Categories for Arts

Nature, the Environment and their Uses in Art

“I name that man an artist who creates forms… I call that man a craftsman who reproduces forms.”

Malraux is talking about artists and craftsmen, but might as well be talking about artists and designers. The audacity of the lowly “reproducers” was penalised by the iconoclasts, and perhaps we harbour the same fundamental suspicions about designers, people paid to build and sell us dreams just as frequently as they build and sell us houses. Yet it strikes me that there are two ways of dodging the suspicions of the public- the use of the imagination, and the use of Nature. If the two can be happily married then this superior union ought to germinate a magic all its own.

“Moreover, a taste, not to say a passion, for building must be engrained in the child. Mechanical toys and mechanised entertainment kill his imagination and initiative; the feat of putting building blocks on top of each other hardly taxes the brain of a monkey”

So the designer presents himself as a kind of sub-originator, and defers his symbolism to the greater origin. There is an individual and a more cosmic interest at work at the same time. The artist grows like a tree, developing, spreading, the ideas rising from the mysterious soils and falling like leaves. But the broader picture, a fluxing creative rhythm bridged by moments in time, demands a grander theory of unification.

Nature is as synonymous with decay as it is with growth. The ephemera of modern life is as temporary, inevitable, immediate, as nature itself. Our cities have become sort of flaking, dying, layered forests, with their own dangers and rhythms of life and death. Everywhere we find reminders of our own impact on our surroundings- it is human nature, we can’t help trying to clothe our hairless bodies and modify everything around us to make our lives more comfortable. But for some this seems to be a source of almost biblical guilt, and people go to extraordinary lengths, for their own reasons, to cover their tracks and paint their human presence out of the landscape altogether.

Hundertwasser’s house in Vienna , and his designs for the “Eye Slit house” spring immediately to mind. Are we guilty enough to try to make our impact completely invisible? There can be no contention over the point that man has a negative impact on his environment and it may be that one solution is hiding man’s impact altogether, (to enfold ourselves in nature’s arms, camouflaging ourselves in Her) while another might be to try to disguise our impact by turning our constructions into impersonations of Her. Is this really any different to the fearful icon building of ancient times, and do the “uglier”, modernist, construction-stating buildings represent a sort of iconoclasm- a return to buildings being made for human functionality rather than as a fearful acknowledgement of nature’s power as a constructor?

Most of the architectural structures which are intended to resemble nature draw attention to the similarities between buildings and plants. Both are subject to a functional rhythm, both have access points, layers, a projectile dynamic- in other words, a sense of growth and promise. Yet plants are transcient, not concrete: they grow and bloom and fade and die, like people. They nourish and protect and reproduce and crumble away. The contrast with sturdy, permanent building materials used for, say, gothic cathedrals, Romanesque churches, the Eden Project, the Golden Gate Bridge, presents a sense of wonder and beauty in itself. Because plants are not like buildings. Buildings are sturdy and static and monumental. It is a fantastic thing to see a grand self-generating plant-beast made of concrete, it is alien and dreamlike and mesmerising – but it is all these things because it is impossible. It enchants us because its beauty comes from a faraway, magical land, not from a world we know about but from one we would like to know- one in our dreams. Designs based on nature not only solve our problems, sate our yearnings and answer our questions, they also create new problems, new yearnings, and new questions.

1) Ecology since the 17th Century: historical relationships with Nature

In the preface to “The Origins of form in Art”, Herbert Read references Henri Focillon, who suggested that life itself is a creator of forms, that there’s no real distinction between art and life:

“Life is form, and form is the modality of life. The relationships that bind forms together in nature cannot be pure chance, and what we call “Natural Life” is in effect a relationship between forms, so inexorable that without it this natural life could not exist. So it is with art…constitute an order for, and metaphor of, the entire universe.”

Nature is uncontrollable and unpredictable- it is an ancient metaphor for uncontrollable intervention and for everything we can’t accurately forecast. There is even an ancient Japanese treatise on archery which details the way in which the hardest part of the entire sport is waiting for the natural release of the string- a moment of serenity and detachment; total absence of striving. The flow of inspiration to the artist is analogous to this although it is unclear whether the creator’s inspiration rises from this or rises like it.

Theorists have long been aware of this ambiguity and have thematised it themselves.
Michael Fried interprets the woods, rocks and glens in Courbet’s paintings as faces or symbols or metaphors. Christopher Wood finds terrifying anthropomorphised trees looming over the subjects of Altdorfer’s exquisite scenes. The point is that those people who look at art, who are also interested in using it as an expression of themselves, consistently seek reflection in the pools provided by nature, natural imagery provides the perfect apparatus, somehow, for the admirer of human creativity to integrate the object into their own field of experience.

When Paul Klee wrote that “The creation of a work of art is compared to the growth of a tree- its roots in the earth, crown in the air.” he is presenting an image of flow, as if an artist stands near the tree to allow the sap to rush in. This flow, though, occurs without conscious effort and the artist, crucially, experiences a transformation.

“ The idea that art is not a mirrored reflection of a given reality, but also a transformation of one element (which has its roots underground, in the unconscious) into another (made conscious in time and space). The artist is merely a channel whose function it is to transmit the forces of nature into forms of art.”

Vivante’s assessment that “art, far from being non-conscious, is a conquest of consciousness” is revealing, but wisely countered by Read, “Admittedly, the artists themselves may not always know when they are merely exploiting the unconscious, rather than “letting loose the riot of tender shoots””

As nature and art are so closely related, almost counter intuitively, so words and nature and words and art, are sometimes indistinguishable. All are concerned with abstraction, with roots, with origins, “we establish…our sense of reality by creating, for each experience, a clear and appropriate symbol- vocal sounds which were eventually stabilized as words. Every words was once an original work of art.”

Whenever anything becomes too prevalent, too integrated into our consumer vocabulary, we scarcely notice it anymore and it loses its impact. In becoming part of our environment, ourselves, the cliché ceases to become something desirous to us.

Designed solutions respond to an expression of specific desire or need, and so become a meta expression of the same need. While design solutions sate specific hungers, art is an expression, and not even necessarily a resolution of, thematic desires. Poetry and the visual arts dance around the cliché while occasionally retaining originality (Poussin’s Dance to the Music of Time is a delightfully literal example of this)- art finds a janus-faced simultaneity, a place for both the cliché of nature and the pure artistic drive of “artisticness”. Design, however, is trapped in the problem solving one-dimensional rationality of the prevailing zeitgeist. Perhaps nature is a way of side-stepping the cliché, but it can also present itself, maddeningly indistinguishably, as the alluring siren.

Maybe there is a link between the mechanised production of imagery and forms and the predominance of natural imagery in the products and lifestyles consumed by people nowadays. There could well be a relationship, yet unexplored, between the unnatural production of natural images and the homogeneity of the images themselves. If the origins are authentic and essential then we should expect products to be more persuasive, more reflective of their origins, more transparent. Mechanisation has allowed for imagery to “ride the zeitgeist” and generate a new kind of language of “natural” iconography- perhaps where once there was religious iconography.

In Poussin’s Dance to the Music of Time we find Arcadia, the natural utopia, being equated to male/female synthesis, and then, on another level, the gender synthesis standing for a synthesis of heaven and earth in the familiar conceit of rhythm. In Peter Blake’s extraordinary work, The Arcadian Cipher pentagram shapes are located everywhere as a kind of unification symbol: Blake is anxious to synthesise traditionally opposing forces, and make sense of illogical harmonies through the imposition (or uncovering, in his terms) of this particular hypograph. His choice of symbol is less important than his- and other academic semiosticians’ – impulse towards holism. I have already suggested that artists are involved in a janus headed effort: always trying to channel pure nature and represent her in a familiar language- to experience and the represent the cliché at once. Blake’s assessment of the Dance describes the duplicity:

“For where the other two pentagrams represent the Jesus figure and Pan, this definitely connects them with a female element. Through it we are able to establish a male/female partnership both in heaven and on Earth and between heaven and Earth, and it is one which symbolises the poles upon which the Earth spins.

The painting depicts Hermes playing his lyre – music was his method of communication between two worlds- and a group of earthly figures dancing to his celestial tune. On the left hand side of the work is a column on which is mounted a carving…of two heads facing away from each other.”
Theory of this sort, while certainly in constant danger of toppling into quasi-science, superbly exemplifies the inextricability of Nature and Geometry. Theories of Arcadia are saturated with geometric semiotics; art writers constantly trace and re-trace paintings, covering them in layers and layers of “mathematical” justification. Whether any of these theories have any real use or even make any sense outside of their own self-imposed rules is not my point. I am interested in the relationship between the powers of nature and the powers of men, the irresistible urge to explain the mysteries of nature, her circadian rhythms, her life giving and life stealing properties, her silent chthonic swell and the threat and awe experienced by the bewildered humans that observe her.
As one of the most evocative and symbolically potent plants on the planet, the cactus has played many roles in South American tradition and folklore. As with any hostile climate, indigenous species that seem to offer solace will inevitably acquire mystical significance as the protection they offer is associated with promise. To the parched population of parched landscapes, cacti are life-giving, life-saving, surprising, mysterious, frightening- divine.

Cacti started off on American continents, and are still most associated with these places- but they have experienced a massive geographical distribution over the centuries, and cacti have been able to instigate habitats around the world. One rumour says that Christopher Columbus was the first person to have taken the first cactus to Europe, presenting this ‘peculiar’ plant to Queen Isabella of Spain, however this is of course apocryphal.

During their explorations on the American continents, the Spanish Conquistadors found, among many other things, these strange ‘vision inducing’ plants that were utilised ceremonially by the natives as a religious sacrament and was revered as virtual gods. The native South American name for their spineless dense-shaped cactus (Lophophora Williamsii) was ‘peyoti’. It is a plant native to Mexican and south west US with button like tubercles which may be eaten fresh or dried as a narcotic. Initially, Cacti (‘peyoti’) were employed for healing purposes, for attempting to divine the future and for generating hallucinogenic visions during scared rites. Although these hallucinations often appear to be compared to LSD trips, the peyote “acid” is 4000 times less potent, only briefly affecting the chemical balance and activity of the brain.

The Spanish chronicler, Fray Bernardino de Sahagun, claimed that natives used a certain plant to induce hallucinatory state and estimated that ‘peyote’ was widely used at least 1890 years before the arrival of Europeans. The earliest European record dates from around 1635 with the first column of Historia de las Indias Occidentales by Gonzalo Hernandez de Oviedo y Valdes appeared with illustrations of what we would now classify as Cereus and Opuntia.

In 1886 that the German pharmacologist, Louis Lewin, published the first systematic study of the cactus, to which his own name was subsequently given- Anhalonium lewinii. The cactus was already well known and loved by primitive religions and the Indians of Mexico and the American Southwest. One of the early Spanish visitors to the New World wrote, “they eat a root which they call peyote, and which they venerate as though it were a deity.”

