While the landscape in Condon’s Resurrection (below) mirrors the one in the original, the scene unfolding is substantially different: Christ is missing, his tomb has become an animated campfire, and the four surrounding figures are either nude or seminude. The angel has been replaced by a nude woman moving in and out of a yoga tree pose; two men sit by the fire, one looking away from it, the other looking into it with a hand raised for protection, both apathetically imitating the poses in the original painting; and the figure in red tights, who in the original lies face down in front of the tomb next to a helmet, has moved to the background, where it rolls its deformed, abstracted, polygonal head from side to side. By eschewing interactivity, which is at the core of video games, and setting a boundary for the scene and the movement within it, Condon creates a different kind of space for meditation. The religious themes and iconography of the medieval painting have been transformed into those of a countercultural spirituality rooted in the 1960s. In Condon’s Resurrection, the savior is absent, and the other characters are thrown back on themselves. The fact that the work exists in a virtual world and a game environment points to a contemporary way of transcending the body: the avatar as a virtual alter ego. In his Resurrection, Condon contrasts and plays with cultural iconography and archetypes (or even stereotypes) of different centuries, using the parallels between medievalism and gaming environments.
Credit: Courtesy of Brody Condon
Condon creates his modifications by means of the Unreal Runtime Engine, a stripped-down version of the game engine for the first-person-shooter game Unreal Tournament 2003. Within the scenes, the point of view that would normally move around the space remains still. Condon places the 3-D visual content he developed in the game space and then moves the camera through the space to reproduce the composition of the original painting. Characters and landscape are tilted forward 45°, toward the viewer, and stacked in order to imitate the perspectival system used by the Flemish masters.
A different take on the relationship between game-development technology and traditional media is presented in the works of John Gerrard, who has created multiple scenes of portraits and landscapes that take the form of 3-D image-objects. At first glance, his projects Dust Storm (Dalhart, Texas) and Animated Scene (Oil Field) seem to reflect photographic conventions of landscape representation. But while they allude to the medium of photography, they also undermine the “freezing” of a moment in time.
In Dust Storm (Dalhart, Texas) (below), one of a series of pieces, Gerrard remakes a dust storm that occurred on “Black Sunday,” April 14, 1935, and depicts it as permanently looming over a representation of Dalhart, TX, in its current state. The view is based on photographs taken by the artist on site, while the image of the storm itself is derived from 1930s archival photos of the Dust Bowl. Past and present collapse in a photorealistic yet unfixed temporal image space that appears simultaneously hyperreal and fantastic. Gerrard thinks of the work as “a ‘memorial structure,’ a type of public art placed on the (constructed) landscape as it stands now.” The storm is a custom-built particle system on which the artist and his collaborators worked for six months; once it starts, it changes over time without shifting position over the landscape. The movement of the rolling and surging cloud was created on the basis of a video of a dust storm in Iraq’s Anbar Province that Gerrard had seen.
Credit: Marian Goodman Gallery