[ISEA2011] Paper: Peter Richardson – Herding Cats to Infinity


In this paper I outline the current findings of an on going investigation begun in 2009 at the Visual Effects Research Lab (VERL). The three-year project links the worlds of film, art, technology and computer science. In sharing methodologies and promoting cross, trans and inter disciplinary understanding the project challenges established notions of visual thought and creates new synergies between scientists, artists, and film-makers.

In 1985 painter David Hockney was invited by Quantel to experience its TV computer graphics system Paintbox. Hockney worked for 8 hours nonstop creating artworks with the ‘tablet’ and ‘pen’ set up. He described the system as like ‘painting with light’. In the spirit of Quantel’s project VERL and Creative Scotland invited Artist to propose fantastical moving image projects un-realizable with incumbent technology. VERL worked with the four selected artists to shoot high resolution (up to 4K) and post-produce in Nuke and Maya a series of innovative film projects for cinematic exhibition.

“The idea of infinity cannot be expressed in words or even described, but it can be apprehended through art, which makes infinity tangible. The absolute is only attainable through faith and in the creative act”.  _‘Sculpting In Time’ Andrei Tarkovsky.

The notion of depicting time (the literal translation of Tarkovsky’s book title) and in particular ideas of infinity became the projects prevalent theme. The  artists pushed the labs facilities and team to its limits creating impossible ornithological stunts, buildings rising from burning embers, real and imagined robots and visceral fantasy worlds. Would working with the Lab allow greater flexibility for the artists to create? Would access to this previously unaffordable technology provide more scope to experiment, or, would realising these unique visions be like ‘herding cats’?

VERL is a ground breaking project funded by a €500K European Union grant and consolidates established world-class research at DJCAD in video art, digital film and 3D computer visualisation. VERL provides a well-equipped laboratory environment for invited artists, filmmakers and researchers to create new works.

  • Peter Richardson is a filmmaker and researcher based in Dundee and London, UK. After graduating form Goldsmiths College in 1989, Peter spent 14 years in the film industry. He has exhibited video works at The Barbican London, City Racing Gallery London and Marian Goodman Gallery New York. His experimental films have been screened on television and at film festivals worldwide including: ’Out Takes’ Brazil, New York, Los Angeles, Cannes, Cork, London and Hamburg film festivals and The National Review Of Live Art The Tramway Glasgow. Peter is a Lecturer at Duncan Of Jordanstone College Of Art & Design in Scotland and is currently Director of the Visual Effects Research Lab (VERL) A European Union funded project that undertakes transdiscaplinary research into high-resolution image technologies.

Full text (PDF) p. 2036-2041