It became clear why this plant was venerated as a god, when such eminent psychologists as Jaensch, Havelock Ellis and Weir Mitchell began their experiments with mescalin, the active principle of peyote. Mescalin research has continued, and now chemists have not only isolated the alkaloid; they have learned how to synthesize it, so that the supply no longer depends on the sparse and infrequent crop of desert cacti. Neurologists and physiologists have spent years investigating the mechanism of mescalin’s action upon the central nervous system, and at everyone from philosophers to writers- notably Aldous Huxley- have taken mescalin in the hope that this mystical cactus extract may shed some light on such ancient, unsolved riddles as the place of mind in nature and the relationship between brain and consciousness.

It is surely no coincidence that the peyote cactus, so ubiquitous, so loved and feared, is also identified as the solution to ancient problems of human displacement. We identify with the cactus perhaps. It projects intelligently, like an alien from the sand, while we wonder how we are supposed to best relate to our surroundings. When we look at the cactus we see ourselves done better. If anything on the planet holds the key to man’s reconciliation with his estranged mother nature, it is surely the cactus. It is too alien to be part of our problem, we reason, so it must be part of the solution.

2) Taoism and Nature

“Humans model themselves on earth,
Earth on heaven,
Heaven on the Way,
And the way on that which is naturally so.”

Lao Tse Daodejing (Tao te ching) #251

This simple but sententious dictum was delivered by an Chinese ancient sage, Lao Tse, the founder of Taoism. The saying suggests a means of building a harmonious relationship between beings and nature. Taoist ideas about conservation and ecology, with nature as the inspiration and conclusion to all things, reflect and resemble new philosophies of industrial design, to some extent. Alongside Buddhism and Confucianism, Taoism is one of the three great religions of China. It can be roughly translated into English as “path”, or “the way”- that is, the way of correspondence between man and nature, and the way that is a kind of path of nature – the course of natural world. The term Tao describes a power that envelops and flows through all things, both living and nonliving. As such, it serves to regulate natural processes and encourage a cosmic balance of all things in the Universe.

Tao suggests that the answers to life’s problems can be found through inner meditation and outer observation. Taoist ideas and images may have nurtured or inspired a love of nature in the Chinese, so that they have traditional felt a need to protect it, and have had many ways of cultivating an affinity with it. The Chinese have always seen nature as a companion, a place of security and support to which they could retreat from the cares of the world to rest or heal themselves. Nature, through Tao, is also sincerely life-affirming. Nature can be unfathomably brutal and Tao constantly reminds that the external world is explicitly on-ideal: in fact, according to Tao, the ideal world can only be found through a spiritual path. The only thing that might compromise one’s eternal happiness, in Tao as in Buddhism, was a state of mind, an attitude.

Both Tao and Nature are associated with a non-materialistic attitude to life, a spiritual approach to living which many perceive as a possible answer to the social issues of today: the problems of sustaining a unified and healthy social order. Taoists believe their religion holds the answers, as it advises its followers to emulate nature, with its simplicity and relaxed, non-intellectual approach to life. Tao seems to suggest that many of the environmental problems of today have arisen from a materialistic human attitude that has overwhelmed man’s spiritual relationship with his natural environment. Rather than coexisting with our living space, people have begun challenging it, and it has even become a respectable achievement to be seen to “conquer” nature.

An estimated 42 million acres of tropical rainforest are destroyed annually, an area the size of Washington State. Around 50,000 species of plants and animals are condemned to extinction every year, an average of about 140 species a day. There are more people than ever, and these people routinely pillage resources, destroy or change natural processes arbitrarily and are support the production of thousands of products that lead towards the ‘destructive path’ of the environment – contradicting the Taoist ‘path’. Increasingly materialist in their lifestyles, most people believe that only matter exists, leaving no room for spiritual beliefs. Our quest for pleasure corresponds to a demand placed on the Earth for immediate gain. The visible world takes precedence over any spiritual or psychological activities and ultimately a form of materialism becomes the only truth and belief. Nature’s force is unknowable in its essence but observable in its manifestations. With the crisis of energy and resources, the crisis of ecology and environment, the crisis of belief and mortality we experience force in the form of nature’s lamenting reactions.

“We believe in the formless and eternal Tao, and we recognize all personified deities as being mere human constructs. We reject hatred, intolerance, and unnecessary violence, and embrace harmony, love and learning, as we are taught by Nature. We place our trust and our lives in the Tao, which we may live in peace and balance with the Universe, both in this mortal life and beyond.”
– Creed of the Western Reform Taoist Congregation

The recent revival of instinctive desires preserve the health of our planet’s life without compromising human comfort is the task of ecological attitudes in art and design. Those ecological design solutions that take on board Taoist philosophies link nature, culture, and technology to resituate social human requirements in an environment where the balance of nature receives precedence. Artists and designers must of course work within the constraints imposed by their clients, including the practical and material demands made by every stage of production.

Classical Taoist philosophy, formulated in part by Laozi (the Old Master, 5th century B.C.), in part by the editor of the Daodejing (Classic of the Way and its Power), and in part by Zhuangzi (3rd century B.C.), represented a reinterpretation and development of an ancient nameless tradition of nature worship and divination. Laozi and Zhuangzi, living at a time of social disorder and great religious skepticism developed the notion of the Dao (Tao – way, or path) as the origin of all creation and the force – unknowable in its essence but observable in its manifestation that underlies the mechanisms of the natural world. These men saw in Dao, Nature, and in Nature, Dao. In both these Ways lay the secret to harmonious living. According to these early teachers, the order and harmony of nature was a model for human structures, so much more stable and enduring than either the power of the state or the civilized institutions constructed by human learning. The early Taoists taught the art of living and surviving by conforming with the natural way of things; they called their approach to action wuwei (wu-wei — lit. no-action), action modelled on nature. As one writer explains,

“Their sages were wise, but not in the way the Confucian teacher was wise, learned and a moral paragon. Zhuangzi’s sages were often artisans, butchers or woodcarvers. The lowly artisans understood the secret of art and the art of living. To be skillful and creative, they had to have inner spiritual concentration and put aside concern with externals, such as monetary rewards, fame, and praise. Art, like life, followed the creative path of nature, not the values of human society.”

Chinese history is dense with stories of people who have grown tired of the pretensions and desperation of social activism increasingly aware of the fragility of human achievements, and whose response has been to retire from the world and turn to nature. Such people have traditionally retreated to a countryside or mountain setting to commune with natural beauty, often composing poetry about nature , or painting interpretations of the scenes surrounding them, as they attempted to capture the creative forces at the heart of Nature’s vitality. Such people might share their excursions with friends or family, drinking a bite of wine, enjoying the autumn leaves or the evening skies.

The literature of Chinese utopians often had a Taoist slant: Tao Qian’s famous “Peach Blossom Spring” told of a fisherman who happened across an idyllic Chinese community who had fled a war-torn land centuries earlier, and lived in perfect simplicity and harmony ever since, blissfully oblivious to the turmoil of history beyond their idyll. While the inhabitants urged him to stay, the fisherman departed and shared his discovery with a local official. However hard he tried, he never found a path back to the grove. The fisherman never found a route back because he had failed to understand that he had discovered an abstracted, ideal, world – and one which was to be found not via an external path, but a spiritual one. The utopia was a state of mind, a unique attitude.

Laozi and Zhuangzi had reinterpreted nature worship and belief in esoteric “magical” arts as something both more abstract and more tangible, but the ancient methods and beliefs crept back into the tradition as ways of using knowledge of the Dao to enhance and prolong life. Despite its pragmatism, for some Taoism would always go hand in hand with magical belief. Some Taoists poured their energies into a search for “isles of the immortals,” or for herbs that could unlock the secrets of immortal life. Many Taoists were interested in health and carried out many studies of herbal medicine and pharmacology, in fact entailing significant advancements in these arts. Taoists even worked out the principles of macrobiotic cooking and other supposedly new and healthy diets. Sensitive to natural processes, they recorded gymnastic mechanisms and studied the effects of massage on keeping the body strong and youthful.

Taoists were, then, both magicians and of proto-scientists: they represented the sector of Chinese culture that most closely studied and communed with nature. Some Taoists held that nature was filled with spirits however, theosophically, such spirits were simply many manifestations of the one Dao, something impossible to represent as a single image or in one discreet form.

“The Tao of Heaven operates mysteriously and secretly ; it has no fixed shape; it follows no definite rules; it is so great that you can never come to the end of it, it is so deep that you can never fathom it.”

The Huai Nau Tzu

The central theme of Taoism is a relationship, and as such contradicts the general western attitude to nature. Nature should not be considered as something passive, awaiting man’s masterful control, but as an equal or even superior partner be mastered in a relationship. The aim of the Taiost is to rediscover and eventually merge with the ordered origin of the universe and the only way to do so is the Tao – the path shown to us by nature.

Early Taoist philosophers set out from their civilised worlds to take expeditions into the natural world, where they hoped to learn from primitive people living in remote mountain villages. Initially they aimed to introduce the benefits of human civilization to the mysteriously rhythmed order of nature. According to the Tao, nature is

“infinitely wise, infinitely complex, and infinitely irrational. One must take a yielding stance and abandon all intellectual preconceptions. The goal is wu wei, doing nothing contrary to nature. Nature does not need to be perfected or improved. It is we who need to change; we need to come into accord.”

Contrary to one possible interpretation of Yin/Yang, Taoists rejected all dichotomies, including the fundamental existence/non existence one, since it is their belief that both stem from the same source, “Athe deep and the profound.” Rather, Taoism’s goal is to use consciousness of duality and wisdom about it to reach the stage before any dualities existed. There is only one path to this source, then – the observation of nature. As one writer explains,

“The Tao is a divine chaos, not a random accident. It is fertile, undifferentiated, and teeming with unrealized creation. It is the mother of everything in nature; it is a great darkness that operates spontaneously to give birth and life to all things.”

3) Ecological thinking in contemporary art and design

Are we really moving towards a common lexicon of human creation and natural creation? Alan Power cites Steiner’s “startling prediction”,

“ Buildings will begin to speak. They will speak a language of which people have as yet not even an inkling,”

Yet I wonder how startling this really is. Buildings are indeed more “scientific”, more complex with less obvious evidence of human intervention. Many buildings nowadays appear to have been designed and built by aliens, no longer made to be lived in but impenetrable to our rational human minds. Again, they resemble complex organisms in their initially baffling structure, their illogical shapes and apparent preference of shape and form to practicality. But they are still made by humans, albeit humans employing a dozen layers of technology to translate abstract geometry into audaciously confusing formulae. They are still constructed by and for humans to use, and to that extent are utterly comprehensible, at least to the humans that use them. Where there is room for gratuitous aesthetic treatment in a design, designers, consciously or not, grasp the zeitgeist, construct from fashionable and available materials, and exploit their artistic freedom as far as their unconscious notions of the “aesthetic” will allow them to. These notions, I am attempting to argue, are controlled by biologically ingrained forms of the organic. It doesn’t matter if a building is technically accomplished to exhibit skeletal forms, as with the giant domes of the Eden Complex in Cornwall, the Brooklyn Bridge in New York and the Mildred Cooper chapel in Arkansas or swollen like the pregnant belly of the Guggenheim, NY . Nature can be found in all design, both rational and irrational, and the more we try to escape it, to avoid mimicking it, the more we are forced to study its base rules, its gravity and its ebb and flow, the tensile strength of its spider-webs, the effects of its uncontrollable eruptions and tidal waves and tornados.

