Moby (2014) was projected on the back wall of the No Vacancy gallery during the Bookends exhibition. Participants could control the playback of the animation via Wifi, using a custom-made hand piece and an ipod.
I responded to the theme of the exhibition by envisioning the death of Captain Ahab from the novel, Moby Dick (by Herman Melville). In the novel Ahab has sworn vengeance on the whale, Moby Dick, because in a previous battle, the whale bit off Ahab’s leg (he now has a wooden one). Ahab harpoons the whale, but is caught in a rope attached to the harpoon, and the whale drags Ahab to the bottom of the ocean. As Ahab drowns, fish eat him and his bones are entwined in seaweed. He absorbed into the natural world that he tried so hard to dominate.
The images I created for the animation are dark bold shapes against brightly coloured backgrounds ; a cross between a woodcut and a backlit shadow puppet play. I wanted the animation to look hand-crafted, with blockprinted characters combined with textures from old paper and etched metal printing plates. The figures are dark so that when they cross-fade against other forms they remain legible. The illustrations are simple, graphic and universal, so they can be read as a visual parable, rather than a representation of a particular time and place.
The installation utilises the AUUG Motion Synth, an expressive wearable controller that lets you play notes and manipulate video playback through the motion of your hands. Joshua Young (my brother) is the inventor of the AUUG, and he also wrote the code that controls the Moby animation. By raising and lowering your hand you can ‘scrub’ forward and backward through the animation. Gliding your hand from side to side fades through different scenes of the animation. Playing different notes changes the colours of the animation and makes music to accompany the action of the animation.
The installation invites participants to ‘perform’ the animation and to provide their own soundtrack to the narrative. To hear the sound of the animation you have to play notes on the iPod, and to see different sections of the animation you have to move and angle the iPod as well as rotating your whole body. As you move the animation moves too, and this creates a sense of being physically enmeshed in a flow of sound and image. This sensation reinforces the theme of how human beings are entwined within the natural world, and how every one of our actions has an effect on the world.