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by David ‘jhave’ JOHNSTON (Canada), 2003

Flaws Flaws, an artist's intro


We live in an era which has become bored by its own capacity for annihilation of the species. Weapons of mass destruction are busy rolling off the assembly lines and being sold to customers of all ideological stripes. Concurrently, the actions of many human governments demonstrates their renewed commitment to aggression, revenge, and massacres as solutions to conflict. The conclusion is so obvious it is almost banal: someone somewhere on this planet sometime in the near future will release a nuclear death storm.

One implication of extensive radioactive contamination of the biosphere is an increased mutation rate. Flaws is a satirical look at the birth of a baby: the baby is from our perspective a mutant. Yet within it's own world, this baby is normal.


First tangent: Lyn Margulis once referred to the shift in oxygen levels in the atmosphere during the Precambrian as pollution. She suggested that the human species, breathing this enriched oxygen atmosphere, is the result of this pollution. By extrapolation, after some nuclear incidents occur and as the general background level of radioactivity increases, it is probable a species adapted to an isotope-enriched environment will emerge. Flaws is a clumsy home video from that species. A videotape made by a father who faints as he sees his child pulled from the womb.

Second tangent: I recently walked out of the 3rd installment of the Lord Of the Rings after watching only 20 minutes. Why? Simple boredom and disgust. I was exhausted by how the morally good beings are all predominantly conventionally beautiful humans, while the villains are all slimy, ugly, and resemble burn victims. The film unfortunately exemplifies the propagandist thrust of western culture: clear-skin and solid cheekbones are virtuous. The virtuous are allowed to kill all who oppose them; they do so to preserve their way of life. Vice is debilitating and leads to physical ugliness which must be exterminated.

I think the resurgence of phrenology (and implicit eugenics) in popular entertainment is just one symptom of how as humans we are ethically-constrained by metabolically-hardwired notions of beauty. We crave perfection in advertising, in art, in ourselves, in each other. Flaws is a response to this tendency. I just wanted to make a film that toyed with preconceptions about normalcy and beauty. Flaws is that film; and it is deeply flawed.

I made many technical mistakes during the making of this film. Skeletons tore through the skin. Necks spun like wet dish rags as arms flailed in circles at the elbow. Eyes flew out of the body as polygons disintegrated into shards of pixilated data. I preserved some of these aesthetic mutants, modulated them inside AfterFX, and incorporated them into the online side panels: parallel evolutionary threads.

In addition, there are other less-intentional blemishes of the work: the inverted pixels underneath the mother's armpit, the un-synched breathing, the doctor's arms which are briefly visible as hollow tubes and do not accurately connect to the baby, the TV colour bar screen used as a mask, the unrealistic baby motion, the harsh pixilated web compression… These blemishes became (for me as I rationalized away my incompetence) intriguingly provocative reminders of how visually ingrained and ubiquitous analysis is. Human creatures are critical analysis machines: we leap to aesthetic judgments as quickly as we lunge toward conclusions. We call this swift non-verbal algorithmic activity instinct.

So it is with the utter instinct of innocence that I hope you enjoy this little work!

Postscript: The quality and level of technical expertise in the 3D animation work Flaws (created by me using Alias Wavefront's Maya) is incredibly incompetent, novice and amateur. It was completed in partial fulfillment of the requirements of FMAN 398 at Concordia University in the spring of 2003 under the tutelage of the wonderful Alison Loader. All the technical strengths of the work are derived from her; all the weaknesses of the work are attributable to my own inexperience.

David 'jhave' Johnston


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