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Q&A OCTOBER 17 , 2001
Digital Abstract Expressionism
[Page 7 of 7]

Nagel What are some of the problems you have with digital media?

Detheux It's too easy to fall into slick! Also, I hate all the "plumbing" that comes with even a stable Mac, there are times when I feel like I am spending more work fixing the machine than making my work. (Mind you, I am still using an ancient 8500 upgraded to the hilt, and as an Apple Systems Engineer recently told me: "boosting an old Chevy trying to drive it like a Formula One!") I hope to be able to work on a recent G4 soon; native USB and FireWire, faster processors and bus speed would go a long way to make my life a lot easier!

Nagel I think you need a new G4. (Maybe a G5, if the rumors are true. I'm trying not to think about it.) When you say "slick," do you mean photorealistic? Do you mean overproduced?

Detheux Yes on all counts; the little bit of experience I have had with more recent machines have shown me how limited my current hardware is, though it has been one super machine, taking me from total computer illiteracy to the work I am doing today, and it is still capable of helping me do some more.

As for photorealism, here again Giacometti had the right angle: "The problem with 'realism' is that it has nothing to do with reality!" What and how we see is very very very remote from the deception of photorealism, I am constantly amazed at the vast amount of work that goes into trying to (re)create a whole by adding parts!

In that respect, I find the 3D animation software packages I have looked at completely lacking in what constitutes our connection with the world, with each other, even (especially?) with oneself. Kundera defines "Kitsch" as being "the denial of shit," and I can see a parallel between Kitsch and much of the current 3D animation production: It tends to negate what is possibly our "better" part (as humans), the ambiguous, the undefined, the "still in the making."

And yes, overproduced indeed! What's happened to all the ambiguous areas in our own make up, al the confusion we live in, all the hesitations, the trials and errors, the failures, the abandoned projects, and so on? I suspect overproducing, over "finishing" things, is just a childish compensation for what we know we are living and a vain attempt at covering up the dark whole that is staring at us.

Nagel This brings up the issue of "cheating." That is, if the focus is on output rather than the process, a computer can be a very convenient crutch. Do you think this makes critics wary? They're judging product, not process. After all, what if an image a critic likes turns out to be nothing more than a Photoshop filter over an abstract photo? Then the critic looks like an idiot.


"WG5" from "Group I." Click image to see the series.
Or visit http://www.vudici.net.

Detheux The critic that negates his emotional and intuitive response to an image (or anything else) because he feels it may have been produced "too easily" is indeed an idiot!

It works, or it doesn't!

So much inefficient garbage has been made by countless hours, days or years of labor, and some master pieces were made in an instant. A urinal placed upside down on a pedestal can trigger a "what is this?" response in its viewers, and that alone is priceless, for one moment the usual "habitual reality" has been suspended, and the viewer was once again "alive."

What more could we ask of Art? Isn't that already a momentous event? To get somebody to stop drowning in the usual brain chatter and notice, if only for a brief moment, that there are things in life we don't yet understand, that even we may be other than what we think we are!

If that is what Art can help do, long live Art!

Nagel Are you happy with the tools available to you now? How would you like to see them evolve?

Detheux One very important aspect of the work I am trying to do requires input from the body, and a Wacom tablet is a step in the right direction, but I still feel we are playing these fabulous machines using one finger at a time while they beg to be played with all fingers, with chords, even feet, like a church organ. I took to Studio Artist immediately because it was, and still is, the very first application that gave me the sense I could touch so much more at once, but I still feel, at times, so very limited. No doubt some of that comes from my fairly limited tools, but I do sense that more is needed, and hopefully more is on the way. Better integration between image creating, animation, sound creating, and the putting together of all of those. Even with a ton of RAM, it is a real pain at times to have to open so many applications in order to treat, more or less simultaneously, all the different elements that are, after all, parts of the one piece.

Jean Detheux's work appears in a number of private collections and the Musée Royal des Beaux-Arts de Liège and can also be seen at his online gallery, which can be accessed at http://www.vudici.net. If you would like to experience more of Jean's ideas and artwork—and see his production process as it happens—be sure to attend his workshop at SAFO 2001 in Ottawa this Sunday. More information can be found at http://www.awn.com/ottawa/safo01/index.html.

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Dave Nagel is the producer of Creative Mac and Digital Media Designer; host of several World Wide User Groups, including Synthetik Studio Artist, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe InDesign, Adobe LiveMotion, Creative Mac and Digital Media Designer; and executive producer of the Digital Media Net family of publications.