Available now for pre-order. This book addresses how and why architects, artists and designers manipulate reality. Front and center in this discourse is the role of rendering. Like drawing, rendering is an interdisciplinary, algorithmic, historically rooted cultural practice as much as it is a digital vocation. Its digitality is itself rich with conflict and contradiction. For example, rendering consumes and produces digital images. Likewise, rendering requires mastery of the digital to subvert digital aesthetics.
The element is an essential ingredient in this discourse. Elements exist behind the scenes and in the scenes. Elements are essential for but can also essentially disrupt a conception of reality. The nature of elements invites a convergent conversation between matters of topology, technology, and theory.
The book is written for the reader who wants to make and theorize at the same time. In that spirit, the author and guest contributors (Viola Ago, Julie Kress and Hans Tursack) aim to provoke and demystify at the same time. Each chapter sets a new stage for discourse with a series of elements that have a slippery way of existing in new or varied forms of reality. Because these elements are intertwined with (and sometimes created wholly through) the representational media that convey them, the act of unpacking, explaining, and sharing these elements is itself a project. Methods are exposed including (and especially) those that are strange, weird, messy, extravagant and obscene. The authors posit that representation is speculative, and that speculation is more than a matter of what to build, but how we see and affect the world.
Learn more about the book via its companion site, impossible-real.how
The pixel is the fundamental element of the digital image but operating on pixels is more complicated (and more interesting) than setting the colors of tiny squares. This chapter touches on pixel art cultures with special attention to the vintage Macintosh "killer app" MacPaint, and the glory of the binary (black and white) low-res image in the context of contemporary computational practices.
When we think about grids, we often imagine simple rectangular underlays, but in this chapter by guest contributor Julie Kress, we're treated to a survey of some of the quirkiest literal grids of popular culture—including the Star Trek Holodeck. Grids are involved in material simulation, which ultimately leads us to an exploration of atmosphere, fluid, fabric, and a curvaceous bathtub.
Trees are useful data types in computation. Nodes connected by branches facilitate searching, predicting, and operating on linked conditions. These are not "real" trees, of course. But what if they were? What would this mean for digital media's relationship to craft, nature, time, and process? What creative possibilities open when an element represents itself?
Dioramas are a cross between a room and an image. They convolve content and container and they do so with a degree of honesty—dioramas don't pretend to be virtual realities. They confront you with their own strange nature, but like a magic trick, they can also influence our conception of reality. This chapter explores dioramas from inside out and from outside in.
The year is 1987. The film Predator is released featuring an alien with an invisibility sheath that doesn't work perfectly. This chapter unpacks the digital/analog cinematography involved in the film while in pursuit of representational methods that expose their nature and their imperfections. Dioramas provide infrastructure of atmosphere.
Guest contributor Viola Ago makes the connection between forces that are social or psychological and those prevalent in digital simulations. The reflective human author operates differently on her axis while her architectural elements—houses and surfaces—exhibit characteristics strangely akin to disruption rather than equilibrium.
Architects and gamers both traverse digital spaces, but with fundamentally different relationships to elements, content, narrative, and movement. Guest contributor Hans Tursack makes the argument that gaming knowledge is transferrable to the creative process by re-telling the recent history of perspective through the lens of the video game. With special attention to elegance of computational constraint, architectural complexes are highlighted in a range of works including Doom and Starfox.
An over-arching argument in this book is that rendering need not be relegated to the final stages of the design process where it can serve only as a glossy commercialized stylization. We'd prefer rendering to be more like drawing. This chapter explores not only how rendering and drawing can perform like each other, but also how our words can be implicated in representational practices.