3D artist Vladimir Tomin has realized one of my recurring fantasies in this CGI video, titled Outside: to be able to use digital interfaces to manipulate the physical world. Not in a screen, mind you, but in The Very Real Life.
Watching it I remember something strange that happened days after I started to use the very first iPhone. I was reading a print magazine when, instinctively, my hand and fingers moved to try to pinch a photo to zoom into a detail. I smiled at the time. That episode brought me back another memory that often happened when I was extremely tired, painting for hours in my studio during my college years: when I made a mistake, my muscle memory instantly tried to click command + Z to undo the brush stroke. It was disconcerting and probably a product of the exhaustion (or maybe I am mad, who knows!), but it always made me wish that I could have digital tools to manipulate the real world at my convenience.
In his video, Tomin takes this idea to its logical end. Using realistic CGI, he materializes typical 3D software interfaces over boring, everyday life settings. The interfaces enable an imaginary user to manipulate regular objects of any kind–a bounding box allows you to change the size of a spring toy; a sphere makes it possible to rotate a lamp post around any of its axis; or a 3D envelope changes the shape of a buoy floating on a lake into a sphere.
His work belongs to what the 3D artist Alan Warburton–in his video essay Goodbye Uncanny Valley–refers to as The Wilderness. Instead of just trying to create 3D scenes that are indistinguishable from real life in order to destroy the uncanny valley that separates digital fiction and reality, the artists who embrace The Wilderness make CGI obvious. They embrace its glitches and imperfections. Sometimes this is to create something beautiful and mesmerizing. Other times it’s to manipulate reality to make a statement. In the case of Tomin, it feels like a comment on the intense computer life of a 3D animator, always in front of a display, using 3D animation software to create fake worlds and not living in the real world beyond. Hence the title of the video and its tagline: “So that’s what it feels like to go outside.”
You know, right now I’m closing one of my eyes and using my finger to try to rotate objects 10 feet away from me. Perhaps I need to go outside and take a walk too.