Science and Technology in Cultural Context
The Peformed Image

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- exploring motionless in moving images

Screened Works

The Eagle

Rory Middelton (GBR)

The Eagle is a hauntingly beautiful film, based on a story told by The Venerable Bede comparing a man’s life with that of a birds in his The Ecclesiastical History of the English People Completed in about 731. In Bede’s tail a bird flies through a hall from a stormy winters night and is briefly exposed to the light, warmth and safety of the hall before it vanishes back into the stormy night. Filmed on location in Scotland with a live eagle and a modernist building. The film meanders across a baron landscape where an eagle is seen to be flying overhead. The camera fixes on the building as the pace of the music builds. The eagle is seen to sore then fly straight towards the camera, crashing through a window as it reaches the full width of the screen. The eagle then flies through the length of the building and out the other side.


Wendy Mccurdo (GBR)

Shot on location at one of the UK’s major robotic labs Olympia was produced as part of Wendy McMurdo’s recent project exploring developments in contemporary robotics. Following on from her past work on digital domains, this film too explores the impact of evolving technology on identity. As part of a networked society, how close are we to allowing a significant electronic presence into our lives? Shot on location at Bristol Robotics Lab, Olympia was directed by Wendy McMurdo. Sound design was by Zoe Irvine, developed using Offenbach’s aria Les Oiseaux dans la Charmille from The Tales of Hoffman. Olympia was produced by VERL - The Visual Effects Research Lab - at The University of Dundee. The project was co-funded by Creative Scotland and was part of a larger project exploring the impact of the growth of social robotics on collective identity.


Rachel Maclean (GBR)

“Lolcats” – inspired by the Internet meme of the same name – explores an amalgam of past and present manifestations of cat worship. Shot entirely against green-screen the video presents a mutable space, at once a mysterious lost civilisation and a modern day touristic fun park. The narrative centres on a young female protagonist, presenting her in moments of intrigue, fear, metamorphosis and decay. Journeying through this erratic environment she encounters a bejewelled Katy Perry discussing dental hygiene with an aristocratic cat, stumbles upon an army of hostile feline cyborgs and is surgically dissected by a gothic physician. Maclean plays every character in the film, inventing a variety of personas that mime to appropriated audio and toy with age and gender. These clones embody unstable identities: conversing, interacting and shifting between cartoonish archetypes, ghostly apparitions and hollow inhuman playthings.Existing somewhere between the candy-coloured fantasies of ‘Disney Princess’ and the monstrous caricatures of a William Hogarth, “Lolcats” sits on a discomforting boundary between the sickly sweet and the grotesquely abject. Examining the relationship between our contemporary obsession with the personified image of the benign, doe eyed, ‘chocolate-box’ feline and a confrontation with the cold, untamed otherness of the predatory cat.

The Return

Colin Andrews

The Return’ is both inspired by, and a reference to, the penultimate scene in Tarkovsky’s, ‘The Sacrifice’, in which the principle character burns down his own house (in response to the threat of a nuclear disaster). When Tarkovsky was shooting this 6+1/2 minute shot the camera jammed shortly after the fire began and the house burnt to the ground with no camera rolling. Tarkovsky insisted that the house be rebuilt and re-burnt in order to shoot the scene again. This act of repetition, along with the symbolism of fire, and the philosophical idea of the repetition of history are key points of reference for this work. Nietzsche’s notion of the eternal return suggests that history repeats. We move in circles of time in which events mirror what has already occurred.Fire is both a brutally destructive force and an agent of renewal – it both ends and begins anew.

Peter Maxwell Davies Miss Donnithorne's Maggot

Peter Richardson (GBR)

An “iconic work of music theatre (Miss Donnithorne’s Maggot is), a tour de force for the performers”, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’s Miss Donnithorne, is based on an Australian lady, apparently one of the models for Miss Havisham in Dickens’s Great Expectations; jilted at the altar, she became a recluse, and the piece discovers her ranting among the remnants of her wedding cake, which is decorated with instrumentalists. This is the world premier of the film interpretation of Davies iconic work of musical theatre. Peter Richardson’s film opens in the Victorian era on the eve of MissDonnithornes wedding as her excited houshold prepares for the great day. It is soon clear that the wedding will not take place and the heartbroken heroin flees the house in a haze of shame and self loathing. Time and space distort catapulting the distraut Miss Donnithorne into a distopic late twentieth century world of decaying tower blocks and feral gangs. As the remains of her discarded wedding banquet decay and rot the tragic figure of a once great Victorian lady is left to roam out of place and time bouncing between the centuries, searching for her sanity.


A four-year project stemming from the VERL Lab which 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. VERL and Creative Scotland invited Artist to propose fantastical moving image projects un-realizable with incumbent technology. VERL worked with the five 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 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 realizing these unique visions be like ‘herding cats’?

Copyright @ ETH Zürich
Page last modified on March 21, 2013, at 11:36 PM