Selected Courses on Digital Art-UOWM

13 Δεκεμβρίου 2012

Filed under: Notes — admin @ 07:38



I scanned the yard of one of the most spectacular abandoned homes I had ever seen. It was a large two story home, most likely built sometime in the 50s or 60s. It had a large cement porch which stood high off the ground and wrapped around the front and left side of the house. There was a large stone archway at the top of the cement steps to the porch. Most of the floors were wood, but towards the back of the house several storage rooms had cement floors with large rocks mortared into a dimly lit wall. In the corner of one of the rooms a huge cylindrical pit plunged into the ground. It looked 15 feet deep, but the water in the bottom made it hard to tell.
I fell in love with that house the instant I saw it, and was immediately determined to do a painting in a room with three large square windows facing north, east, and west. It was almost perfect, but it was in a slightly more populated area than my usual haunt, the Salton Sea, and not all the neighbors were happy to see me.
Shortly after beginning work on the painting an irritated voice tumbled across the yard in the wind. The neighbor to the left of the house had heard me nailing a small board into place over one of the windows, and had begun yelling at me to leave. He was a squat man with long brown hair spilling over his shoulders in a tangled mud slide. His arms were draped over a short chain-link fence, and his pot belly pressed through the squares below. It encircled his small mobile home, and was the only thing standing between me and his dirty-white pit bull. I stood in the large square window, six feet off the ground, and yelled back, “Hang on! I’ll be right there.”
I bounded out the front door, down the steps, through the dried weeds of the front yard, and over several ravines that had cut through it by long forgotten rain. When I got there I breathlessly explained that I didn’t mean any harm, and I wasn’t there to party or tear things apart; I was just working on a photography project and asked if he knew who owned the home.
“Well it’s private property.”
“Yes, but do you have any idea who owns it? Again, I’m not here to cause trouble.”
“I don’t know who owns it. Look, man, I totally understand the creative process; I’m an agent for a band. So I understand you want to do your thing and all, but I’m trying to relax over here.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make noise. That must have been annoying.”
“Yes, it was.” He looked like an upset child.
“I’ll be done by tomorrow, and I’ll be quiet, I promise.”
After a few more rounds of this conversation he relented and agreed not to call the cops.
Other, more swarmy neighbors stationed in the floor above the entry way were also less than thrilled with my presence, and they made their displeasure known by promptly stinging me. I hadn’t even been paying attention when it happened the first time. I was standing still in the yard looking down at my cell phone, punching in numbers to calculate how many pictures I would be taking over the next several hours, when I felt a sharp poisoned ass penetrate my forearm. This fucker had gone completely out of its way to attack another animal that had shown no aggression whatsoever, dying in the process. It made no goddamn sense! I felt a pang of injustice, and muttered something about the Geneva Conventions, Nazi-bees and war crimes.
I didn’t think much of it until the swelling became so intense that it reached all the way down to my fingers. I sent a cell phone picture to my surgeon uncle, but he just told me to wait it out. Stings in the past had never produced such a dramatic effect, and I started becoming paranoid that I might have developed an allergy. It wound up taking days for my fat-man hands to go away.
Not all the neighbors were so surly. Directly in front of the house was Rick’s Roadside Café. Rick himself was there to greet me the first time I entered booming, “Hello! I’m Rick, and this is my Roadside Café. I recommend the Rick Burger!” Laughing, I shook his hand, and asked about the house. He told me it had been abandoned for 20 years, and that he had no idea who owned it. Occasionally high school students went there to get high, and the cops had to kick them out, but other than that he figured it was all mine. I thanked him for the help and ordered The Rick Burger, which turned out to be delicious black magic on a bun; the best burger I’ve ever tasted.
The painting I was working on was a massive optical illusion. It covered a third of the room, including the ceiling, and consisted of 154 squares, which had been painted on a three-dimensional surface, but appeared to the camera as flat. It was an abstraction of a NASA diagram which predicted the single greatest piece of evidence we have for the Big Bang: cosmic background radiation. I loved that the prediction diagram was so neat and symmetrical, and the diagram of the actual evidence was so chaotic and messy. It was a successful theory with measurable evidence in nature, but it made me think that even when humans are right, we’re still kind of wrong. I couldn’t deny that I was personally attracted to the more symmetrical image, which is why I chose to paint it. Like most people I tend to breathe a sigh of relief when things are easy to understand and interpret, even if unconsciously. It struck me as both amazingly wondrous, holy shit, the big bang is real!, and slightly comical look how perfect we thought it would be. It also spoke to the mystery of existence itself, and the hidden realities all around us.
    Despite my promises to the neighbor with the bulldog, it took four days to setup, and another three days to paint with the help of my “assistants,” Stephanie (my girlfriend) and Chad (a documentary filmmaker who had been following me).
