Machinima

Prosumer.obj.mov, 2017-19

CHRIS HOWLETT, Prosumer.obj.mov, 2017-19, 1-channel synched, HD video (16:9), Stereo, PAL. Duration: 5:06mins

The uninteresting idea of the prosumer is the professional prosumer. The one who lets us know what they think of a consumer product. For example, a professional hobbyist uploading a YouTube video on the latest drone airplanes this Christmas. Their purpose is to generate online sales for a product instore, maybe it’s to direct traffic back to a website, or to generate click-throughs back to Amazon so they too can share in profits via pay-per-click advertising. Often these videos can help work out the correct amount of money to spend, or which product’s value distinguishes itself from its competitors by outperforming the rest. The prosumer wants us to consume, they want us to click through, they’re trying to make us care, so we too become as informed as they’ve become, so we too can become better consumers. Unlike straight advertising, these enthusiasts and semi-professionals blur the roles between consumer and producer, but what happens when there is no line to blur when the line to begin with, was hidden from our sight.

This form of invisibility exists in the most interesting model of the prosumer that which is taken from a company’s perspective such as in Facebook’s case which stands out as the exemplar. The prosumer in this scenario does not know they are one. For instance, everyone on social media are prosumers, their online interactions inside of Facebook are a form of consumption. They consume by completing software decisions, by inputting data, logging in to their soft cell every day. Yet they also produce information by commenting, posting, messaging, and becoming part of contemporary trends through participating in new apps, which all end up in deep data sets that can be sold on to third parties without their conscious consent. Whether they like it or not, they are all part of Facebook’s R&D (research and development) team working for FREE. This data is their revenue and is currently the most valuable commodity on earth. So, “How Does That Make You Feel?”.

In prosumer.obj.mov (2017-19) this repeating, psychologist inspired question constantly repeats throughout the entire film. It starts off seeming like a therapeutic, even liberating opportunity to divulge the most pertinent feelings the narrator has about themselves. However, over-time it turns into a taunting anthem, repeatedly mocking and pranking the narrator into continually coming up with creative ways to answer it. The narrator’s aphorisms are both comedic and tragic, sometimes constructed from an assortment of private opinions, face-to-face stories, apple pie philosophy, or discussions inspired from online chat forums. The visuals on the other hand, depict battle simulators and strobing infinite colour fields of terrorists (or rebel) and consumer objects drifting into nothingness. The rebel consumer does not inspire dissent, but everybody knows that all we have to do is just stop buying Coke, stop logging into Facebook, stop buying plastic, stop exploiting 3rd world countries for their cheap goods and cheap labour, stop using cell phones, … and start recycling, start eating organic, start having fewer babies, start saving the whales, start using less water … then everything will be OK. So, “How Does That Make You Feel?”.

New Media, 2018-19

CHRIS HOWLETT, New Media, 2018-19, 1-channel synched, HD video (16:9), Stereo, PAL. Duration: 3:04mins

New Media (2019) is a détournement of popular celebrity gossip magazine covers. Instead of promoting spectacle, celebrity culture, and the latest dieting fads, New Media, focuses on the sinister side of technology’s impact on the body politic. I wanted the established strategies and traditions of political poster making to intersect with machinima so that I could generate contradictions that would investigate a problematic side of internet culture that is under-represented and researched in mainstream media. For example, one of the headlines reads, “Fortnite linked to New Zealand Massacres” which is a sensational piece of text appropriated from the Brisbane-based Courier Mail in which they link online first-person videogames to real-world violence. A common thread in the media whenever first-person shooter games are present and is related to gun violence, rather than seriously looking at the lack of gun control and serious problems with masculine identity.

I didn’t want to completely satirise the advertising model since I believe I can utilise it for my benefit as a discursive model online to propagate my beliefs and artworks. My strategy for News Media was to politicise various personal beliefs that were not only mine but accumulated from the community around me involved with new media technology. The juxtapositions of political slogans with an advertising model would create critical and disturbing narratives that were open-ended and avoid didactic readings.

Ctrl-Alt-Rht, 2018-19

CHRIS HOWLETT, Ctrl-Alt-Rht, 2018-19, 1-channel synched, HD video (16:9), Stereo, PAL, closet, acrylic paint, smoke/fog machine

In developing Ctrl-Alt-Rht (2018-19) I wanted to respond to the aftermath of the Christ Church, New Zealand mass-murder in March 2019. My intention was not to make a documentary-style work, nor a linear narrative, but to construct an open-ended plot that initially considered the language, reactions, and responses employed by the media to frame a homegrown terrorist act. In short, Ctrl-Alt-Rht explores Australian white nationalist terrorism (alt-right groups), and online video gaming violence, through the increasing colonisation of space by virtual assistants. This tragedy and news media event coupled with the advancements in consumer AI (artificial intelligence) became the catalysts for Ctrl-Alt-Rht which takes a disturbing look at the new frontier of user-generated content via voice-activated servants.