Nature is absolutely full of potential metaphors for ways in which we can improve our lives. Today, apple peels are being used by scientists at the University of Clemson as a metaphor for edible packages’ disolvable pouches like boil in the bags that add protein to a macaroni and cheese dinner, or packages that act as a booster for laundry detergent. There’s certainly a human instinct to perceive products inspired in obvious ways by nature, as being somehow “good” for us, or “good” in a moral sense. Of course, human instincts are not to be trusted blindly, and it doesn’t follow that because a kind of packaging is inspired by an apple core it is environmentally friendly, inspirational, beautiful, or better for us or the world. But I suppose it has a slightly higher chance of being one or more of these things, our instincts are not too wide of the mark and do control the things we want to buy and sell.

A study entitled “Trees in Small City Business Districts:
Comparing Responses of Residents & Potential Visitors” begins,

“This study tested whether public response to trees in the downtown business districts of smaller cities is comparable. Research methods included interviews and mail-out surveys. Survey respondents prefer having large trees in retail streetscapes. Trees are also associated with reported increases in patronage behavior (such as travel distance and visit frequency), and willingness to pay more for products. Few differences in response were detected between small city residents and potential visitors who reside in large cities.”

What is it about natural organisms that make us want to part with our money? Marketing strategies state such things as fact, using careful example to “prove” what we “intuitively” want to believe is true – that “good product and package designers have known for centuries- that the best inspiration for new products comes from nature. The camera mimics the human eye. Helicopters, like hummingbirds, can hover and fly backwards. Velcro brand fasteners were inspired by prickily burrs attached to a Scottish inventor’s boot.”
They get away with this because nature is, and has always been, such an alien force to us humans, as we have seen. Like an alien from another planets, we hope it will be benevolent and, through its own irrepressible character, its mysterious and enviable immortality, hold the secrets to our own improved lifestyles and lifespans. Of course our relationship with nature has changed slightly as we have changed, as a race, but our view of Her remains essentially the same as ever. We still need to imitate and control what we see outside us, in the hope that we can sypher off a little of the magic and mystery for ourselves. In the developed world these harmless, yet irrepressible rhythms are increasingly invisible. It is possible to spend months in a city dwelling, never seeing a dead animal, a nesting bird, a tree in blossom. Nature has become more promising, more mysterious, more magical, and more frightening through its real invisibility, but nature is not wilfully elusive or coy, this is an invisibility we that have imposed.
Inevitably, the packages and products that are environmentally superior that are kind to nature also resemble it: they might be inherently efficient, easily recycable, and often they use recycled materials made from renewable resources. One organisation creating such products, back in their 1990s heyday, was “Zerosm”, and they identified several techniques fo

History of Artist Expression in Comic Books

Comic books, like many art forms, have been co-opted by a hungry consumer capitalist economy which makes a Faustian bargain with its artistic meals: give me your subversive art forms and ideas, this economy says, and I will communicate them to a mass audience beyond your wildest dreams; however, in exchange, your art forms and ideas will often simultaneously be stripped of their dignity and uniqueness by becoming products of no less ubiquity and no more value than toothpaste – mere tools to sell, sell, sell, and make more, more, more money for gigantic multinational corporations. This phenomenology is the ultimate in postmodern recontextualization, the stripping of an object’s original meaning and significance, and its endowment with a new purpose either heretofore considered or deemed ethically, morally, or artistically acceptable.

We shall explore the unique nature and popularity of comic books, and the themes presented in their narratives and characters, as a quasi-underground phenomenon whose ever-increasing popularity from the 1940s to the 1980s left them perfectly positioned to be gobbled and turned into movies and merchandise by giant corporations eager to both exploit the devotees of comic books and expand their numbers.

What has been the big deal, historically, about comic books? Though they are primarily a postmodern phenomenon localized in the latter half of the 20th century through to the present, their roots go as far back as the 17th century, when the English mass-produced woodcuts depicting ghastly public executions. Comics first reached mass popularity in the United States in the 1930s in the form of newspaper comics; then, the comic book as a separate, thriving, and sophisticated art form began to evolve from there. “…The comic book has been one of our most familiar, yet least appreciated, popular art forms. As vehemently criticized as it is passionately defended… [it is] a graphically sophisticated and culturally revealing medium.” (Sabin, 1996, p.1).

After roughly a decade of occupying a comfortable place in the American pop culture mainstream, comics, and then comic books, began to take to reflect a less sanguine view of American society. Violent crime comics began to appear, and the more squeaky-clean comics of the 1930s and during World War II absorbed some of these same themes. In the so-called Silver Age of Comic Books, the 1950s through the 1970s, most characters and narratives began to take on a darker and more complex tone, mostly in response to plummeting sales after World War II that reflected an unsettled cultural undercurrent brewing in America.

In this initial countercultural heyday of the 1950s and 1960s, comic books were sometimes dismissed, much like rock-and-roll music, as the juvenile, unsophisticated, and pulpy fantasies of hormone-addled adolescents. Sometimes, however, comic books were labeled as cultural filth that was an ongoing threat, destructive to teenage minds. In 1954, right-wing American psychiatrist Dr. Frederic Wertham published a book called Seduction of the Innocent, which was an all-out assault on the ostensible delinquency-inducing content of comic books, and which singled out Batman for special criticism, claiming “a subtle atmosphere of homoeroticism.” (Wertham, 1954, p. 189). Wertham’s criticism of comic book content led to the establishment of a censor organization known as the Comic Code Authority that same year, whose heavy-handed influence forced comic book writers and artists to go somewhat underground with their subversive themes.

However, Batman (and Robin, whatever his relationship with Batman may or may not have been) has far outlived both Dr. Wertham and the chilling effect of his book, and in fact, the longevity and deceptively complex content of comic books have proven them to be much more powerful than anyone ever dreamed. They have for decades embodied striking artistic expressions of artists and authors, who collectively spoke for countless millions of young people who did not quite fit in to the mainstream of society.

These millions were given voice by comic books such as The X-Men, The Incredible Hulk, The Amazing Spider-Man, from the Marvel Comics Company, and Batman and Superman from the DC Comics Company. Each of the aforementioned titles tells an extended set of stories about a character or characters who are misfits of some kind, whether it be physical, psychological, or emotional, and who take on a variety of preternatural and/or superhuman characteristics which allow them to not only address their own personal struggles with their differences from others in society, but to aid society itself in coming to better accept those who are different; or, alternately, the characters are either born with or afflicted by a condition which makes them a misfit and therefore different from others in society, and must adapt to life as such.

These comic book stories generally involve a variety of morality plays, ranging from simple good vs. evil, to the exploration of antiheros, that enable the characters to attempt to effect positive change in the world, and provide both catharsis and inspiration for the readers.

The X-Men, for example, were created by legendary comic book author Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby in 1963. They were /are a group of teenagers born with genetic mutations that have endowed them with a variety of superhuman characteristics, not all of which are necessarily constructive. In the Lee/Kirby universe, the X-Men are widely ostracized and discriminated against not only because they are different, but because non-mutant humans fear the X-Men are the next logical, superior step in human evolution and therefore could render ‘normal’ humans obsolete.

The teenagers’ stories often involved them attempting to come to terms with their powers and how to fit into the so-called normal human society. The X-Men were comprised of such characters as Iceman, a young man who could freeze objects at will; Wolverine, a foul-tempered young man whose skeleton is laced with a nearly indestructible metal alloy, including metal knives which he could extend and retract from his hands at will, albeit with considerable pain; Storm, a young black female who could control the weather, including the ability to summon storms at will; Nightcrawler, a young male born with blue fur who could become virtually invisible at night and teleport short distances; Cyclops, who could shoot beams of pure solar energy from his eyes, but not always control this power; Rogue, a young female possessing the hyper-empathic ability the feelings, memories, and abilities of other beings she touches —unfortunately, however, prolonged contact with others can weaken or kill them; Magneto, an older male survivor of the Nazi death camps who can manipulate magnetic forces, but whose psyche was so twisted by his experience at the hands of the Nazis that he has become an arch-nemesis of the X-Men; and Professor Xavier, an older male paraplegic with amazing telepathic abilities and a world-class intellect, who has dedicated his life to mentoring other mutants and defending them from themselves, unsympathetic humans, and the perennial machinations of Magneto.

The X-Men and their stories were unabashedly allegorical and subversive in nature, content, and theme. Professor Xavier was modeled after civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr. and Sir Francis Xavier, Catholic missionary and founder of the Jesuit order. The sense of loneliness and isolation experienced by Rogue was a reflection of the near-universal teenage experience. The bigotry and intolerance of homosexuals is another allegorical component featured with the X-Men narratives, particularly in the film adaptations directed by openly gay Bryan Singer. In X-Men 2, the character of Bobby Drake characters ‘comes out’ of the closet as a mutant to his parents, prompting them to ask if he has tried not being a mutant, parodying the oft-heard question of parents directed their gay children.

Anti-Semitism, personal alienation, anti-Communist paranoia, and racism are also allegorical themes that X-Men comic narratives have explored in detail. And like The X-Men, Batman, Spiderman (also a Stan Lee creation), The Incredible Hulk and Superman all were dependent upon and explored the themes of what it meant for a person to be forced to hide or to be ashamed of a component of his or her true self, or to lead a dual existence – one private and personal, one public. Superman (created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster), known by millions as a mild-mannered reporter, socially maladroit nerd, and bearer of an unrequited love for Lois Lane, who happens to be a near-omnipotent superhero when called upon in extraordinary circumstances, is the perfect embodiment of both teenage reality and teenage wish fulfillment. The Incredible Hulk (another Stan Lee creation) gets angry like all of us, but has real power – scary power, often – to do something about it thanks to his green steroidal transformation.

Batman (created by Bob Kane and fleshed out by Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson) lives a quiet, dark life of solitude contrasted with public works of enviable nobility and good. These feelings of powerlessness and awkwardness, combined with empowerment fantasies, were and continue to be direct reflections of the collective concerns of millions of young people, and perhaps many adults, as well – how to fit into a society that demanded conformity without losing the uniqueness that embodies one’s individuality.

