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Prix 1987 - 2007

ORF Oberösterreich

Maurice Benayoun

Watching "Quarxs" by Maurice Benayoun you have to remind yourself every so often that they are pseudo reality and pseudo scientific. The scenes are animated in such a professional way that you forget that this is not reality but an artificial film with virtual context.

In the beginning God made a mistake!

That was the starting point for QUARXS - the idea that computer graphics gave mankind a means for conceiving a world much better or much worse than our own, but a different world in any case. A world in which the great principles of physics, biology and optics find themselves ridiculed, negated, transformed into opposites of themselves. And what if this world, which contradicts everything science and experience have taught us, was to collide with our own? What if these beings that evolve, breed and multiply under these paradoxical laws found themselves confronted with this most everyday, most banal of universes? Then they would serve as an explanation for many of the little incidents and accidents which shape our lives but tend to remain unexplained; things which do not merit any totally rational explanation but are increasingly being reinterpreted.

This new conception of the world is on the lookout for certainties, and in the process, it sometimes comes up with interpretations that are just as existential as they are futile. After all, the driving forces behind the Quarxs' behaviour are the same ones that control real life: how to feed, how to reproduce, how to hide from predators (man, the scientist?), eventually to disappear. Maybe even this disappearing is not final, for in this case (as elsewhere) no truth is final. Maybe that in itself is a concession to the laws of the genre.

Anyway, here they are! We've managed fine without them so far, but they might be able to help us cope with a world that is all too often absurd, by offering us completely unsatisfactory non-explanations.

The realism of the picture strengthens the pseudo-credibility of demonstration and observation. The decor inspires the unsettling strangeness that is so important to fantasy. But not to worry! The viewer only falls for the illusion because he accepts this new convention of representation, which places the computer image half-way between the photographic image (that of the cinema and video), and traditional animation. This is not about a cartoon universe. "Quarxs" behaviour will never be anthropomorphic or a caricature. All they have in common with humans are basic motivations like those found in the animal kingdom.

The "Quarxs" were born from the desire to build a programme around characters that owe their very existence to the functionality of 3-D computer graphics. The "Elastofragmentoplast" and the "Spatio Striata", for instance, continuously carry out Boolean operations (intersection of volumes), just as the "Polymorpho Proximens" uses synthetic interpolation (metamorphosing one object into another) to conceal itself, and the "Mnemochrom", a bacterium with a highly developed social life, scans the paintings of the masters - dot by dot, line by line, the same way cathode rays sweep across a video or computer screen.

Can Computer Life-Forms Move Like Real Ones?

In the traditional approach, a person is animated using observations of realmovement: I examine a slow-motion film of a moving animal, derive phases of animation from it, modify them to amplify their expressive character and makethem easier for the viewer to "read" The animation keys are subsequently used to simulate a typical animal movement frame by frame.

For the construction of some "Quarxs" we modified the style of movement to take their inherent characters into consideration. The animation created by this method is not based on observations of reality, but by the application of data processing methods. For instance, to make "Spatio Striata" we create and multiply a lifeboat shape to form a series of identical, regularly spaced segments. The whole thing then resembles a rippled tube. Each segment is then put through a perfectly regular rotation movement (e.g. 360°per second). The initial "tube" then appears to contract in a cyclic fashion (the rings go through alternate horizontal and vertical phases). But if we introduce a regular time shift in the rotation from one rang to the next, we achieve a wave motion strikingly similar to that of an earth worm, without even having imitated itsmeans of propulsion. We have quite simply reconstructed its means of propulsion through experimentation.

Here it is; movement that creates the form!

It cannot be said that such processes aren't to be used in traditional animation methods, but they are particularly well suited to animation by computational methods.

Technical Background
20.33 min
SW: Softimage