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Morphs- One year out.


I’ve been working with a simple morph program for about a year now morphing photos of objects one into another. The labor is beginning to bear fruit. The process is a painstaking one. I start with a 10 frame morph then I create 9 short inter-frame morphs. Doing it this way I am able to control and manipulate the way the objects and shapes move as they transform one into another. The effect is eerie. The motion appears at times to be similar to a time-lapse photograph of a flower growing. At other times the movement has the disjunctive motion similar to a new-born baby who hasn’t learned to control its muscles yet.

The morph program I’m using creates some interesting effects in transition that look like abstract paintings.The transition of one object to another also involves the movement of forms through space and time. This of course was a preoccupation of abstract painting in the 20th century. Most of the morphs one sees in the movies and on television are not that sophisticated or their content is pure pabulum of the horror movie variety as for instance a person turning into a werewolf. My morphs are essentially moving paintings. They deal with the fascination and focus on objects. This is what happens when one draws or paints a still life. The objects or rather the gaze of the artist imbues the image with a complex set of emotions such as desire or pattern recognition or sensual delight.

There are three types of motion in the morphs. One is a garden variety filmic dissolve. We are all used to seeing this. What I do is a bit different. I create a sensation that the objects’ physical form is destabilizing. I do this by causing some part of the image to cross fade while in other parts of the image the pixels are raked into a different shape creating a circumstance in which ones’ familiarity with the morph language is challenged by this new process.

The second type of morph process is a compositional technique seen in abstract painting. I draw a series of lines over one shape that maps the space to be morphed. I then move the lines around on the second object creating a folding of space as the image morphs from one object to another.

The third type of motion is a dragging of pixels across the picture plane as one object transforms into another. This creates the sensation of organic growth and movement.

At first I set the morphs up as video loops. The process has now become much more complex. Let’s say that I have a sequence of objects, A,B,C,D. Each object has 3 possible transformations for example A->B, A->C, A->D etc.. Each transformation is a separate video. This presents the possibility of creating a non-linear video in other words the sequences are assembled on the fly by means of a script. One sequence might read; A->D, D->C, C->B, B->A. Another sequence might read A->C, C->B,B->D,D->C,C->A and so on ad infinatum. At its’ core this process is more in tune with the actual potential of using computer programs to create new forms of art via the underlying mathematical structure of logical transformation.

The objects in and of themselves create a language. This is because our knowledge of objects is partially due to their naming. A narrative of sorts can be created, a story if you will, simply by stringing a series of objects together. This is a sort of visual hyper-textual narrative where the objects and their relation to one another create a supra-structural meaning to the work. This method of constructing meaning in an artwork is a technique often used in process art and scatter sculpture.One is reminded of Wittengenstein’s dictum;” The meaning of a word is its’ meaning and the meaning of a word is its use.” In the case of my morphs, each object has an intrinsic meaning and as it is juxtaposed to the other objects the narrative or its contextual meaning is formed.

My morphs are hybrid media. They are made for high definition (HD) video display. The pixel dimension is 1280 x 720. I encode them into mpeg-2 transport streams. This is the same type of codec used for cable or broadcast of HD. At this time there are no high definition DVD recording devices. The morphs can only be played via a computer or video server or media player with a high definition decoder chip.

The work starts as digital photographs that are processed into small morph videos. These videos are randomly assembled by a software program. They are not video loops or linear narratives that refer back to theater or narrative painting. Indeed they are virtual objects that constantly assemble and reorder their structure.

The morphs have two parts. One part is a database of individual clips randomly assembled by a software script. The other part is the hardware. The storage device is a flash memory chip that stores the clips, the script and an encryption key. The other part of the key is placed on the media player. This prevents someone from copying the chip and transferring it to another playback machine. Indeed, even if one were to hookup a high definition recording device to copy the mpeg stream as it is being played the copy would not be complete. The pieces need the random script to present the actual piece.

The art historical lineage is fairly clear. It is this; Abstract painting to Process and Conceptual Art to Computer assembled morphs.