers, which display them as a screensaver.
First created in 1999 by Scott Draves, the Electric Sheep is a form of artificial life, which is to say it is software that recreates the biological phenomena of evolution and reproduction through mathematics. The system is made up of man and machine, a cyborg mind with 450,000 participant computers and people all over the Internet.
This is a distributed system, with all participating computers working together to form a supercomputer that renders animations, called “sheep”, that everyone sees. The human participants guide the survival of the fittest by voting for their favorite animations in the flock. You can join this project by downloading the Electric Sheep Screensaver.
Each participating computer follows mathematical instructions, Draves’ Flame algorithm, to render its own piece of the larger work, as seen in the table at left. The images are sent back to a central server which compresses them into animations which are sent back out to the viewers. The electricsheep.org website shows the family tree for each sheep, including its parents and offspring, and viewers can track family resemblance. The artist’s Clade series shows a selection of family members in high resolution.
Like Draves’ other software art, the Electric Sheep code is open source, which has allowed it to benefit from code contributions from many enthusiastic programmers. Now Draves serves as head Shepherd on a project with many participants.
The most popular sheep from the current flock can be viewed on the live server, or you can browse the archive.
– via scottdraves.com
Surrealism Today: You have designed this technology, company & ecosystem. Electric Sheep has taken on a life of its own. In a sense, from a systems perspective, you have developed your own game rules rather than just being another player in someone else’s game. What in your thinking has made that possible?
Scott Draves: That’s right, I definitely think of the Sheep as generative world design. My approach is based on languages and metaprogramming, as a way to cross from finite to infinite. It was made possible by exposure to books like Gödel, Escher, Bach and SICP and my friends and colleagues at Brown and CMU SCS who taught me so much about computers and programming.
ST: In previous interviews, you mention Pollock, Gysin, and Burroughs as artists who inspire you. (Related: Cut-up Technique) Art has changed more in the past hundred years than it ever has, and likely will even more in the next hundred years, where would you like to see it go? Rather than create the content of art, will next-gen artists create algorithms that allows for infinite works of art? If that’s the future, you’ve actually been doing it for some time…
SD: I am loving the Cambrian explosion of software art going on. What are my wishes for art? The more the merrier. Algorithms and coding and infinite art are definitely growing and that’s great. But are they growing popularity in the art world? Maybe? I can’t imagine 100 years in the future. I will admit I’ve been doing this forever, I am old, and got an early start, releasing the first open source art in 1992.
Surrealism Today: Many of the Electric Sheep are reminiscent of mandalas in various religious traditions in both East and West as well as psychedelic and visionary art. These movements seem to have goals in common. Do you have an affinity with any spiritual traditions or movements?
Scott Draves: The Sheep have a meditative aspect for me and a spiritual aspect. Yes, there are goals in common, and affinities. Yoga. Zen. Negentropy. Positivism. Science.
ST: You’ve created this ecosystem of beautiful living mandalas that change over time and breed and evolve and die. Each sheep had DNA (code), its form, not to mention the memetic (conceptual) & cultural level. In what senses are the sheep alive?
SD: Thank you. They are alive because they have emergent complexity, at both the breeding, DNA, evolution level and also in the Flame algorithm, where the image emerges from the DNA. The memetic level kicks in with the open source and allowing others to create their own flames and sheep.
Surrealism Today: What non-intuitive things do you do, think or avoid that may have helped contribute to what you have created?
Scott Draves: When I started doing Open Source it was considered unamerican and anti-capitalist, and literally compared to “cancer”. It turns out sharing code has merit. Actually, that was always intuitive to me but most people just didn’t get it. These days it seems open source has taken over in some domains and is thriving.
On the other hand sharing everything may not be advisable. That was not obvious to me. It took me a long time to learn.
ST: William Gibson mentioned in one of his sci-fi books that instead of writing music, musicians wrote algorithms and the code would generate infinite, unique songs that never repeated themselves. Recently the iPhone app “H__r” got me excited… it loops sounds from the environment into a surreal listening experience. What being created today (that I can perhaps link to) has gotten you excited recently?
SD: Joshue Ott has a bunch of amazing av apps: https://intervalstudios.com/. A bit further afield: Alpha Go, https://deepmind.com/research/alphago/. This is an enormous breakthrough that promises so much to come.
Surrealism Today: I’m super excited about this recent high-resolution release of the sheep, and the subscription. What’s next?