Ironically, the collective popularity of all of these comic book titles has historically been so striking in terms of sales that it would not be an unfair question to wonder if it fact the teenage misfits who bought them were in fact the majority, not the minority in society. Comic book sales peaked in 1993 at a staggering $850 million (U.S. dollars) and are still very healthy, though currently, the popularity of comic book characters is as likely to be manifest in movie ticket and DVD sales of film adaptations of comic books as it is in comic book purchases. More on this later.

The character archetypes and narrative themes of most of these original and ongoing comic book series were produced in the crucible of the fairly conformist sociocultural pressures of the modernist era in the United States. The teenagers of each successive decade, beginning with the 1950s and continuing to the present, have been characterized by isolation, disaffection, rebellion, disillusionment, all combined with the pressure to adapt without question to the relatively monolithic mores of the generation which preceded them, a generation for whom belonging to a larger social group, for whom the values of unquestioning self-sacrifice and acceptance of authority figures and establishment power structures were the norm.

Men were called to duty, whether in World War II or in the burgeoning post-war corporate universe; many made the ultimate sacrifice – their lives, or worse, their souls. Women, too, had their duty – to support their men in discreet, subservient lives of quiet domestic efficiency. But as American young people began to question the assumptions behind the Cold War, and question the rational and wisdom behind the interminably bloody Vietnam War, their uncertainty on these issues led to a greater wholesale questioning of the mechanisms and assumptions of society’s very foundations. (Even Batman, whose creation in 1940 arguably predates postmodernism, eventually took on countercultural subject matter and themes, to say nothing of the suggestion of a taboo homoeroticism in the relationship between Batman and Robin.)

This rebellion was met with heavy disapproval and disappointment by parents, representing the previous generation. The ongoing schism between these two generations has caused huge cultural, social, and political conflicts that continue to be played out even in 2005. These conflicts have been vividly reflected in the artistic expressions of the times – literature, music, and films.

From the standpoint of the older generations, comic books were perhaps never adequately understood, respected, or even recognized for the potent and unusual artistic and cultural forces that they have always represented — certainly as potent as more conventional and commonplace means of artistic expression, high art and classical music, just to name two ossified examples. (And, incidentally, these generational clashes were not limited to the United States in terms of understanding the rise of the superhero comic books. The country of Japan, tiny as it is, has become its own powerhouse in terms of churning out groundbreaking styles of comics, such as Katsuhiro Otomo of Akira fame, reflecting generational struggles unique to the Japanese youth culture.)

The artistic expressions that arose out of the clash between generations also represented an evolution in classifications and mechanisms of art itself – the evolution from modern art forms to postmodern art forms. Modern art, reflective of the cultures from which it sprung, was generally conformist, and adhered to classic rules of form, function, and design, and either explicitly or implicitly supported the symbols of establishment paradigms by exploiting binary oppositions of ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ (i.e., Americans vs. Communists). Postmodern art rejected the methodology of modern art on every level, deconstructing it to such an extent as to even question the basic psychological definitions of symbolism in human art forms.

The discarding and combination of genres and forms, the pastiche of styles, the toying with unorthodox symbolism, and an active interest in subversion and smashing of establishment systems – rebellion itself — are all manifestations of art evolving to postmodern form. And instead of existing to analyze, but ultimately reinforce the paradigms of patriarchal establishments, postmodern art analyzed and often sought to undermine these establishments and their conventions, if not destroy them altogether. As noted by postmodernism scholar Andreas Huyssen, “…contemporary postmodernism operates in a field of tension between tradition and innovation, conservation and renewal, mass culture and high art, in which the second terms are no longer automatically privileged over the first.” (Huyssen, 1986, p. 267).

As such, any art form that has enjoyed longevity has internalized and incorporated this revolutionary and evolutionary process, or been discarded or fossilized. Comic books are no exception to this rule, and their staying power has manifested itself in the last 20 or so years by their translation to and eventual dominance of the genre of film. In fact, comic books in their Silver Age forms were arguably inherently post-modern in nature, as they combined complex and detailed visual artistry with complex and serialized narratives, an intermixing pastiche of separate genres which had never before been combined in such a unique form.

Books had, of course, often featured illustrations in the past, but they were only to provide occasional support and dimensionalization of the narrative, as opposed to being as important a component of the medium as the narrative itself. The fantastical and stylized nature of many of the illustrations featured in comic books were often postmodern artistic explorations in their own right, seeking to push the boundaries of conventional illustrations. Their explorations of anti-heroes helped deconstruct the notion of simple constructs of good and evil.

American consumer capitalism, which is inherently (though not necessarily benignly) postmodern in its relentless desire to commodify anything and everything, particularly that which can be packaged as new, hip, and edgy – and thus desirable – has hungrily devoured comic books and the films which come from them. In doing so, the artistic and societal merit of comic books, in particular their subversive characteristics, have become themselves subverted by the deity of consumer capitalist commodification.

The ultimate dream, for example, of fans of the X-Men comic books, that their beloved misfit characters would reach movie theatres and therefore a larger audience for their collective angst, has come true — but that dream has also become a nightmare for some fans, as these same subversive misfit X-Men have also become action figures, clothing lines, cartoons on the side of fast food lunch bags and boxes — all mass marketed to mass audiences in order to maximize profits for corporations that are more interested in shareholder earnings than they are the artistic merit of airing the collective voices of disaffected teen angst.

If the phenomenology of disaffected teen angst can be appropriated to make a profit from teenagers, then corporations will be chasing the teens and their money incessantly. However, corporate interest in teenagers as a demographic generally has little to do with sociocultural altruism. In fact, cultural observers should take heed – “ventilation of genuinely alternative social visions collide directly with the underpinnings of power in the economy at large.” (Schiller, 1986, p. 152) The trade-off is as follows: as long as such ventilation of alternative social visions makes a profit, it will be tolerated. But in the consumer capitalist corporate universe of today, art for art’s sake, particularly if the art does not reinforce the machinery of consumer capitalism, will never generate much more than limited enthusiasm, and is more likely to meet with insidious hostility.

The primary perpetrators in this arena are the behemoth corporate conglomerates that own the media, and the acquisitive way in which they manage their film and television divisions. In the 1960s and 1970s, film studios and television networks existed as independent business entities whose sole focus was the creation of films and television shows – nothing more, nothing less. While these companies were undisputedly interested in profits, the process was far more artist-centered and quality-driven than they are today.

The presumption was that quality films would result in box-office successes, though the expectations of profit were relatively modest compared to today’s standards. Then, in 1977, a watershed moment in film history arrived in the form of the blockbuster Star Wars, a comic-bookish story in its own right despite being an original creation of writer/director George Lucas. The film was not only the most financially successful phenomenon in movie history, but it alerted movie studios to a whole new economic model, centered around the notion of ancillary profits. Most notably in the case of Star Wars, the ancillary profits came in the form of merchandising.

Inexplicably, before the film’s release, executives at 20th Century Fox, the film’s distributor, were convinced the film would be a flop, and in contract negotiations with Lucas, acceded to his unusual request to receive 100% of profits derived from sales of merchandise inspired and/or derived from the film, for example action figures and lunchboxes. The Fox executives surely rued the day they signed over these rights to Mr. Lucas, as Star Wars merchandise generated $1 billion in profits for the shrewd filmmaker.

Another lesson learned by Fox, and other studios hungry to recreate the fiscal orgy of Star Wars, was that films targeted directly at children could be extremely lucrative at the box office, beyond profit margins to which they had become accustomed. Movies were no longer mostly the artistic or escapist purview of an audience comprised largely of adults. Their children came to be seen as a previously under-exploited source of bonanza profits.

Lastly, movie studios began to rethink their conventional economic model, which was to produce modestly-budgeted films and reliably make modest profits. What Star Wars ignited was a phenomenon known as the ‘blockbuster mentality,’ a hunger for epic profits from so-called event films, on which the studios became willing to gamble heretofore-unprecedented sums of money in hopes of hitting the proverbial jackpot. George Lucas, who began his career as a subversive filmmaker of eccentric tastes with critically acclaimed films such as THX-1138 and American Graffiti, unwittingly created a perfect storm that turned the film industry on its head.

Star Wars was no fluke, as it turned out, and it was not long before the greedy capitalistic corporate culture of the 1980s began entertaining, no pun intended, the notion that film studio and television networks could be glamorous cash cows. In short order, huge companies whose core business usually had nothing to do with the entertainment industry were battling it out to see who could get into show business the fastest. Coca-Cola acquired movie studio Columbia/Tri-Star, which was later sold to Japanese electronics giant Sony; General Electric acquired the NBC television network; Capital Cities acquired the ABC Television network, and News Corporation acquired 20th Century Fox and the Fox Broadcasting Company; Gulf + Western acquired Paramount Pictures, etc.

The unfortunate side effect of these mergers was the infusion of bottom-line, short-term profit-hungry thinking, as well as corporate models of branding and marketing products. These large corporations viewed films and television shows, and the intellectual properties that underlied them, as products, pure and simple, no different from mouthwash, shoes, soda drinks, or cosmetics. They expected their new acquisitions to transition from being art-focused and letting profits flow from quality, to simply making whatever sold the most tickets and had the most lucrative ancillary market potential.

There was no single identifiable point, such a historical date or a press conference, when the critical link between art and commerce was separated, or the historical deference of profit to art was inverted (themselves postmodern phenomena, incidentally), but the entrée of comic books into the world of film and television, which has become a powerful, dominating presence of comic books in film and television, followed and was directly related to this paradigm shift in the economics of the entertainment industry.

The adaptation of comic books into film and television properties has been an exercise in creative cannibalism in some sense. Increasingly, film and television studios have taken on the risk-averse mentality of their corporate masters, and one of the effects of this has been to seek out intellectual property that might guarantee the fiscal success of a film or television show adaptation of said property. To the extent that a wildly successful book was often adapted for films geared towards adults, wildly successful comic book series were seen as a surefire way to guarantee a teen audience and the disposable income purchasing power of them and their parents.

Movie executives sought to acquire the rights to comic book characters and stories which they could ‘exploit’ – actual film industry terminology – and build into ‘franchises’ – also actual film industry terminology, particularly creepy given the obvious parallels to McDonald’s or Gap store franchise business models. For the most part, these franchises have been wildly successful from a financial point of view, though perhaps not from an artistic standpoint.

