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Prix 1987 - 2007

ORF Oberösterreich

Mental Images
Rolf Herken

The film "Mental Images" by Rolf Herken starts in a subway-car in the tunnel. The train arrives at "Mental Images" station and comes to a halt.

The film starts in a subway-car in the tunnel. The train arrives at "Mental Images" station and comes to a halt. The platform slides away as the door opensa view on to a crystalline landscape.

The movement of the image leads through the rolling hills where well-preserved remainders from the history of Art can be seen. The fall over the ridge behind the landscape leads to a flight over aplain scattered with rocks. These are painted on the rear, which becomes more distinct as the flight leads us closer to the viewpoint of the imaginary artist.

Upon reaching this point, the paintings present a view of a coastal landscape with some islands offshore. A gigantic drop falls into the sea, more and more drops follow at ever shorter intervals and the islands drift away on the waves. A dense rain patters upon the water's surface. When the camera moves back, we find that we are looking at a water basin, the tiles of which reflect the sky and the clouds.

Night is falling and the tiles become murals on the Berlin Wall, the water surface turning into the street in front of it. A newspaper is blown along the graffiti-covered wall, the luminous sight of the tube station ad the station's exit come into sight. The shadow of a person coming up the stairs is visible, the person takes a few steps, the shadow slides over the sidewalk, a cigarette butt is dropped, a match lights. The person approaches a house entrance, the steel door slides away and opens the way into a dark hall, where a black shiny table stands in the light of a shaded lamp. The movie ends here with two dice being thrown onto the table abolishing the division between two and three-dimensionality.

Technical Background

"Mental Images" was realized on GEI CELERITY 1260, IRIS 3030 workstation with Wavefront Animation Software and in-house software.


"Mental Images" has created by the following collaborators, working as a team:

Rolf Herken: Creative and Technical Director
John A Berton: Creative and Technical Director
Axel Dirksen: Software Support and Systems Engineering
Christian Hege: Software Support
Robert Hödicke: Software Support
Ulrich Weinberg: Technical Director and Sound Engineer
Roger Wilson: Technical Director

A Remark on Computer Art
Rolf Herken

Computer-generated images and moving pictures, as the visualization of simulations, are an important by-product of computer development. The computer is by its nature the simulator of all exactly describable processes and thereby, except for the human brain, the first and presumably only meta-medium. Whatever cannot be defined cannot be simulated. Mathematics and Science provide the definitions necessary for simulation. This also includes research on human cognitive capabilities, one of the foundations of the area of research in computer science which is known as artificial intelligence.

Mental images are the concomitant phenomena and probably constitutive elements not only of visual thinking, but also of all conscious thought. If thought is considered to be simulation, and cognition the dynamic of mental models of that which is to be comprehended, the connection between artificial intelligence and computer art becomes clear.

In general such considerations are thought to be annoying. Where exact description is not essential, the "polite convention" rules according to which everyone thinks and - especially every artist - is creative. This notion also applies when considering the presaged creativity of the computer. It is already possible by simple means of programming to induce the generation of output which under these circumstances can be considered to be art or an extension of reality.

The fascination with this new tool for creating images, animation, and sounds is enormous. The possibility of making visible every imagined image and process justifies even the greatest of efforts undertaken in order to arrive at an exact description of it. Visualization makes it possible both for the observer to reclaim for himself the understanding of the process thus won as well as for the originator to gain new insights.

In contrast to the rapidly computer "crafts" of service industries for pictures and animation, earmarked by this fascination and purpose, the value of computer art will be more to question this convention and to explore for itself the nature and limits of cognitive and imaginative ability and therefore of creativity. Thus the computer could become the preferred tool of an artistic avant-garde for which the separation of art and science has no meaning.