Scott Draves: Thank you.
Dots! The real-time audio interactive version, which premiered last year at Creative Tech Week and is going to be in it again this year: http://creativetechweek.nyc/. The mixed reality party was on the 17th of April, 2017.
ST: Where can we find you on the internet?
Holy strange eye-candy Batman, what is that? NFW! WTF? It’s Zeitguised again, making magic. Pure, magical, computer generated abstract art. Delicious candy for your eyes. (We originally covered Zeitguised here in 2013.) And wow. It doesn’t get weirder than this.
AN EXPLORATION OF HANDCRAFTED ALGORITHMIC TEXTILES AND SURFACES
A Ghost in the shell,
>dancing the procedural revolution<.
Algo vs rhythm =
0% organic /
100% processed *
(*Olive, Rose, Mauve and Electric Blue).
Grid wrangling like a pharmacist /
Authentic apparition sequence;
Fake hacks realism,
Sympathy demons / Uncertainty artefacts
: Synthetic ecstatic aesthetic means
– via Geist.xyz
Synthetic constructions of shapes and structures that have a similar level of complexity as natural occurrences, yet follow rules that are manmade and artificial, and modelled by and according to human thought processes. Some are engineered from physical growth and distribution processes but altered towards a common design goal. The outcome was open in the beginning, so we would not produce something that we would know beforehand, to leave space to explore unknown territory. In the end the topic that crystallised from the results was the juxtaposition of simulated organic topologies and hard mechanic artefacts as they are known from technology production techniques. We produced synthetic spaces in which we invented rules and parameters that let those two formal worlds collide and interact and inform each other.
– via Neural Groove
“Void Season” is a simulated fashion project.
Part dreamlike theatre, part lateral cargo cult hustle, a quick succession of bold garment designs acts as an ersatz runway show. In a minimal set of solid backdrops, radiant colors and oblique choreography second the exquisite design of costumes that have been entirely artificially generated.
A wealth of custom procedural surface detail emphasizes the uncanny rift between the realistic presence of the guises and the abstract vacancy of the digitized human movements.
– via Void Season
Void is the fashion of the future.
The motion triptych shows an interpretation of what the initial concepts would have looked liked if they were not realised as a line of runway clothes but spontaneously realized themselves as autonomous life forms.
The concept was a result of a collaboration between Antonio Trecel-Diaz, Erik Madigan Heck and Zeitguised.
— via Comme des Organismes/
APPETITE is a story about a journey into the belly of the beast. It was originally inspired by a painting by Yagama and her poem “I Am Hungry. The APPETITE teaser video, is a standalone surrealist work of video art and gives a glimpse into the world of the longer 15 minute film. It has been shown at Kino Movimento and Cell 63 Gallery in Berlin. The final film will be directed by sisters Yagama and Ilina Perianova, who have recently collaborated on the Eat Me! (https://www.facebook.com/EatMeTheFilm) short musical film and the fairy tale Snegurochka.
APPETITE focuses on the theme of hunger and examines the need for connection that exists in our oversaturated consumerist society. It presents an absurdist allegory of our reality as the digestive system of a mythical rabbit. The journeys of a simple black and white animated hero through it lead the viewer on a grotesque, humorous trip resonating our own issues of desire and excess.
The film’s team is looking for like-minded coproducers and team members. Find out more about the project and connect with them at https://appetiteproject.wordpress.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/appetiteproject/
Here is an extract from the poem “I Am Hungry” by Yagama:
Dinner has commenced
the exquisite glitter of candelight caught
in the mercurial silhouettes of fine cutlery.
No slurping here.
The delicate boullion, though made of the past
is the noble colour of amber.
Spoons are gracious and receptive, like Mother
Then it hits you in the main vein anyway, of course
Knives cut through everything at stake
raw blood drips from empty spaces
Forks aristocratically poke at emotions
appetizing bits of veiled messages brought to the lips…
and the chewing –
you’d think they swallow the pieces whole,
so refined their mouth movements.
But their teeth are sharp.
The salad of confusion sprinkled with apathy
doesn’t excite anyone
but then again, we choose the healthy option.
Forgotten pieces of landmines explode between our teeth
This food is giving me nuclear decomposition.
I am glowing like a lightbulb…
Get occasional emails featuring great surrealist, visionary, and fantastic artists working today right into your inbox! Get your inspiration when you need it and stay on top of contemporary and digital surrealism.