Art from Code: Stuck in a Loop

Snapshot from Brent: Stuck in a Loop

For my Art From Code conference project, I wanted to create a looping, cinematic scene. I got the idea from the class skyline assignment, where we were to create a moving skyline, looping hopefully seamlessly from one end of the sketch to the other horizontally. In that assignment, we created different layers which moved with different speeds and together created a landscape, passing before us. My initial assignment looked like this:

I enjoyed the way in which the photos succeeded in creating something cinematic, and immediately had the impulse to add music to it, in order to give the scene more of a mood.

I came up with the idea of a character called Brent. I wanted to create a scene which gave a sense of the mundane everyday, a gray landscape and a melancholy person walking through it, desensitized to what was happening around him, uncharmed by the small details of his environment. The aesthetic is inspired by the idea of a young man who is a successful professional, but has found himself to be stuck in a loop, where every day seems to follow the same pattern.

Inspirations for this character and scene came from a 2019 video work by the digital artist Claudia Matè, which depict men in suits walk in a stiff way through a sterile hallway, seen in the images on the right below.

Another inspiration is the 2012 surrealist animation The Pub by Joseph Pierce, which follows the perspective of a young woman who works a mundane and miserable job at a London pub, and encounters drunk people who push her boundaries. The misery and isolation of her 9-5 job is a mood which I wanted to emulate in this scene. Snapshots can be seen in the black and white images below.

I decided to use a generic 3d model of a man in a suit, and after I changed his posture for the worse and rigged him into a walking position, I rendered him into a static PNG with a transparent background.

I took photos of the Fulton Street subway station in the city and composited them into a panoramic image. I added my drawings to the image, people inhabiting the station.

I divided this image into two separate images, in order to make them run one after the other without a noticeable seam. To create a sense of depth in the scene, I had removed the poles from the initial image and made them into a separate layer which would stand between the Brent in the foreground and the Brent on the platform seen above. The sense that the poles are closer to the viewer than the platform in the background creates the illusion that the two different Brents are on two different platforms.

In a final installation I set up for open studios, there was an option to interact with piece projected piece, and to further venture into Brent’s world, by listening to his looped “subway playlist” in headphones connected to a nearby computer.

The greatest challenge was to make the images run smoothly in order have an uninterrupted flow, so that the viewer can stand in front of the piece and notice more and more details as it goes on, noticing the different drawings every time they float by, without being aware of where the piece “ends” or “begins”. I might continue this project, making more environments for Brent and possibly animating him. For example him walking toward the subway in his own neighborhood. After the subway scene, his walking direction could change to be going in the opposite direction as he walks to work on Wall Street.

In Brent: Stuck in a Loop, I believe I succeeded in creating something cinematic in this code. People responded to Brent and the subway world in many different ways. I believe the use of the loop heightens the sense of the mundane and melancholic which I was trying to communicate, since Brent is stuck inside the subway forever. I could imagine using code in this way as scenes in films, to generate moving images which show a background moving and gives the impression that a person is going somewhere, even though the images used are still images.