Duran Duran – The Edge of America

Nothing happens in a vacuum.

I met Nicholas Rhodes in London in a rare books fair in December ’17, where we were introduced by my great friend and mentor Timothy Prus. We talked (I didn’t even knew at the moment he was the Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran) and had some conversation about his solo work and mine. After almost a year he wrote me back asking if I wanted to do something for the 30th anniversary of “The Edge Of America” and their “Big Thing” album from 1988. I accepted the challenge (even if I had only two weeks to do it) and started toying with the notion of nature/culture clash that permeates some of my books and algorithmic videos. I used the idea of book-based database narratives that I explored in my book AvionesAnimales (that I dedicated to Alberto Baraya who have an amazing body of work with flowers, birds and botanical expeditions) and started to think in one hand about the notion of movement as something fundamental in life at large and, in the other, the notion of purity, an idea that have been so complicated and critical of many attitudes toward the other and the alien (a notion really familiar to me being an immigrant all my life) and for immigration policies in the United States and the world.

The main concept would be to create an empty energy that process images and sound of others (a notion that I really care for in my work) using openFrameworks and Processing to accomplish it. The procedures over the images would be really basic and universal: layering through simple alpha blending, layering images in concentric formation and in horizontal slices and permutation. This three simple operations rule over the whole image production and are totally automated, so the results in every run are always different and unpredictable, outside my control. The actual video is only one of a humongous number of possibilities and permutations that the software is capable of.

The idea, then, was to build this software-based video that could take multiple image collections and build the video through sound analysis and randomness (a method I started to use in the nineties with my first clumsy experiments in BASIC and C++ and more recently in A Utopia of Permutations for YUCA, the amazing magazine of Juliana Gómez and Lina Rincón).

I thought about these 360 degrees portraits that could be processed and mixed via these simple algorithms. My friend and great artist Juan Pablo Gaviria helped me with the photography and shooting (that we did in my family’s café and in El Malpensante offices with the help of the editor and friend Karim Ganem Maloof) and even taking some pictures on the street, asking random people to lend us their faces. The overall color was inspired by some collections of faces that I used in the early stages of the development (from a few Computer Vision research datasets) and were fine tuned by the careful craft of Juan Pablo.

Additional scripts were the group of particles that crash with an invisible circle (using simple 2D physics) and the on-screen texts showing a few records from the FAA Wildlife strike database. Some additional editing were done for the initial and end credits and texts. The amazing dataset of dead birds photographs come from the USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab that had this incredible album (from an anonymous photographer, I wish I could find his name) in their Flickr Commons account.

Other images come from different Public Domain collections like the ones by The New York Public Library, Library of the Congress, and especially one from immigrants at Ellis Island in New York in the early 20th century. This video could be possible for the generosity and the amazing notion that is the Public Domain space.

Special thanks to María Paz Guerrero, Diana Restrepo, Sandra Miranda Pattin, Andrés Martínez and Marlene Angarita.

Bogotá, November, 2018

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