• 07.19.12

Milk And Koblin Reunite For Animation Platform “This Exquisite Forest”

The makers of Wilderness Downtown create a new collaborative animation platform, This Exquisite Forest.

Milk And Koblin Reunite For Animation Platform “This Exquisite Forest”

Director Chris Milk and Google’s resident data artist Aaron Koblin, the team responsible for the groundbreaking Wilderness Downtown and The Johnny Cash Project have partnered again, with Google, on This Exquisite Forest.


As Milk told Fast Company earlier this year, Forest picks up where TJCP left off. That project allowed participants to add a frame to a collaborative version of a music video for Cash’s “Ain’t No Grave.”

Like TJCP, Forest is a web-based collaborative platform that allows people to join in an ongoing creation, but the brief is a little more open here. The project is based on the Exquisite Corpse model–it allows participants to create animations that build on the contributions of others. As each participant joins the project, they can add to an existing theme or branch, or start a new one, with the growing, branching narratives creating a tree-like structure. The platform can be accessed online at or in person at the Tate Modern in London starting July 23. The Tate tapped seven artists from its collections to kick off the project with “seed animations.” The contributors are: Miroslaw Balka, Olafur Eliasson, Dryden Goodwin, Raqib Shaw, Julian Opie, Mark Titchner and Bill Woodrow.

Koblin says that when he and Milk wrapped TJCP, Tate’s Jane Burton contacted them and expressed interest in developing something for the gallery. “Chris and I started thinking about the idea of open endedness; in The Johnny Cash Project, we saw people wanting to express themselves more thoroughly and deviate the narrative in different directions; to control the trajectory of stories themselves.”

The technical challenges, which were considerable on TJCP, were multiplied here. TJCP’s drawing tool was a complex undertaking, built from scratch in HTML5 and JavaScript. Here, says Koblin, the team had to create the generative trees that form the narratives’ structure, and allow users to view entire trees while diving into all the different story paths. Web Audio API, a feature of Chrome, allowed the team to create music that is rendered in real time and linked to the animation at the appropriate time. Participants can also customize music themselves. (like Wilderness Downtown the Forest platform was designed to work best with Google Chrome).

Check out a making of video below.

About the author

Teressa Iezzi is the editor of Co.Create. She was previously the editor of Advertising Age’s Creativity, covering all things creative in the brand world.