There have been six Batman films made by Warner Brothers movie studio (owned by corporate behemoth AOL Time Warner, who not coincidentally own DC Comics, the original home of the Batman characters and comic books): 1989’s Batman, 1992’s Batman Returns, 1995’s Batman Forever, 1997’s Batman and Robin, 2004’s Catwoman, and 2005’s Batman Begins. Each film sported star casting of the highest caliber; however, perhaps with the exception of the first film, were special effects showcases first and artistically ambitious second, if at all. Nor were they particularly true to the time-honored complexities and lingering darkness of the comic books. Iconic film critic Roger Ebert (a devoted fan of the Batman comic books), in his review of Batman and Robin, took a forlorn swipe at each of the films to date:

… my delight began to fade at about the 30-minute mark when it became clear that this new movie, like its predecessors, was not *really* going to explore the bizarre world of its heroes, but would settle down safely into a special effects extravaganza. “Batman & Robin,” like the first three films in the series, is wonderful to look at, and has nothing authentic at its core… Watching it, I realized why it makes absolutely no difference who plays Batman: There’s nobody at home… Give the foreground to the characters, not the special effects. And ask the hard questions about Bruce Wayne. (Ebert, 1997)

Ebert’s last line refers to the perennial rumors that perennial bachelor Bruce Wayne might actually be a homosexual, or failing that, possess some unusual sexual fetishes that might not comprise the sort of fare that young children should be seeing at the movie theatre or on DVD.

But this topic, as well as any serious exploration of Bruce Wayne’s psyche, was not been considered particularly lucrative by the marketing machines at Warner Brothers until the franchise was on the verge of death after the box office mediocrity of Batman and Robin and the outright box office disaster of Catwoman, which cost $85 million (U.S.) to produce and only made $40 million (U.S.) at the box office. 2005’s Batman Begins was an unapologetically dark and complex film. Roger Ebert’s review may well have spoken for many Batman fans who ached for more substance and less pure style:
The character resonates more deeply with me than the other comic superheroes, perhaps because when I discovered him as a child, he seemed darker and more grown-up than the cheerful Superman. He has secrets. As Alfred muses: “Strange injuries and a nonexistent social life. These things beg the question, what does Bruce Wayne do with his time?” (Ebert, 2005)

Apparently, the moviegoing audiences agreed with Mr. Ebert, rewarding Warner Brothers with $205 million (U.S.) in box office receipts in the United States alone, and a similar – and still increasing – tally worldwide. The lesson here is that while an artistically unambitious and shallow film like Batman and Robin, which is more childish cartoon and marketing machine than serious filmmaking, can certainly turn a modest profit, it is entirely possible to be artistically ambitious and make plenty of money at the same time. One wonders why the latter is more often the exception rather than the rule, to the detriment of the integrity of comic books and their rich characters.

In theory, the adaptation of comic books to the film and television arenas could have been a boon to not only the comic book industry, but a force for cultural good in the sense of spreading the subversive word to a larger audience. While there is no question that American and Western teenagers are far more aware of Batman and The X-Men than they were 30 years ago, the expansion of the audience has come at a price.

First of all, the structures of film and television do not generally lend themselves well to the sort of narrative complexity that is a hallmark of comic books’ ongoing multi-character storylines. While the two X-Men films to date were generally well-received by fans of the comic books, many fans vociferously complained that many characters were either simply not included in the storylines, or they were altered to suit Hollywood norms in order to maximize audience appeal. While a third X-Men film is in the works, the simple truth is that 20th Century Fox, the movie studio that produced the films, simply cannot make any more than one X-Men film every two to three years and the complicated narrative history of over a dozen characters unspoiled over the course of 40 years of storytelling simply cannot be done adequate justice by a two-hour movies – as good as they may be – which get released only periodically. Secondly, for many young people, seeing an X-Men or Batman film may be their very first exposure to these universes, and depending on their reaction to the quality of the films and their natural consumer predilections, it is not certain that these teenagers are going to seek out the more dimensionalized, rich, and complex narrative universes to be found within the comic book series.

In fact, given the immense popularity of video games among teenagers, who as a general rule spend as much, if not more time transfixed by their Playstations and Xboxes than they do reading, it is more likely that teenagers who see X-Men films will buy the video game adaptations of the X-Men comic books instead of investing in the comic books themselves. The statistics bear this out: in 2004, sales of comic books in the U.S. totaled $300 million – a considerable sum of money, but a far cry from the $850 million sum reached ten years earlier.

Comic book money had, for better or for worse, flowed away from the comic books themselves and into the reinventions of the comic books – the movies, the video games. It is unfair, perhaps, to dismiss video games as worthless, but also difficult to avoid the conclusion that the X-Men video game, which is simply a violent combat simulation featuring the various mutant characters, carries more artistic and social worth than the comic books to which the video game owes its digital existence.

Lastly, the value of ancillary X-Men merchandise, such as T-shirts, lunchboxes, and plastic soda cups from Burger King adorned with X-Men characters, is fleeting and thus fairly dubious in comparison to the lasting collectors’ item value of the comic books themselves, to say nothing of the inherent worth of the content of the books, and the visual and narrative artistry contained within them.

Ultimately, and sadly, the postmodern machinery of consumer capitalism has appropriated comic book visuals and narratives and separated them from their inherent artistic value in order to make them both more appealing to a mainstream audience, usually children and younger teens, and more exploitable in terms of ancillary markets such as merchandising. The positive side of this equation is that the subversive art and storytelling found in comic books was brought to a larger audience, but may well have been eviscerated of its soul in the process.

Films like Batman Begins, with its dark exploration of the recesses of Bruce Wayne’s psychology, and X-Men 2, with its unapologetic homosexual allegories, do their source material adequate justice and make their corporate masters a lot of money in the process. What can be hoped for the future is that movie studios see fit to release more films such as these and less of the vapid, lowest-common denominator special effects orgies that tend to predominate the box office landscape. Hellraiser and Constantine were met with outright hostility by fans of their comic book source material and performed poorly at the box office. It is no longer enough to simply adapt a comic book to guarantee success. Many audience members have grown more shrewd and sophisticated, and demand quality in storytelling.

In the words of Nightcrawler in the film X-Men 2, “Most people will never know anything beyond what they see with their own two eyes.” If this is true in a world where what is put before the eyes of teenagers is predominated by movies and video games, it is imperative that the content not merely reflect the status quo desired by consumer capitalism, but the thought-provoking stories and characters, daring and subversive thoughts, first brought to us decades ago in the best comic books.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Sabin, Roger. Comics, Comix & Graphic Novels – A History of Comic Art. Phaidon Press, 1996.

Robinson, Jerry. The Comics: An Illustrated History of Comic Strip Art. Putnam Publishers, 1974.

Wertham, Fredric. Seduction of the Innocent. Amerion Publishers, 1954 (Reprint 1996).

Tuzi, Marino. “Individualism and Marginality: From Comic Book to Film: Marvel Comics Superheroes” College Quarterly, Spring 2005 – Volume 8 Number 2. Taken from:
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Advantages and Disadvantages of Ambient Occlusion Shader

This dissertation is to simplify the ambient light in contact shadow using Maya embedded language (MEL) which can be useful for all lighting artists to get a global illumination effect in simple steps and to reduce process of render time and they can connect and disconnect the ambient shader and adjust using GUI (graphical user inter phase) all the buttons will be in GUI itself. These are simple techniques but if one needs the old fashioned moves he’s got to go to the control set up tools. But these are simplified here and all can be achieved in simple clicks which is easy to navigate. All actions present in the GUI area all are present in my interface and one reason its better as its simple. This has been focused in a manner to anticipate all professional or not its easy to all. This helps all and even helps to navigate better through the GUI controls better.

Chapter 1 INTRODUCTION

Ambient Occlusion is a lighting technique that which is used to cast shadows on objects. This is a technique used in lighting which is misunderstood as this method casts shadows on objects where light does not reach. This method gives out a good render to the object with normal modes in the output. Ambient occlusion creates or casts soft shadows around the object which gives out a molded look.

In technical terms ambient occlusion is a global illumination method and is commonly referred to as a cheap trick for alternative method of global lighting method. To be more specific in answering the above is each person has his means of working and all processes differ from one another. This is where ambient occlusion comes into being as some calculate the intensity of the light setup for every work file but most don’t and the best way to overcome is to use ambient occlusion where this does all the calculation and gives a better quality render more than we can accept.

On aspects to other global illumination methods ambient occlusion does calculate in it manner but regarding other properties in the scene file. Where it has to go according to all shapes in the scene file to calculate the light setup to generate a global light effect which seems less complex than the regular lighting aspect in the software. This specialty makes ambient occlusion very well accepted among game developers and level designers and in various levels of production animation.

Here I am going to simplify the Ambient Occlusion shader to get ambient light in all contacted shadows. Connecting the ambient occlusion to all the shader is a big process as we have a number of shader in a single scene file. I am going to develop a separate user interface in Maya for the user to manipulate my tools. By using my tools all the shader can be connected to the ambient shader with the single click and also can disconnect all the ambient shader in a single click.

1.1.AIM

To simplify the ambient light in contact shadows using Maya embedded language (MEL)

1.2.OBJECTIVES

Study the advantages and disadvantages of ambient occlusion shader

To study about the real world light properties

To implement natural lights using software

Developing a MEL for simplifying ambient occlusion shader

Developing an user interface in Maya for user to manipulate the tool(GUI)

1.3.STATEMENTS OF THE PROBLEM

To connecting the ambient occlusion shader to all the other shader is a big process if there is number of shader are available in single scene file

1.4.RESEARCH QUESTIONS

What is ambient occlusion?

What r the different techniques for creating indirect lighting

How shadows variation in time

what are the advantages and disadvantages in ambient occlusion texture

How to simplify the ambient occlusion texture node

1.5.SIGNIFICANCE OF STUDY

When we are connecting ambient occlusion texture to number of shader most of them are facing the problem like connecting with shader one by one some time we may miss some shader while connecting and also it will take time to connect to lot of shader Here am going to do this dissertation for solving these problems. Here I am going to simplify the ambient occlusion texture by MEL script

1.6.Hypothesis

The hypothesis of this project is to simplify the ambient occlusion texture using Maya embedded language (MEL)

Chapter 2 Literature Review

2.1.Literature: Mastering Maya 2009 Eric Keller, Eric Allen and Anthony Honn 2009

This book speaks about how ambient occlusion forms form indirect light rays and ambient occlusion effect can bring from Final Gathering and it will take more render time when u create in Final Gathering The above information help to get some knowledge and information about ambient occlusion.

2.2.Literature: Mental ray for Maya 3ds max and XSI Livny Boaz

Ambient occlusion adding realism and produce more details in the output and render will be fast when we compare to Final gathering and Globule illumination how ambient occlusion works and explain detail about ambient occlusion attribute and also tell about what are the different between occlusion and ambient occlusion

2.3.Literature: Introducing Maya 2011 – Dariush Derakhshani

We can take ambient occlusion as separate render pass that to help add more depth in models and later we can adjust in compositing. Ambient occlusion give great contact shadows

2.4.Literature: Maya Visual Effects: the innovator’s guide Eric Keller

Ambient occlusion is the easy and quick way to get Global illumination and tell how ambient occlusion note works in texture. Ambient occlusion produce soft shadows as like real world. when two models are placed near certain amount of light will be block and u will get soft shadows at the corner of the object

2.5.Literature: Rendering with Mental ray & 3Ds Max – Joep Van Der Steen

There are different types of shadow in 3ds max like normal 3ds max shadows and ray trace shadows .but normal shadows wont work in mental ray. If u need to get accurate shadows go for ray trace but render time will be increases when compare to normal shadows. Bounce light gives u realistically feel as like real life lighting. In real life light wont stop travel when its hits the ground it will hit and bounce for certain distance till its die and ambient occlusion also the one form of creating bounce light or indirect lighting for the scene but ambient occlusion wont be physically correct lighting when compare to FG(Final Gathering ) and GI (Globule illumination ). Ambient occlusion give reflective occlusion where we wont get in normal occlusion.