Desert Storm Logic, 2018-19

CHRIS HOWLETT, Desert Storm Logic, 2018-19, 1-3 channel synched, HD video (16:9), Stereo, PAL. Duration: 20:13mins

Desert Storm Logic is an ongoing series of screen-captured clips generated from Unreal engine, photogrammetry, and 3D scans. Over the next years, I will be adding extra environments, animated scenes, and interactions that explore my interest in exploring the media spectacle of deep-seated unconscious desire. Some of these interests include gamer addiction, social tragedies, drug and border wars, food porn, international tourism, the Dark Web etc. As landscapes change so too will the content and forms and interactions that populate these spaces.

I refer to the main character in these short films as the figure of the “machinimator”. A character who is dependent on the digital techniques of animation, but who like the artist (individual) also creates the machinima content. This figure is an assemblage of human, cartoon, toy, and art-historical parts that were first developed from a life-size sculpted figure that were photogrammetrically captured and digitised into a 3D animated avatar. The avatar behaves like an NPC (non-player character) in a role-playing fantasy quest, awkwardly repeating the same movements and actions, its poor programming acts like a dumb animal without purpose or drive and yet it stands witness to the unfolding scenes.

Joystick Drama, 2016-19

CHRIS HOWLETT, Joystick Drama, 2016-19, 3-channel, interactive game-mod, HD video (16:9), Stereo, PAL. Duration: variable

In Joystick Drama I wanted to collapse the distance between myself and the personal by adopting a comic framework. For me, drama within the piece is located in a personal tragic-comic plot installed within a virtual and psychological space of the DIY console gaming chair. Rather than use an aggressive denouncement, I wanted to employ a comedic technique to conflate the traumatic memory of suicide within the larger geopolitical and entertainment contexts of technological warfare and online video gaming. The purpose was to develop a critico-comedic engagement with these spheres of research and to open up a different kind of negotiable space that is often sidestepped when undergoing conflict resolution in plot-making. I wanted to confront my ongoing personal conflict within myself to do with no saving a friend from himself, but also to offer alternative ways of perceiving the heavier discourses on state-sponsored violence and nihilistic tendencies of suicide.

Throughout the gameplay the character has a limited set of interactive actions, forward or backward, right, or left but all of which are tightly controlled within a confined game space. For the player to read the text-based poem they must run forward through castle halls, open spaces, and entrances for it to appear. There is no obvious goal to this game, apart from moving through a soundscape to read the lines of a poem (closed TV captions), only for it to repeat at its ending, in an endless loop like a bad nightmare. Not unlike how one understands a poem, by repeatedly returning to its verses to decipher its meaning, or which further obfuscates meaning that can lead to frustration and uneasiness.

The visuals of this poetic form construct an anti-universe of exploding fairy-tale castles at dusk where the player finds themselves placed inside of Picasso’s anti-war painting Guernica (1937). Picasso’s brush strokes now become a psychic collage, mapped and dismembered across all of its architectural surfaces in a bizarre reconfiguring of is monochromatic formalism. Underlying this is a jarring soundscape of the artist’s machine-assisted breathing, sampled video game sounds and electronic distortions that work against the seductive and escapist qualities of video gaming. By disturbing, and creating humour out of this tragic and personal event, Joystick Drama questions the logic behind the immersive tactics of game design with the industrialisation of modern warfare. It asks: Where is the drama located in this work? Does it form in the disembodied responsibility underlying drone warfare? What happens when the comic frame of the game-mod contradicts the traumatic personal scene of a suicide? If the user reads no tragedy in the narrative is their necessarily any drama left over?

Maybe their interactions only result in an entertaining moment of role-playing as a nude, stupid looking, hermaphroditic, Homeresque puppet, without any consideration for suicide – what a tragedy!

Ocean Sequences, 2016-19

CHRIS HOWLETT, Ocean Sequences, 2016-19, 3-channel synched, HD video (16:9), Stereo, PAL. Duration: 7:12mins

Ocean Sequences is a mashup of objects that attract and repel one-another in unpleasant ways. An infinite ocean backdrop sets the stage for these forms which compete for dominance in a claustrophobic space of their own making. As forms penetrate, cling, and stick against each other’s surfaces forming a makeshift raft of debris, others drift away on unseen ocean currents. At times, the textures of these isolated objects seem to run and melt, colours swirl and mix within their textures. Is this the heat of the sun bearing down on the object, water dissolving their once sharp contours and identities or is the researcher treading the fine line of copyright infringement by modifying their appearance? The spectacle of consumerist behaviours, military production, information wars, ideology, gaming, entertainment, and climate change form the backbone of this animated arrangement.

