Flash Animations: The Screen and I
Curator: Spiros Antonopoulos
"When we say expanded cinema we actually mean expanded consciousness."
--Gene Youngblood, Expanded Cinema
It can be said that the 20th century began in 1895 when the Lumiere brothers publicly presented their film, L'arrivée d'un Train à la Ciotat and the audience jumped back from the screen as if they were going to be run over by the oncoming train. We often chuckle at the first audiences' naiveté of The Screen, but I think they were right. That train was real.
As we move into the next century, our screens become the means by which things happen in the real world. Humans now spend more time staring at screens than at any other "physical" object. The screen has been seen as the relationship between the imagination and culture, between the mind and the body. This increasingly personal relationship with the screen is undergoing rapid mutation.
Just as the thriftstore surplus of WWII newsreel Bolex's in the 1950s altered the face of Cinema by enabling the dawn of experimental film in America, the Internet (and cheap copies of powerful, simple multimedia toolkits like Macromedia's Flash) has spawned a whole culture of experimental screenscapes that is anarchically evolving the face of visual communications--thus evolving our experience of the real. In support of this thesis, we present a selection of Flash animations and interactive toys on multiple Screens in the Pixels Room. [SA]
A Flash Selection
Why Flash? Because the viewers/clients are seamlessly available and packaged with most browsers. (According to Macromedia, the developer of Flash, 98% of browsers have a Flash plugin.) Because it is powerful, yet much simpler and more beautiful than Java. Because it is lightweight and easy to exhibit online.
Out from under the overly-commercial underbelly of the "dot com era", a community of youngsters surrounded themselves with this tool and started playing with form and function and beauty with the medium of connectivity and interaction onscreen.
- Erik Natzke
Emblematic, and a central metaphor for this collection of multimedia pieces, Mouse Trap engages participant to first explore exactly what and why. What is there to do? How? The only rational choice is to explore: "Should I try clicking on it?" It reacts, but somewhat surprisingly. And with what? The cursor: Our modest and minimalist avatar on screen. This piece eats our cursor.
Not available on the artist's website, but only as an open source offering to the greater artist/developer community on a flash information site. It exhibits an affinity for minimalism and simplicity and surprise. It's not as much a story, or a tool. It's almost sculptural ... An object. A toy. But a toy that steps out to blur the line between us and it by fighting back with a bit of tension.
Natzke's Project Joshua displays a grid, glitching animated silly putty starring one of the Flash community's biggest inspirations, Joshua Davis.
- Donoghue Lab, Brown University
The blurred lines between the screen and the self, and the role of the Pong-styled minimalist avatar cursor, are further illustrated by the findings of Brown University's Donoghue Lab, Neural Control of a Cursor. Not done using Flash, a group or researchers at Brown University enlists our beloved simian brothers, the rhesus monkey, to be surgically implanted with sensors in their brains. Using these sensors, the monkeys have successfully manipulated the cursor on screen using only thoughts. The cursor becomes as if another limb. And we thought McLuhan's subtitle to Understanding Media, "Extensions of Man" was merely metaphor. The train is arriving at the station.
- Neural Control of a Cursor
The red circle is the target, the green circle is the cursor. The subject receives a reward at each target acquisition after which the target jumps to a new random position.
- More Info:
- James Patterson
Science has its trajectory and art has another. But one place where they meet, and bout, is onscreen. Toying with this intersection and interplay is James Patterson's The Architecture of Engagement. It is playing with form and function and purpose, but positing something elusively further.
- Daniel Brown
And while still adhering to the notion of windows within windows, but deploying the windows with beauty and fluidity, Bits and Pieces shows us that interfaces and indexes can be as expressive as they are useful.
- Future Farmers
Our traditional onscreen interfaces are for tools, websites, games, etc. How do we interact with the screen in a way that concretely benefits us? We find a phone number, buy a book, write a letter, view some photographs.
The San Francisco design house Future Farmers took the formal constraint of a basic website and added a few twists. In They Rule, we are able to create maps illustrating what individuals and corporations are in cahoots and share them with others.
- Vector Park
A visual and obtuse story unfolds as we explore Vector Park's Park.
But the experimental flash community has pushed the question "interface to what?" even further by exhibiting electronic objects and curiosities and creating a culture surrounding them. Here, the purpose may just be to amaze. Like artist Natzke often tags his pieces, "Because toys are fun."
- Yugo Nakamura
Perhaps the master builder of all Flash experimentalists, Yugo Nakamura shows us that line and motion like an orb of grass in the wind (or toilet paper free from a tree) with Modeller A: Blackribbon.
- Andries Odenal
Andreas Odenal exhibits explorations into the mechanics and physics of the onscreen world with Untitled 1, Untitled 3, and Crowd Behavior.
- Carbonated Jazz
Carbonated Jazz scrubs up a comic toybot, Bpm_Sqlrrrp.
- Geoff Stearns + Remixers
By publishing the source code with their experimental works, many Flash coders not only build on each other's technical and aesthetic innovations; often the notion of authorship even becomes more open. Taking cue from dance culture's "remix", artist Geoff Stearns invited folks to remix his piece Click Three Points.
But the remix is also about recontextualizing, classically, by using chunks of media that exist within our mediascape, as in the video game-esque I Know Where Bruce Lee Lives.
- One Infinity & DJ Spooky
This piece and the following one are presented as linear mixes using an "engine" or software that is used as a tool to produce art. Saturation Station sports such an engine built by the One Infinity crew and sequenced with the help of DJ Spooky, salvaging source images found online.
- Amir Pitaru & James Patterson
Insert Silence was created from an engine uniquely imagined as a collaboration between jazz drummer (turned Flash artist) Amit Pitaru and illustrator (turned Flash artist) James Patterson by recombining their artistic processes and designs as a programmatic means to automatically manipulate graphics via sounds. Both engines are used for live mixing as well.
[ PIXELS 2002 ]
Text of Expanded Cinema
The Lumiere brothers