The spectacle and surplus masculinity of Hollywood is hardly run-of-the-mill source material for generative art, but Canadian software artist Jeremy Rotsztain has been diligently exploring transforming cinematic convention into rich, abstract compositions for three years now. Rotsztain’s Action Painting project (first featured on CAN in fall 2009) employs scenes and sound design—’data’ from action movies—as raw material to generate abstract expressionist style animations. “Revving Motors, Spinning Wheels” (below) is one of four videos released by Rotsztain this summer that illustrate just how far this project has come – the piece reads as a love letter to both Jackson Pollock and Jason Bourne. On close viewing the source material (culled from Ronin, The French Connection, etc.) is clearly organized thematically and the video functions as a serial examination of the stock components of definitive chase scenes. Screeching brakes, blaring sirens, lead-footed acceleration and the inevitable Ballardian-endgame all filter through the mix in clusters of topical clips.
Jeremy provided the following contextualization (and above screen capture) of his working process on this piece over email: “…the software I wrote for arranging/orchestrating the clips has the same multilayer functionality of After Effects — but with the ability to select clips algorithmically from a database. You can ask for 45 seconds of clips featuring revving engine sounds then organize them by movie source and specify how much of the screen should be filled. This is basically what you’re hearing/seeing around the one minute mark of “Revving Motors, Spinning Wheels” – and the sounds stand out because they’re grouped together using similar ‘gestures’: cars flying across the screen, cars turning, police sirens and revving engines. There’s a minute immediately following that where the clips are more randomized but with more intense moments from different movies (which uses a ‘sort by intensity’ functionality).” Jeremy has essentially built his own sequencer/mixer workflow for organizing and processing tagged clips – other videos in the series consider the sound and fury of brawls, explosions and gunfights.
Rotsztain was recently the subject of a detailed interview with Dylan Schenker for The Creators Project where he elaborated on the nuanced relationship between his process and painting: “…it’s become more enjoyable to use the data in a more expressive fashion—to go beyond the informative practices of data visualization—and I decided to abstract the data and turned to audio/visual composition as a model for how the work should be experienced. So the end result is an artwork that looks like painting, but feels (and is edited) very much like cinema. Actually, when exhibited, the videos are are projected in high definition onto canvases, echoing both the immersive experience of abstract expressionist painting (where you stand in front of a canvas and let it envelop you) and the intense spectacle of action films.”
Thematically organised scenes of the stock components.