The Photographers’ Gallery in collaboration with Animate Projects present a major new commission for the Gallery’s Wall by digital artist Alan Warburton.
In September 2013 an open call for proposals was sent out inviting artists to create a new work which considers photography’s relationship to animation, and how screen technologies have altered the ways in which the visual image is made present. The commission was open to UK artists working in photography and moving image and offered £5,000 towards production costs and fees. From over a hundred submissions Spherical Harmonics by Alan Warburton was selected.
For Spherical Harmonics Warburton draws on his background in fine art and commercial visual effects to produce a short experimental animation. The title of the piece refers to mathematical equations applied in CGI software which compute the behaviour and appearance of light within each scene. This is an example of how modern imaging software attempts to mimic the massive complexity of photographic ‘reality’.
In Spherical Harmonics Warburton presents a sequence of surreal episodes activated by and centred around various bodies of light. Inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, the film hints at a fragmented but elusive narrative which references fetishisation, systems, games, control and memory. The protagonist, Maya, a stock CG figure purchased online, inhabits a generic hotel room, responding to texture, colour and movements which are controlled and transformed by the appearance of each new source of light.
Created especially for the Gallery’s media wall, the film responds to its unique characteristics. Sized at 2.7 x 3m the Wall is comprised of eight high definition screens with a combined resolution of 8 million pixels per frame. With over 7,500 frames Spherical Harmonics features a total of 62 billion pixels created for this project alone.
Alan Warburton said: CGI as a practice and toolset draws on the deepest levels of understanding we have about the physical world. It presents the CGI artist with thousands of configurable settings based on a comprehensive approximation of real world phenomena such as Newtonian physics, light scattering, material properties and atmospheric effects. In Spherical Harmonics I wanted to address this crossover between photography, physics, sculpture and engineering. The film attempts to draw out the poetry of the title – taking scientific code and bending it into a new artistic form.
In addition to the Gallery’s Wall Spherical Harmonics will also be available for viewing via the Animate Projects website www.animateprojects.org
Photographers Gallery Happenstance Commission: Spherical Harmonics 17 January – 9 April 2014