2.6.Literature: Writing Mental ray shader: perceptual Introduction Andy Kopra

This book tells about how ambient occlusion rays are calculating in the scene and tell about how Technically ambient occlusion works in MEL scrip this book gives me clear idea how to develop my scrip in MEL

2.7.Literature: Rendering Techniques 2006 – Tomas Akenine-Möller

 Ambient occlusion shadow produce form ambient light. Ambient light emits

form all direction and produce soft shadows. Most of the production companies

using ambient occlusion for lighting for time saving in lighting and rendering.

2.8.Literature: Maya: secrets of the pros – John L. Kundert-Gibbs, Dariush Derakhshani

Ambient occlusion techniques in production are used in two ways are backing of ambient occlusion texture and taking of ambient occlusion passes in render. In backing of ambient occlusion we cant tweak while compositing but In ambient occlusion render pass we can tweak and bring new effect in compositing.

2.9.DVD:Digital Tutors Mental Ray Nodes Library

This Tutor helps me what are the uses of the ambient occlusion how to connect ambient occlusion texture node in shader and explain clearly about the Attribute Editor of ambient occlusion to get good output.

Chapter3 METHODOLOGY

This document consists of a quantitative and qualitative method by Survey and gathering information from Internet, Books, tutorials , articles, books, paper and videos.

3.1.POPULATION:

The people who are suitable for this population is texturing artist, lighting artist, rendering artist.

They were questioned regarding the ambient occlusion shader and its uses in production field. The population of this research work carries the production experienced person.

3.2.SAMPLING:

Judgment Sampling

3.3.SCOPE AND LIMITATIONS:

This research is limited to the ambient occlusion shader.

Chapter 4 Lights in CG

4.1 Overview

4.2 Types of lighting

Chapter 5 Indirect lighting in CG

5.1Introduction

5.2 Final Gathering (FG) and Global illumination (GI)

Chapter6 Ambient occlusion

6.1 overview

6.2 How it works

6.3 Advantages of ambient occlusion

Chapter 7 Rendering

7.1 Mental Ray rendering

7.2 occlusion render over mental ray

Chapter 8 MEL

8.1 Introduction to MEL

8.2 Creating GUI

Chapter 4 Lights in CG

4.1.Introduction

Lightning in computer graphics (CG) is nothing but giving special effects to the scenes to improve the quality of animation. Lightings available for all kind of occasions, all we need to do is just adjust the parameters. Most of them will not give more importance for lighting while creating there images or animations. Lighting plays very important role in computer graphics (CG), we can easily find the talented and untalented person in computer graphics (CG) by looking at the light effects given in the image or animation .Though we already know something about lightings in photography, film and video. We are just trying to bring the reality to computer graphics (CG). Lighting is used for creating a 3D effect by differentiating the foreground from background or else we can combine both to create 2D effect. This effect (Lighting) is mainly used to impress the viewer. Lighting is the most powerful tool in the computer graphics because this is the only tool which makes the viewer to feel. If your lighting perfectly fits for your image or animation then the final output will be much good to impress the viewer. Lighting can be expressed in two ways by being illuminated and a process of illumination. Lighting is defined globally by means of object which can be visible through the source illuminant application. Bouncing off lights or shiny objects can be made by the manipulation of light. If natural light is unavailable artificial lights can be used instead. Lighting is used everywhere and anywhere. Light is never said to be the same because of its variability, so lighting also changes. The natural sun light that we see in day to day life varies in a short period of time but the quality does not vary. The term state of lighting could in term mean intensity, its direction, its texture and form. This means something emotional. lighting is also a process of purposeful planning and design in which the light is to illuminate in an object. When lighting is necessary, the lighting position and placement are to be in considering, once deciding the intensity. Lighting process also refers in analyzing the light quality as it strikes the subject.

4.1.ADDING LIGHT SOURCES:

Adding lights to the scenes can be done in several ways and also different kinds of lights available in lighting effects. Some kind of lights are used to highlight the background, foreground, character etc., we must choose the light which is highly suitable for the cases so that the people could not able to find which effect is used.

There are several types of adding lights effects available

POINT(OMMIDERECTIONAL)LIGHTS

SPOTLIGHTS

DIRECTIONAL LIGHTS

AREA LIGHTS

Site accessed on 27th sep “Pixel Cinematography: A Lighting Approach for Computer Graphics (SIGGRAPH 96 – Course 30)”

SPHERICAL AREA LIGHTS

FLAT AREA LIGHTS

LINEAR LIGHTS

MODELS SERVING AS LIGHTS

4.2.1POINT(OMMIDERECTIONAL)LIGHTS

Point lights are also called as omni or omnidirectional lights, because it transmit in all directions, like any other lights e.g. bulb, sun etc

The main thing in giving this effect is checking the shadows it should not spread in all directions. In real life, u can see more uniformly omnidirectional lights. Most of the times point lights are similar to real light bulbs for example, bulb lights spread allover the particular empty place, if a opaque thing (metal, wood etc.,) is kept in that place the shade will form behind that thing and side and size of the shade is depend on the location of the bulb.

Though it is likely as omnidirectional we can spread it by using throw-pattern that is uneven. if you want to focus more light on some particular direction then you must do this action texture map to the light else by grouping the light with 3D object that produce shadows

This light rays stimulated out from one infinitely small point in space, Its illumination and shadows passes out form the light in all direction.

It is difficult to find a light which is uniformly omni directional in nature. Many light sources emit some amount of light in some directions. Uneven point lights can be used as a throw pattern, like a real bulb to emit more light in some direction rather than in other direction. This is done by applying a texture to the light or else by grouping the light with the 3d object which will cast shadows.

4.2.2.SPOTLIGHTS:

Spotlights is the major light effect which is commonly used in computer graphics (CG).This light effect is used by major computer graphics (CG) specialist because it can be used to focus on a specific target. Spotlight is also similar to point light sometimes but it slightly differs in pointing the target there are some limitations for spotlights are it should not exceed.we can determine the focus aim by rotating the spotlight. You can also fix a target for your focus so that the focus will always on that particular target.

Spot Lights are the most used light in the lighting design of computer graphics. Most of the popular artist prefer spotlights to light a scene because, this light can be controlled in any times to aim light at a selected target. The emition of spotlight is light radiation from a point, same as like the point light. The illumination in the spotlight is controlled through a cone angle or a beam of the light. The rotation of the spotlight will determine where the beam is aimed. Objects can also be linked to light to stay in the same orientation position. A spotlight has more controls and options which is not found in other type of lights, some options like projecting a image map from the light, creating fog, etc…

With the help of spotlight the falloff which is the softness of the cone, allows the intensity of light diminish more gradually in the edges of the beam.

4.2.3.Directional Lights

Directional light is an infinity source of illumination from a distance. These lights are variously known as distant, direct or infinite light. This light sets a single vector for its entire illumination object from the same angle, doesn’t matter the object’s position. The shadows emitted by the directional light are in same direction and they are orthogonal projections of each 3d object’s shape. The matter in placing the directional light is which way it’s pointed. The directional light is not so easy in aiming to a preferred local area like point and spot light. A set of lights constituting from different angles can be used to produce fill light, even in the individual lights in all angles in a low intensity. These lights can fill very large areas with illumination appearing as ambient, like filling the daylight from the sky giving a quick effective global ambience. it deals with the light position where it is placed and it is all about the direction of the object, shadow and lit falls depend on the light location. However the sunlight is the major source of light we need some more light effects to impress the viewer most probably directional light is used. The directional light which needs some specific angle to present a proper lighting so that the person should concentrate more on angles.

4.2.4.Area Lights

The lights like point and spot emits light from a infinity source into space, which is not simulating the size of physical light source in real life. Point light cannot be scaled in any dimension. To get more accurate simulations of the real light, this area light have definable scale, so the all the rays of light are not emitted exactly from the same point.

If the light is scaled small, the illumination will appear similar to a point light. The larger scale of area light, make the light appear softer, shadows appears to soft and the illumination in nearby objects. The amount of shadows and light achieved with area light makes the scene excellent in realistic rendering.

The source of the light comes from some long gap like windows etc, is said to be area lights. This effect is important when the image or animation dealing with the room setup for example if there is a room there might be some windows so we must implement the area lights. It matches the situation than any other lighting techniques

4.2.5.SPHERICAL AREA LIGHTS:

Spherical area light is also like area light it will spread in all directions. It is also called spherical light, spherical region of space is the source for the spherical light, this is mainly used in the case where the large light source. The spherical light has omni directional so the light does not have effect on our output. you can also replace the spherical light to point light when the illumination needs more concentration on light to cast soft edged shadows

4.2.6.FLAT AREA LIGHTS:

Area light also available in flat shapes such as discs and rectangles. Light emitted from two dimensional areas can use less rendering time than three dimensional areas. The number of samples used to adjustable either approach. A rectangular area light is same as illuminated ceiling panel, a plane width and height that illuminates with naturally soft, diffused light. Light from ceiling is the major use of flat area light simulating the reflected illumination brightly lit walls and ceiling providing a soft. Aiming or rotating light changes your result, light from the edge of the flat area light is same as creating sharper shadow and also dimmer.

4.2.7.LINEAR LIGHTS:

Linear light has same functionality as florescent tube and also scaled in one-dimension.it has a length soften the shadows and extend its illumination in one direction. How linear light affects the output. The shadow objects along the length of the light are very soft, but shadows from the end of the light are focused.

We can use linear lights from fluorescent tubes, laser blasts. Line shape is not specifically needed, linear lights and it is used for general soft lighting scene they will not add as much as you’re rendering time as other types. It is similar as spherical area light .

4.2.8.MODELS SERVING AS LIGHTS:

Light effect by model serving as lights is a 3dimensional model in your scene sort of area light source. By using this model we can make a nontraditional shape of light like neon sign, it is also used as a true light sources, as shown in figure. However, bright looking objects can be made by rendering the neon sign,and also by positioning other kind of light to the surface rounding area.

