METRO Re/De-construction is a video installation by artist Christopher Coleman, a Denver-based artist working with a range of digital media. This is notable here because METRO Re/De-construction presents a journey based on the artist's own commute in Denver. The video depicts a “lowpoly” adventure through a world shifting in perspective and rotating in multiple dimensions. The “lowpoly” aesthetic of the video presents the viewer with a degree of abstraction that creates universal possibilities from very specific locations. This journey can be understood in a number of ways.
On a basic level we can see a course from one point to another on public transportation. We may experience this as a commute we make every day, we may experience this as a totally magic journey. The artist is traversing the length of the light-rail car at the same time that the train is racing forward. We are able to experience two modes of travel simultaneously. The interior of the train, as well as stations along the trains path are explored with the same kind of forward movement. The movement within the videos is very smooth and fluid, giving a graceful and sublime quality to this experience of travel, an experience that in reality can often be chaotic and unpleasant.
All the while this mystical journey has something as ordinary as a commute from home to work as its basis. In this way, METRO Re/De-construction is a powerful example of making the everyday awesome. The stations along the journey are often isolated, suspended in a light-blue color that suggests sky as much as something more heavenly. These dislocated stations take on the quality of memories, or even past lives. At other times the viewer is completely engulfed in a tunnel of polygons. The tunnel aesthetic of the video points toward the mythic journey of life to death. This journey is further emphasized as the abstraction of the imagery increases, the polygons becoming fewer and larger as the video progresses.
This is a gorgeous journey literally pieced together from countless data-points of very real spaces and times. The scanning technologies used to record this journey are accurate to the millimeter, but using them in these unstable and fluctuating environments creates distortions in the data recorded. In this way the data recorded is shaped in a way similar to our own human perceptions. The technology is being used at edge of its capabilities. Coleman then recomposes or “reconstructs” these elements into something very elegant and other-worldly. The final form of the artwork is informed as much by the technologies employed as by the locations documented. Coleman has explored the material for METRO Re/De-construction in a number of formats; one is as a single-channel video presented on a digital billboard, as commissioned by Denver Digerati. Another is as a 4-channel video installation presented in a surround venue. Additionally there are videos depicting experiments for METRO Re/De-construction as a virtual reality experience. Each of the installation forms has a different audio accompaniment by George Cicci, pointing toward the importance of sound in the development of this work. Cicci's sensitive soundtrack does much to shape the beatific quality of METRO Re/De-construction.
Tiffany Funk, writing for “Media-N” the journal of the New Media Caucus, says:
“Chris Coleman’s experiments with 3D scanning constitute another kind of intervention, but his visualizations fracture the concepts of time and space as captured by scanning technologies. Using a portable 3D scanning device and laptop, he visualizes journeys as static models interrogating our concepts of time, perspective, and perception in turn.”
Funk, Tiffany (undated) “Showcase Report”
In a related vein, the work of Quayola explores similar practices that compel the viewer to experience something that may be familiar with increased perception and changed perspective. In his piece Strata#4 Quayola creates an immersive, multi-channel video installation that explores iconic Flemish paintings from the collection of the Palais de Beaux Arts. In a formal similarity to Christopher Coleman's METRO Re/De-construction Quayola applies a “low poly” aesthetic to different portions of paintings that focus on the work of Rubens and Van Dyck. Also, Strata #4 presents these paintings as moving videos in which the “low poly” effect floats over and throughout the painting. The original paintings are luscious, “detailed,” and highly representational, considered masterworks the world over.These paintings are also nearly 400 years old, and abstracting them with a very 21st-century aesthetic such as “low poly”. It is interesting to note that while a low polygon count was at one time considered undesirable, as a side effect of processing power not up to the task of rendering something very complex and “realistic” it has now been widely adopted as a contemporary digital aesthetic. Quayola's work uses this form of visual alteration to get us to experience these paintings anew.
Strata #4 (Excerpt 1)
Returning specifically to the work of Christopher Coleman we can look further at the artist invigorating our perceptions of the everyday through remixing its its constituent parts. For the artwork Evidence of Intensive Coleman collaborated with Michael Salter during a five-week period in which they gathered a massive amount of very diverse material and then smashed these ingredients together.
Sedition, an online digital art platform, describes the process involved in Evidence of Intensive:
“Michael Salter used digital illustration and photographic manipulation. Chris Coleman wrote 12 new pieces of software that destroyed, altered, interpreted, and remixed all the materials. Together they arranged and choreographed the final prints and animations.” (unauthored) (undated), Evidence of Intensive #1
We can see a recurrence of the “low poly” aesthetic throughout this series of five pieces. Here again we can see material of the quotidian repurposed and remixed to powerful effect. We can also see Coleman exploring the same material in multiple formats. Evidence of Intensive has taken the form of prints, video animations, and a 3D collage experience. Evidence of Intensive presents the viewer with an overload of visual information, more layers than can be discerned move in multiple directions and dimensions. The videos shift between moments of visual noise moments of crystalline iconography; both states fusing a multitude of sources and types of imagery. Evidence of Intensive is a reflection of common perceptions, distilled and focused by the artists. Icons alternate between positive and negative space, images come in and out of focus, moving between foreground and background, pattern or texture shifting to act as figure as it drifts across the screen or comes into the viewers' awareness after extended viewing. Evidence of Intensive, Strata #4, and METRO Re/De-construction all provoke and warrant a similar kind of protracted examination. They provide the chance to see the typical anew, as something extraordinary.
Metro isea sample:
4 wall surround mix:
METRO Re/De-construction + Atoms for Peace “Default”
METRO Re/De-construction exhibitions =
Evidence of Intensive