Critical Sections

    By Greg J. Smith
    Design by Erik Loyer

    Open Project

    While the majority of the houses discussed have been built and exist in the city, as non-residents of these spaces we can never truly understand these structures beyond photography or architectural tourism.

    - Greg J. Smith, Author's Statement

    Users can create their own compositions mixing architectural and cinematic elements.
    Screengrab:     1     2     3  
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    Designer's Statement
    Digital expression is well understood as a realm of promiscuous substitution, in which signifiers can take any shape or size and cultural work can be accomplished by mashing up disparate sign systems. In Critical Sections, we attempt to translate acts of drawing and visual composition into navigational gestures which cumulatively map a geography that is both fictional and physical, while hinting at more fluid strategies for achieving hybridity in form and content.

    Users are provided with virtual pages on which they may casually deploy Greg J. Smith's intriguing hybrids of cinema and architecture—collages of filmic and domestic space which can be moved, resized, recomposed and arranged in depth. The scale of the user's affect within the piece was an early design concern, especially the level of detail at which users would be able to interact with the drawings. Ultimately we wanted users to do more than simply select imagery from a menu; ordinary mouse movements needed to signify down to the level of the individual line, providing intimate gestural connections with the source material.

    In the substitutional logic of the piece, cursor movements become lines, which become shapes, which become film imagery surrounded by architectural renderings. These renderings offer themselves as contexts alternate to the proscenium, and sometimes alternate to objects within the film frame itself, thus continuing the pattern of substitutions, but it is here that the strategy shifts. The drawings and imagery blend semantically, manually, edges and shapes aligned and dis-aligned to specific purpose, in conversation with each other. The fluid layer of commentary hovering above each page plays counterpoint, enacting an algorithmic, force-directed intimation of another kind of semantic mixture, one which defines thematic resonance as a matter of distance, measured in pixels.

    From substitution to blending; from bivalence to multivalence, from aliased to anti-aliased. These are all movements implicit in this technological moment, and while Critical Sections' recombinations are more hand-crafted and metaphorical than automated and data-driven, they are intended to evoke a world soon to arrive in which the semantics of Smith's imagery and text can be blended as easily and algorithmically as their visual apparitions.

    A footnote: source code, raw XML data and an interactive guide for Critical Sections are all available within the piece. We'd love to hear your feedback on these features.

    — Erik Loyer, June 20th, 2008