The visuals of Ocean Sequences consist of positioning the camera inside of the mashup for claustrophobic effect, wide shots for dramatic effect, adopting a multitude of different points of view and closeups from various advantages; an animated camera shot circling the site as would be shark inspecting its prey. The film is designed to displace us from the normal circulation of objects that we experience on a day-to-day basis by transforming the scenario into a scene of impoverishment and nervous apprehension. Smoke, fire, and mist envelop the territory and floats through it like a malevolent entity. The immaterial in this context intensifies the reference to historical political conflict, personal struggle or resistant forces that is explored through the metaphorical use of object juxtapositions.

Tutorialized I-II, 2016-19

CHRIS HOWLETT, Tutorialized I-II, 2016-19, 1-channel synched, HD video (16:9), Stereo, PAL. Duration: 20:10mins

In Tutorialized I-II I reconfigured a series of 3D forms to generate an analysis of their constructed purpose. The montage contains the literal construction of a digital image with its potential real world repercussions observed momentarily as the backdrop. If reading and deciphering symbols in art is an action, then these actions also have the potential to turn into a political act. For instance, I wanted to exploit the uncertainty of real and imagined threat: Who is in control of the gun? Who is it searching for or targeting? Am I the perpetrator of violence or the potential victim? I also tried to approach them antagonistically, either through modifying their shapes, textures, and movements, by pulling and twisting their digital bodies into violent, contorted, or explosive projections, scaling them up, and using their distortions to penetrate each other.

The soundtracks are ripped from online tutorials that I have either participated in or have depended on for my development as a creator. Sometimes it is my voice distorted by a vocoder or the voice of the uploader. I see online tutorials as a type of cultural programming that I utilise to disrupt and expand the viewer’s relationship to the ideology behind videogames and consumerism. Interactivity or participation is not just the literal interfacing with a piece of technology such as a mouse, joystick, or button, but a physic entanglement with reading, feeling, and being affected by the power of the image. These antagonistic experiments throughout the project were meant to re-intensify our experience of their everyday acceptance and lead to questions that speak to their larger interconnected significance within a wider socio-political discourse.

Heterotopia, 2013

CHRIS HOWLETT, Metropolis: Part I-III 2009, 1-channel, High Definition Video, PAL, Surround Sound. Ed of 5 +2 AP, 24:20 mins.

What is the truth about the Gold Coast? Heterotopia explores the juxtaposition between the reported Gold Coast and the virtual possibilities caught up in sites of otherness. What reality is being explored becomes the fundamental question of this art work. Where there is fun there is also fear. While there is the impersonality of high-rise living there is also the fun at ground level. While solutions for crime and violence mean more police and heavier policing there is no attempt to look at the underlying causes for the sensationalised violence and gang related activities by the media. Is the Gold Coast to be New York at its worst? Is it the new Miami? Is the future so bleak for the coast that the end is automatically assumed to be horrifying? Heterotopia, with its over the top use of simulated fountaining blood, hypnotic soundtracks and virtual violence, suggests that there is a conflict between the constructed reality of the media and that reality which holidaymakers know.

Bushstalkers, 2009

CHRIS HOWLETT, Bushstalkers 2013, Interactive Game-Mod with Console, 2-channel, High Definition Video, PAL, Stereo. Edition of 5 +2 AP, Duration 7:00 mins..

"Bushstalkers" was a Two Player Interactive Game Mod which used the UT3 game engine to create a giant fantasy forest where two players could explore aimlessly without the capability to shoot their guns. Their only guide was a series of coloured spotlights which pooled up as the players walked into their vicinity, each triggering a personal story from war veterans returning from Iraq. Their stories contained personal, ideological, moral and ethical narratives which complicated the viewers conception of empiracle truth based observations set against the backdrop of a corporate, media driven landscape, and the way we inhabit a particular set of subjective positions. All of the stories were sourced and recorded from online social networks, blogs, websites and news channels...continue >>

Metropolis: Part I-II, 2009

CHRIS HOWLETT, Metropolis: Part I-III 2009, 1-channel, High Definition Video, PAL, Surround Sound. Ed of 5 +2 AP, 24:20 mins..

