POWERPOINT ANIMATION EFFECTS by Nihaal Faizal
2.18mins | 2014
Nihaal Faizal is an artist based in Bangalore, India. His work examines already existing documents from a variety of technological sources such as stock videos, popular films, VHS tapes, surveillance cameras, operating systems and family albums. He recently graduated from the Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology where he initiated the project space G.159 in his student apartment. His recent two-person and group exhibitions include ‘The Real Taste of India’ at Mumbai Art Room (Mumbai), ‘Common Ground #3’ at Kleine Humboldt Galerie (Berlin), ‘Double Road’ at whiteBOX (Munich) and ‘3BHK’ at Home Sweet Home (Kochi).
Interview of Nihaal Faizal with Charu Maithani
Charu Maithani [CM] // What are your impulses to make work?
Nihaal Faizal [NF] // I remember having a camera always close at hand while growing up in the 1990s. Everything from family vacations to me making funny faces were duly documented, and prints were made for the family album. This constant presence of the camera resulted in my early interest in lens based technologies. At one point in my childhood, I found a few old black and white photographs of my mother and since I had also seen some old black and white feature films on television, I naively concluded that the world used to appear in black and white in the past. It took me quite a while to understand that the world wasn’t black and white, but technology in the past had limited ability to reproduce the reality of the world. This initial confusion has led me to mistrust documents created through popular technologies such as photography and question how these documents represent the world. I think a lot of my impulses for making work stem from this suspicion and are a way of negotiating the historical and continually changing possibilities and processes of technological reproduction and representation.
CM // In your works like Royalty-Free Stock Video series, you have composed a collection of the same stock images that highlight the differences between them. At the same time, the videos compel the viewer to think about reproduction in the digital age and consumerism. Moreover, use of the ‘non-image’ image of green screen to highlight digital transitions as the basic compositional element in PowerPoint Animation Effects, has echoes in structural film practices. What are your thoughts on this? Do avant-garde practices such as structural films, influence your work?
NF // I’m quite glad that you pointed this out – yes they do. In fact structural films have been a recurring inspiration ever since I was first introduced to the practice in art school. Peter Gidal says of structural film that “each film is a record (not a representation, not a reproduction) of its own making”. I would say that this is also true for the Royalty-Free Stock Video series and PowerPoint Animation Effects. Despite their affinity to the techniques and motivations of structural film, the context of these works are vastly different. For instance, red curtains opening features over fifty different versions of watermarked sample videos downloaded from shutterstock.com of the eponymous event. Not a single available video was actually filmed using a camera. Instead each version is a computer generated simulation. Similarly, PowerPoint Animation Effects uses all the standard transitions available on the 2010 version of Microsoft’s PowerPoint, more attuned to animating presentation slideshows than to enlivening the cinematic image. In both instances, they are a manifestation of a post-photographic digital culture and function in realms far removed from film and the physical celluloid medium that characterised the work of the structural filmmakers.
CM // The transitions available in the power point program are video transitions which have a cinematic legacy. As a transition between two shots, the transition marked significant visual, narrative and temporal shifts. However, in the video PowerPoint Animation Effects, these transitions bring out the plasticity of the digital medium. What are you implying through the effects?
NF // While the effects used in this video originate from the space of cinema, they all are effects available in a software meant primarily for the production of presentations. During my explorations into the user-level software that are pre-installed in Microsoft operating systems, I discovered that PowerPoint had an option to export video. These pre-installed software are interesting to work with, since they deeply structure our understanding of the personal computer, and like any technology, allow certain behaviours and habits to develop. I started making short videos using the PowerPoint software to create moving images and exported them directly, without mediating them through any other software. I think of this work as a document or a record of a changing digital landscape. The version of PowerPoint that I had used for this work, is by now already outdated and the transition effects have also changed. While some have remained, others have been modified or abandoned. A lot of my work functions to preserve or archive certain artefacts of popular digital culture. An important note here is that almost all of these cultural and technological fragments are commercially driven corporate products, which makes them universally recognisable. In working with these fragments of corporatized digital culture, I am able to comment on themes such as digital reproduction, technological nostalgia, corporate authorship and the inherent obsolescence of the digital medium, in my work.
CM // The green screen is an important aspect of the video. The green screen as chroma has gathered a lot of significance lately due to its use in CGI. Here it carries double meaning – it is not only an image in transition but, is a producer of visual effects as well. Is this one of the reasons that you use green screen in the video?
NF // The green screen as a conceptual device is quite an interesting subject. As a tool for chroma-keying it is also strongly linked to the development of digital technology. In the past, blue screens were the preferred choice for chroma-keying as the sensors in analogue cameras were more receptive to the colour blue. The popularity of the green screen was the consequence of a widespread switch from analogue to digital technologies for commercial filmmaking. The green screen is a powerful symbol of imagination as despite its apparent emptiness it holds the possibility of containing infinite options.
While the green screen by itself is generally considered to be blank – in that it functions to be substituted, I found that this was not necessarily true. During the time spent on various royalty-free stock video websites, I noticed that a variety of green screens existed, each with its own tonality and texture. With no specific fabric or industrial standard for chroma-keying, the range of greens float between different commercial availabilities. This mix-up ironically leads to a heightened sense of materiality, which was something I explored in the four channel video royalty free chroma-key green. For this work, I extracted fragments of footage from stock video samples available online from four different royalty-free image websites. The extracts were of brief moments where the green screen filled the entire frame, usually before or after the titular event of the stock video. Similarly, in PowerPoint Animation Effects, which I worked on subsequently, although the colour I chose was intended to function as an expressionless monochrome, it was not a ‘non-image’. Instead, in its device dependent state, the colour I chose was R=0, G=255, B=0, which continues to be the greenest green the computer screen is capable of presenting. For all its paradoxes, the green screen continues to be something I am interested in exploring further and as an analogy to our current digital environment, I cannot find anything more compatible.