Tate and Google launch their This Exquisite Forest project
AT THE end of my column in today's paper about Tate's and Google's This Exquisite Forest project I promised to post some of the featured animations here on this blog.
To begin with here's a video explaining how it works:
Here's my column, with added links to some of the films I refer to...
STICK a group of astute minds in a room with a bottle of absinthe for long enough and they're bound to turn to fun. This is how the parlour game The Exquisite Corpse came about - created by Andre Breton and other French surrealists in an old Parisian house.
To play the game you take it in turns to write a word on a piece of paper that is folded so you can't see what came before. Freed of the usual constraints of language, the resulting sentences were unexpected and eccentric while making a surprising amount of sense.
Those Breton and friends came up with (translated from the original French) include "The completely black light lays down day and night the powerless suspension to do any good" and "Caraco is a beautiful whore: lazy as a doormouse and glass-gloved for doing nothing, she strings pearls with the turkeys of the farce".
It's basically an intellectual version of consequences, which we used to play at school and always ended up with [Name of ugly male teacher] met [name of unpleasant female teacher] behind the bikesheds/in the local pub/in the sixth form toilets where they snogged/smoked weed. You had to be there.
Now, thanks to the internet, the Exquisite Corpse has inspired a new project run by Tate and web browser Google Chrome. Described as a "collaborative drawing project", the Exquisite Forest is made up of a series of animations, each one created in stages by individual people, in a similar way to the Surrealists' sentences.
To begin with, each animation - known as a "tree" - has been seeded by an artist commissioned by Tate. Visitors to the website are furnished with the tools needed to create the next section of an existing tree before they may seed their own.
The project is led by US digital media artist Aaron Koblin (also Google's data arts team creative director) and Chris Milk, who is well-known for creating the crowdsourced music video the Johnny Cash Project. Some of the animations are being shown in an exhibition at Tate Modern over the next month.
Contributors are given a series of rules to follow, which change depending on the tree. For example, Kashmir-born artist Raqib Shaw invites us to "1. Add to the growth of plants. 2. The eggs need to hatch to reveal mutated species".
His three second-long seed, Forgotten Gardens of Zanadu, shows a forest floor pulsating with life. Those who have accepted his invitation have expanded it with googly-eyed worms bursting out of the landscape.
In London-based artist Dryden Goodwin's Looking Up/ Looking Down, writhing pencil lines gradually build up into a sketch of a man. On one branch of the tree, he reads a newspaper, jumps off a tall building, bursts into flame and climbs out of the pavement, his head reduced to a scribble. Then he starts flying a kite.
The animations are less spontaneously created than the sentences of the Exquisite Corpse, but they are just as surprising.
Anyone can take part as long as they have a Google account and Chrome installed on their computer. Of course the technology giant is using the project to tempt people to download its web browser but even cynics would have to concede that it's a remarkably creative way of doing so.