    I recorded the painting process with stop motion and time lapse photography, but I wanted to go a step further and make the shot move after the painting was completed. I envisioned the end result as a video clip where the camera would move out the right window, rotate around three quarters of the house, down through a scary-ass root cellar, and back up through broken floor boards. The final camera view would be looking at the original painting, but behind the room in which it was painted. From this vantage you could easily see the slanted and asymmetrical build of the room I had painted. I wanted it to look like a smoothly gliding camera shot made by unaffordable (to me) Hollywood equipment. To accomplish this I shot each frame one photograph at a time, and moved the tripod a short distance between each shot. Since I had to go out the window right next to the beehive, I planned to do the shot at night while those murderous little fuckers had murderous little bee fucker dreams. Fuckers.
    On the evening of my grand plan, my eighth and final day working on the painting, the neighbor with the pit bull began yelling at me again. This time when I went over to his fence he told me he knew the owners and that he was watching the house for them. Amused, I asked him to put me in contact with them. After grumbling some unintelligible response I told him it was my very last night there. I apologized for things taking longer than I had anticipated and promised I’d really be out of his hair this time if he gave me just one more night. He wouldn’t budge. He told me I couldn’t be there, and I needed to leave before he called the cops. The thought of having to cut the project short after so much work made me sick to my stomach. He said the problem wasn’t me so much as it was my presence, which indicated to random passersby that it was okay to just go in there all willy-nilly, take a nice big hit of PCP, and murder hookers. I was starting to panic and did the only thing I could think of: plead, beg, and ask over and over. Despite his repeated insistence that I leave, I wore him down. After a lengthy exchange he finally said, “Okay, but you can’t be here after tonight.” Feeling an immense amount of relief I turned and walked to the front yard to resume work, and was promptly stung without reason. Again.
    I immediately shot a guilty look at the neighbor’s house, but thankfully he had already retreated to the opulent interior of his doublewide. If I become short of breath I might be able to drive to the fire station several
    miles down the road, and if I die it will be doing something I love, I reasoned. It was the fourth sting. I knew my arm would soon swell to at least twice its original size, but I had no choice. I pondered the possibility of a heart attack. Why else would it swell so much? I was all alone with a very long night ahead, but I wasn’t inclined to throw in the towel. I headed back into the house, ducking under the swarming bees on the porch. I put the camera on the tripod and a fresh piece of ice from the cooler on my arm, and I went to work.
    I waited until 9 pm when the stars were out and bees were not before I started moving the tripod. At first it was easy; I was angling sideways towards the right window, moving across the flat cement floor of the room, but by the time I got there I knew I was in trouble. The bottom of the window was a full six feet off the ground. I had planned to go out the side of the window, and then circle around the front of the house. The camera was on a mini-tripod in the room, and would be transitioned to one I had borrowed from my documentarian, Chad, which was setup outside the window. Chad’s tripod was fully extended at every joint, but was still a couple feet shy of the necessary height. I scrambled to find items to place under each leg to make up for the difference. Luckily there were several dresser drawers scattered around on the first floor. They covered two of the three legs. I used several gallons of stacked paint cans to elevate the third. It was difficult getting the drawers to sit flat on the ground in the weeds and brush covering the yard, but eventually I prevailed, and began my transition out of the window. It was so high that I couldn’t reach the controls of the camera from the ground, so I stood on a step ladder and braced myself against the side of the building with my foot to look through the viewfinder. I had to get the camera to a manageable height, so with every movement around the front of the house I lowered the tripod by the width of two of my fingers. I knew it wasn’t very exact, but I figured if I did it the same way every time it might be consistent enough to pass.
    Once I got the tripod off the drawers and paint cans the movements became a lot easier, but I was breathing hard from straining to see through the viewfinder and adjusting the tripod so many times. The terrain was still very rough and uneven, and I had to adjust the tripod and camera with each shot. I couldn’t take a break, because it would make the movement of the shadows, cast by a glorious half-moon, inconsistent as I moved around the house. Making the transition out of the window had taken several hours and already I could feel the blood pumping through my body. The sting on my arm was swelling at a fantastic rate. It filled the inside sleeve of the light army jacket I was wearing, stretching the fabric tight around my bicep and forearm. I was turning into a walking sausage and had gone only a small fraction of the total distance. 

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