Chapter 5 Indirect lighting in CG

5.1Introduction

The indirect illumination simulates caustics, global illumination and final gathering.the specification of light energy is required. To allow color the light energy is as a RGB triple. But the values of the RGB are usually much higher than the range for color. In the preprocessing step the number of photons stored from the light source is determined by STORE and the number of photons emitted is determined by EMIT. The photon emission stops when either of the limit is reached. Using the power law of 1/r(exp) energy from the light source decreases as the square of the distance increases from the source. The physical correctness is lost when the exponent is other than 2. During caustics preprocessing The number of caustics photon stored can be specified by the caustic photon value which controls it. Likewise global photon value can be specified for global illumination. The value ranges from 10,000to 100,000.by increasing the value the accuracy increases and the bluriness decreases. In indirect lighting the lights sources are invisible by default. As the number of visible lights are increased the performance is reduces.

5.2 Final Gathering (FG)

The estimation of global illumination is done by a technique called Final gathering. It can be illuminated by either sampling a number of direction over the hemisphere or by averaging the total final gather points nearby. To improve the quality of global illumination final gathering is used. Without final gathering computation on a diffused surface is made by the photon intensity near that point. With final gathering the new rays of light is are made to hit the sample hemisphere for the determination of incident illumination. Using illumination from the globillium photon map and the illumination at the points of diffused surface is computed. Some rays hit a specular surface and their contribution for final gather color is zero. Tracing each ray utilizes lot of time so it is done when it is necessary. For purely diffuse scene final gathering eliminates low frequency noise and dark corners. As the final gather averages over many values of direct illumination fewer photons are needed. Final gathering can support only a single bounce. And multiple effect have far less impact on the image. The final gathering can perform these if the shaders can adjust the trace depth, otherwise it will be performed by photons by default. To control the photons coming from distant source of light final gathering is used and is good for film production. For CAD related applications photon mapping is used. Final gathering can be turned on or off in the options. In each final gathering the number of ray shot can be changed. The maximum distance at which the ray can be used depends on the scene extent. Decreasing the scene extent can reduce the noise but increase the render time.

5.2.1.Global illumination:

Global illumination simulates the light bouncing of an object. It has two steps process. the photon emitting light emits photon in to the scene. A photon map is created to store the intensity and place of the photon in three dimensional space. Then the surfaces are illuminated. It is based on the intensity of the photon. In global illumination diffusive value is a must. In the second part of the image the actual process is rendering of the image. The energy value is averaged and these values are interpolated to get the image as the light is bouncing of the diffused surface. After perfecting the in this method, the photon map can be saved and reused. Thus we can save the time of rendering each frame, provided the scene is static.

This is the calculation of more complete light transfer model said to be global illumination. This accounts for the indirect reflected light transfer in the scene. There are two types of global illumination, one simulates the behavior of the light of perfect specular light, and the second behaves in perfect diffuse light. These are most commonly referred to ideal specular, which hold ray tracing. Perfect diffuse reflections are called an ideal diffuse reflection, which is calculated using radiosity. This technique was developed in enhancing the realism in computer images in mimicking the light transfer. In periods it developed like image synthesis (photorealism) to simulation (photo accuracy). The radiosity is computed first and the ray tracer is computed to calculate the direct illumination the same way the reflection and refraction.

5.2.3.Local Illumination

This is the direct illumination from a light source, this means a method of lighting which come form the direct visible source. This will not take full light in account; it only shows how the light affects the object that it calculates in the scene. Local illumination neglects the reflections and light propagations as its’ bounced around the environment. The light transfer simulation in local illumination computes the light only produced from its light source itself to the object that it illuminates and stops there. In a sense an incomplete light transfer’s model because it computes only the effect of direct light and cheats by the environmental lighting settings as glow to make it as reflected.[9]&[10] Local and Global

5.2.4.Ambient Light

This is a light with constant intensity setting on the scene which serves as the sum of all in the direct illumination reflections in the scene. When describing this in effect ambient light is a kind of self-glowing illumination that mimics the object-to object light reflection. It is an independent intensity for all the objects in the scene. This light was invented to fake the direct illumination interobject reflection so the image will not be dark. This setting is adjusted globally through a scene parameter or per object.

The preferable setting for ambient light in most scenes in set to be zero or low unless the object is producing light. This setting makes the fill light and the secondary lights influence in your scene more visible.

Site accessed on 19th oct [http://:jmsoler.free.fr/…/tutor/lumiere_cornell_en.htm]

Chapter 6 Ambient occlusion

6.1.Overview:

Ambient Occlusion is a lighting technique that which is used to cast shadows on objects. This is a technique used in lighting which is misunderstood as this method casts shadows on objects where light does not reach. Ambient occlusion creates or casts soft shadows around the object which gives out a molded look.

In technical terms ambient occlusion is a global illumination method and is commonly referred to as a cheap trick for alternative method of global lighting method. This technique is to get ambient light in all contacted shadows. This is where ambient occlusion comes into being as some calculate the intensity of the light setup for every work file but most don’t and the best way to overcome is to use ambient occlusion where this does all the calculation and gives a better quality render more than we can accept.

6.2.How ambient occlusion works:

Ambient occlusion is a technique which adds visual realism to the image without being physically correct. The ambient occlusion result can be used to darken concave areas, which human eye perceives as indirect illumination shadows, or contact shadows. The advantage of ambient occlusion is its computational speed. As it may be computed with very short rays and as no additional shader evaluations are required, the performance may be significantly higher than for final gathering.

6.3.Ambient occlusion gains render time:

Ambient occlusion is enabled by default. However, no actual computations will happen until requested by further settings or by shaders. The ambient occlusion cache is set off by default. In this mode, only shaders which call for ambient occlusion values will initiate computation on demand. If no such shaders exist in the scene, there is no overhead compared scenes rendered with ambient occlusion turned off. In case the ambient occlusion caching is enabled then mental ray will perform some computations before rendering starts, to fill the cache.

The global defaults for ambient occlusion settings can be specified as scene options or on the mental ray command line. Most of these values can be overwritten by a shader.

The ambient occlusion caching may be enabled for the current rendering to gain overall speed. In this case, several preprocess passes will be computed. In the first pass, some ambient occlusion points are created on a coarse grid. Subsequent passes refine the grid adaptively. The density of the grid is determined by the “ambient occlusion cache density” setting which gives the upper bound to the number of ambient occlusion points per pixel.

Site accessed on 19th oct http://download.autodesk.com/us/maya/2009help/mr/manual/ao.html

6.4.Results better than indirect light:

Ambient occlusion is the easy and quick way to get Global illumination and tell how ambient occlusion note works in texture. Ambient occlusion produce soft shadows as like real world. when two models are placed near certain amount of light will be block and u will get soft shadows at the corner of the object

Ambient occlusion adding realism and produce more details in the output and render will be fast when we compare to Final gathering and Globule illumination

Ambient occlusion refers to a type of shadowing that occurs when the ambient light in an environment is occluded (blocked) from reaching a surface by other nearby objects or other parts of the same object. You can see ambient occlusion effects in the photograph .The darkness that occurs in the cracks and crevices in the plaster design on an overcast day are a perfect example of ambient occlusion.

Ambient occlusion effects are seen in many renders created using Final Gathering. that the ambient occlusion that occurs in a Final Gathering render lacks a certain amount of detail. Unless you increase the number of Final Gathering rays, detailed ambient occlusion shadows are difficult to achieve,

and the more rays you emit into a scene, the longer the render time will be.

This latter method is the most common approach and offers the most flexibility: the occlusion pass can easily be modified in the compositing software. Eliminating the need to re-render the entire scene if a change needs to be

made. In this way you can use the ambient occlusion texture to augment the shadowing of a render pass that uses Final Gathering or as a substitute for rendering with Final Gathering

Literature: Mental ray for Maya 3ds max and XSI Livny Boaz

Literature: Maya Visual Effects: the innovator’s guide Eric Keller

Literature: Mastering maya 2009- Eric Keller

Chapter 7 Rendering

7.1 Mental Ray rendering

Mental ray rendering is capable of producing a realistic and quality image. It can render just with a single processor machine. It is achieved by advanced and proprietary acceleration technique. It achieves better performance using parallelism on multi processor machine and also on network machines. Mental ray can be used on wide range of application, such as in full length movies, games, architectural design and on virtual models. Mental ray rendering is used as a standalone application for efficient rendering on local machines and as a software library on 3D content creation and CAD systems. Mental ray has a number of standard shaders which range from basic illumination to typical materials for architectural and design, car paint to physical sun and sky lighting. Mental ray has a built-in standard models for best rendering performance and quality cover.

7.2.Rendering

Ray tracing is an option on mental ray. Ray tracing is used for rendering very complex lighting. Ray tracing software is based on ray tracing architecture which allows for the flexible implementation of lighting effect. It includes reflection, global illumination, refraction. To speed up the ray intersection calculation it uses advanced tree algorithms. From an on-demand loading of geometry it can adjust to dynamic scene manipulation. Ray trace is used to produce shadows of an object. Without the ray trace is turned on there will be no shadows. In ray tracing, the light path is tr

Nature, the Environment and their Uses in Art

“I name that man an artist who creates forms… I call that man a craftsman who reproduces forms.”

Malraux is talking about artists and craftsmen, but might as well be talking about artists and designers. The audacity of the lowly “reproducers” was penalised by the iconoclasts, and perhaps we harbour the same fundamental suspicions about designers, people paid to build and sell us dreams just as frequently as they build and sell us houses. Yet it strikes me that there are two ways of dodging the suspicions of the public- the use of the imagination, and the use of Nature. If the two can be happily married then this superior union ought to germinate a magic all its own.

“Moreover, a taste, not to say a passion, for building must be engrained in the child. Mechanical toys and mechanised entertainment kill his imagination and initiative; the feat of putting building blocks on top of each other hardly taxes the brain of a monkey”

So the designer presents himself as a kind of sub-originator, and defers his symbolism to the greater origin. There is an individual and a more cosmic interest at work at the same time. The artist grows like a tree, developing, spreading, the ideas rising from the mysterious soils and falling like leaves. But the broader picture, a fluxing creative rhythm bridged by moments in time, demands a grander theory of unification.

Nature is as synonymous with decay as it is with growth. The ephemera of modern life is as temporary, inevitable, immediate, as nature itself. Our cities have become sort of flaking, dying, layered forests, with their own dangers and rhythms of life and death. Everywhere we find reminders of our own impact on our surroundings- it is human nature, we can’t help trying to clothe our hairless bodies and modify everything around us to make our lives more comfortable. But for some this seems to be a source of almost biblical guilt, and people go to extraordinary lengths, for their own reasons, to cover their tracks and paint their human presence out of the landscape altogether.

Hundertwasser’s house in Vienna , and his designs for the “Eye Slit house” spring immediately to mind. Are we guilty enough to try to make our impact completely invisible? There can be no contention over the point that man has a negative impact on his environment and it may be that one solution is hiding man’s impact altogether, (to enfold ourselves in nature’s arms, camouflaging ourselves in Her) while another might be to try to disguise our impact by turning our constructions into impersonations of Her. Is this really any different to the fearful icon building of ancient times, and do the “uglier”, modernist, construction-stating buildings represent a sort of iconoclasm- a return to buildings being made for human functionality rather than as a fearful acknowledgement of nature’s power as a constructor?