"Metropolis I, II & III" uses the game SimCity Societies to construct three imaginary and psychological zones in order to create a meditative space for reflection, seduction and poetic, apocalyptic reverie. Abstraction, repetition, the grid, and architecture all play their part throughout the world in "real" cities town planning strategies in order to produce territory and the modern civilization. The recent Chilean and Haitian earthquake, South-Pacific islands devastated by tsunamis, apocalyptic meteorites and the dire predictions associated with climate change, overshadow the construction of these three different, yet strangely familiar virtual sites that all strive to undermine both the logic of the game and our own safe, hygienically controlled lifestyles. In "Metropolis I, II & III", dystopian, authoritarian and sublime, gated estates merge and dissolve into one another conjuring up disturbing comparisons between our real, lived experience and our day-to-day mediated trauma, represented elsewhere in our fantasies or across the electric spectacle of the global, media screen...continue >>

Homestead: Part I-II, 2009

CHRIS HOWLETT, Homestead: Part I-II 2009, 1-channel, High Definition Video, PAL, Stereo. Edition of 5 +2 AP, Duration 16:21 mins..

"Homestead: Part I-II" is a Machinima film which charts the demise of Australia's Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his family. A Modernist Glass House fortifies the once idyllic farm surroundings with its own "Grand Designs" inspired build your own home philosophy which eventually traps and suffocates its own occupants within its transparent labyrinth. While the architecture consumes and creates its own stress tests around its inhabitants the accompanying soundtrack charts the demise of Kevin Rudd's leadership in Australian politics and the repercussions his right-wing decisions have had on both a local and international level. From controversial topics such as "Art or Porn?", Iraq war veteran stories giving us the "truth about money and war", Kevin Rudd's attack on art in Australia to the "Fat Bastards" aussie meat-pie philosophy on pedophilia and artists, "Homestead: Part I-II" humorously takes aim at the rise of conservatism and the repercussions that this ism produces. It ends with Death silently standing vigil in his hooded costume, looking out into the quite serene suburban landscape, contemplating what kind of future may lay in waiting for us all.

Michael Jackson 4 Ways: Part I-IV, 2009

CHRIS HOWLETT, Michael Jackson 4 Ways: Part I-IV 2009, 1-channel, HD, PAL, Stereo. Edition of 5 + 2AP, Duration:32:28mins..

"Michael Jackson 4 Ways: Part I-IV" is a machinima film designed to activate an immersive space from which to critically and creatively consider how reality and simulated environments both construct and reconfigure our ideas about the nature of subjectivity and identity. The video work explores these new phenomenons through Sims 3, which is a strategic life simulation video game where players construct and control their Sims in various social activities and form relationships in a manner similar to real life. Sims 3 does not have a defined final goal and its gameplay is open-ended. Michael Jackson was a person who cut across international racial and gender divisions with his music and lyrics, but whose personal life created intense contradictions between his private life and his role as a musician. As the copies of the Michael Jackson Sims play out their animated roles in Paris Hilton's house, the accompanying audio tracks expose the political and moral debates surrounding accusations of paedophilia. "Michael Jackson 4 Ways: Part I-IV" questions the slippery position the viewer inhabits, to make informed, truth based decisions over these personal and moral online statements. Where does one locate one's moral and ethical decisions based on the artists’ aesthetics?...continue >>

Human Vs. Human, 2009

CHRIS HOWLETT, Human Vs. Human 2009, 1-channel, SD, PAL, Stereo. Edition of 5 + 2AP, Duration: 20:15mins..

"Human Vs Human" is a Machinima film which uses various autobiographical war veteran stories from online social networking sites, live recorded 3D game play from first person shooter games and remixed pop songs from all male pop groups to create alternative narratives which subvert and intensify their original meaning. The video work inserts the real life personal narratives of soldiers into a virtual gaming world cut with pop music, in-game narratives and atmospheric sound tracks to create a disturbing, conflated look at the reality of warfare, its simulated double and the psychology of masculine violence and seduction...continue >>

Homesteads, 2009

CHRIS HOWLETT, Homesteads 2009, 1-channel, High Definition Video, PAL, Stereo. Edition of 5 +2 AP, Duration 8:11 mins..

In the scenic, Walt Disney inspired "Homesteads", the family unit and children's innocence come under attack from advancements in new technology to create a disturbing look at exploitative daytime talk shows, online predators and clueless parents with their siblings, rebellious angst. As we listen to the contestants they confess their own harrowing experiences, each one more traumatic than the last; crying, audience anguish and theme music, punctuate the carefully crafted narratives delivering unto us an entertaining film script filled with monsters, sunflowers, manicured gardens, horror stories, cockroaches, people on fire, garbage and people pissing on themselves. The anti-verse that unfolds before our eyes asks us to reflect on how we function as a society in response to these new real and virtual spaces of interaction, how we might respond to the political dimensions of these expanded sites of inhabitation, and how they might also represent a more troubling scenario for the possibility of dissent or opposition in our media saturated culture...continue >>