Most of the architectural structures which are intended to resemble nature draw attention to the similarities between buildings and plants. Both are subject to a functional rhythm, both have access points, layers, a projectile dynamic- in other words, a sense of growth and promise. Yet plants are transcient, not concrete: they grow and bloom and fade and die, like people. They nourish and protect and reproduce and crumble away. The contrast with sturdy, permanent building materials used for, say, gothic cathedrals, Romanesque churches, the Eden Project, the Golden Gate Bridge, presents a sense of wonder and beauty in itself. Because plants are not like buildings. Buildings are sturdy and static and monumental. It is a fantastic thing to see a grand self-generating plant-beast made of concrete, it is alien and dreamlike and mesmerising – but it is all these things because it is impossible. It enchants us because its beauty comes from a faraway, magical land, not from a world we know about but from one we would like to know- one in our dreams. Designs based on nature not only solve our problems, sate our yearnings and answer our questions, they also create new problems, new yearnings, and new questions.

1) Ecology since the 17th Century: historical relationships with Nature

In the preface to “The Origins of form in Art”, Herbert Read references Henri Focillon, who suggested that life itself is a creator of forms, that there’s no real distinction between art and life:

“Life is form, and form is the modality of life. The relationships that bind forms together in nature cannot be pure chance, and what we call “Natural Life” is in effect a relationship between forms, so inexorable that without it this natural life could not exist. So it is with art…constitute an order for, and metaphor of, the entire universe.”

Nature is uncontrollable and unpredictable- it is an ancient metaphor for uncontrollable intervention and for everything we can’t accurately forecast. There is even an ancient Japanese treatise on archery which details the way in which the hardest part of the entire sport is waiting for the natural release of the string- a moment of serenity and detachment; total absence of striving. The flow of inspiration to the artist is analogous to this although it is unclear whether the creator’s inspiration rises from this or rises like it.

Theorists have long been aware of this ambiguity and have thematised it themselves.
Michael Fried interprets the woods, rocks and glens in Courbet’s paintings as faces or symbols or metaphors. Christopher Wood finds terrifying anthropomorphised trees looming over the subjects of Altdorfer’s exquisite scenes. The point is that those people who look at art, who are also interested in using it as an expression of themselves, consistently seek reflection in the pools provided by nature, natural imagery provides the perfect apparatus, somehow, for the admirer of human creativity to integrate the object into their own field of experience.

When Paul Klee wrote that “The creation of a work of art is compared to the growth of a tree- its roots in the earth, crown in the air.” he is presenting an image of flow, as if an artist stands near the tree to allow the sap to rush in. This flow, though, occurs without conscious effort and the artist, crucially, experiences a transformation.

“ The idea that art is not a mirrored reflection of a given reality, but also a transformation of one element (which has its roots underground, in the unconscious) into another (made conscious in time and space). The artist is merely a channel whose function it is to transmit the forces of nature into forms of art.”

Vivante’s assessment that “art, far from being non-conscious, is a conquest of consciousness” is revealing, but wisely countered by Read, “Admittedly, the artists themselves may not always know when they are merely exploiting the unconscious, rather than “letting loose the riot of tender shoots””

As nature and art are so closely related, almost counter intuitively, so words and nature and words and art, are sometimes indistinguishable. All are concerned with abstraction, with roots, with origins, “we establish…our sense of reality by creating, for each experience, a clear and appropriate symbol- vocal sounds which were eventually stabilized as words. Every words was once an original work of art.”

Whenever anything becomes too prevalent, too integrated into our consumer vocabulary, we scarcely notice it anymore and it loses its impact. In becoming part of our environment, ourselves, the cliché ceases to become something desirous to us.

Designed solutions respond to an expression of specific desire or need, and so become a meta expression of the same need. While design solutions sate specific hungers, art is an expression, and not even necessarily a resolution of, thematic desires. Poetry and the visual arts dance around the cliché while occasionally retaining originality (Poussin’s Dance to the Music of Time is a delightfully literal example of this)- art finds a janus-faced simultaneity, a place for both the cliché of nature and the pure artistic drive of “artisticness”. Design, however, is trapped in the problem solving one-dimensional rationality of the prevailing zeitgeist. Perhaps nature is a way of side-stepping the cliché, but it can also present itself, maddeningly indistinguishably, as the alluring siren.

Maybe there is a link between the mechanised production of imagery and forms and the predominance of natural imagery in the products and lifestyles consumed by people nowadays. There could well be a relationship, yet unexplored, between the unnatural production of natural images and the homogeneity of the images themselves. If the origins are authentic and essential then we should expect products to be more persuasive, more reflective of their origins, more transparent. Mechanisation has allowed for imagery to “ride the zeitgeist” and generate a new kind of language of “natural” iconography- perhaps where once there was religious iconography.

In Poussin’s Dance to the Music of Time we find Arcadia, the natural utopia, being equated to male/female synthesis, and then, on another level, the gender synthesis standing for a synthesis of heaven and earth in the familiar conceit of rhythm. In Peter Blake’s extraordinary work, The Arcadian Cipher pentagram shapes are located everywhere as a kind of unification symbol: Blake is anxious to synthesise traditionally opposing forces, and make sense of illogical harmonies through the imposition (or uncovering, in his terms) of this particular hypograph. His choice of symbol is less important than his- and other academic semiosticians’ – impulse towards holism. I have already suggested that artists are involved in a janus headed effort: always trying to channel pure nature and represent her in a familiar language- to experience and the represent the cliché at once. Blake’s assessment of the Dance describes the duplicity:

“For where the other two pentagrams represent the Jesus figure and Pan, this definitely connects them with a female element. Through it we are able to establish a male/female partnership both in heaven and on Earth and between heaven and Earth, and it is one which symbolises the poles upon which the Earth spins.

The painting depicts Hermes playing his lyre – music was his method of communication between two worlds- and a group of earthly figures dancing to his celestial tune. On the left hand side of the work is a column on which is mounted a carving…of two heads facing away from each other.”
Theory of this sort, while certainly in constant danger of toppling into quasi-science, superbly exemplifies the inextricability of Nature and Geometry. Theories of Arcadia are saturated with geometric semiotics; art writers constantly trace and re-trace paintings, covering them in layers and layers of “mathematical” justification. Whether any of these theories have any real use or even make any sense outside of their own self-imposed rules is not my point. I am interested in the relationship between the powers of nature and the powers of men, the irresistible urge to explain the mysteries of nature, her circadian rhythms, her life giving and life stealing properties, her silent chthonic swell and the threat and awe experienced by the bewildered humans that observe her.
As one of the most evocative and symbolically potent plants on the planet, the cactus has played many roles in South American tradition and folklore. As with any hostile climate, indigenous species that seem to offer solace will inevitably acquire mystical significance as the protection they offer is associated with promise. To the parched population of parched landscapes, cacti are life-giving, life-saving, surprising, mysterious, frightening- divine.

Cacti started off on American continents, and are still most associated with these places- but they have experienced a massive geographical distribution over the centuries, and cacti have been able to instigate habitats around the world. One rumour says that Christopher Columbus was the first person to have taken the first cactus to Europe, presenting this ‘peculiar’ plant to Queen Isabella of Spain, however this is of course apocryphal.

During their explorations on the American continents, the Spanish Conquistadors found, among many other things, these strange ‘vision inducing’ plants that were utilised ceremonially by the natives as a religious sacrament and was revered as virtual gods. The native South American name for their spineless dense-shaped cactus (Lophophora Williamsii) was ‘peyoti’. It is a plant native to Mexican and south west US with button like tubercles which may be eaten fresh or dried as a narcotic. Initially, Cacti (‘peyoti’) were employed for healing purposes, for attempting to divine the future and for generating hallucinogenic visions during scared rites. Although these hallucinations often appear to be compared to LSD trips, the peyote “acid” is 4000 times less potent, only briefly affecting the chemical balance and activity of the brain.

The Spanish chronicler, Fray Bernardino de Sahagun, claimed that natives used a certain plant to induce hallucinatory state and estimated that ‘peyote’ was widely used at least 1890 years before the arrival of Europeans. The earliest European record dates from around 1635 with the first column of Historia de las Indias Occidentales by Gonzalo Hernandez de Oviedo y Valdes appeared with illustrations of what we would now classify as Cereus and Opuntia.

In 1886 that the German pharmacologist, Louis Lewin, published the first systematic study of the cactus, to which his own name was subsequently given- Anhalonium lewinii. The cactus was already well known and loved by primitive religions and the Indians of Mexico and the American Southwest. One of the early Spanish visitors to the New World wrote, “they eat a root which they call peyote, and which they venerate as though it were a deity.”

It became clear why this plant was venerated as a god, when such eminent psychologists as Jaensch, Havelock Ellis and Weir Mitchell began their experiments with mescalin, the active principle of peyote. Mescalin research has continued, and now chemists have not only isolated the alkaloid; they have learned how to synthesize it, so that the supply no longer depends on the sparse and infrequent crop of desert cacti. Neurologists and physiologists have spent years investigating the mechanism of mescalin’s action upon the central nervous system, and at everyone from philosophers to writers- notably Aldous Huxley- have taken mescalin in the hope that this mystical cactus extract may shed some light on such ancient, unsolved riddles as the place of mind in nature and the relationship between brain and consciousness.

It is surely no coincidence that the peyote cactus, so ubiquitous, so loved and feared, is also identified as the solution to ancient problems of human displacement. We identify with the cactus perhaps. It projects intelligently, like an alien from the sand, while we wonder how we are supposed to best relate to our surroundings. When we look at the cactus we see ourselves done better. If anything on the planet holds the key to man’s reconciliation with his estranged mother nature, it is surely the cactus. It is too alien to be part of our problem, we reason, so it must be part of the solution.

2) Taoism and Nature

“Humans model themselves on earth,
Earth on heaven,
Heaven on the Way,
And the way on that which is naturally so.”

Lao Tse Daodejing (Tao te ching) #251

This simple but sententious dictum was delivered by an Chinese ancient sage, Lao Tse, the founder of Taoism. The saying suggests a means of building a harmonious relationship between beings and nature. Taoist ideas about conservation and ecology, with nature as the inspiration and conclusion to all things, reflect and resemble new philosophies of industrial design, to some extent. Alongside Buddhism and Confucianism, Taoism is one of the three great religions of China. It can be roughly translated into English as “path”, or “the way”- that is, the way of correspondence between man and nature, and the way that is a kind of path of nature – the course of natural world. The term Tao describes a power that envelops and flows through all things, both living and nonliving. As such, it serves to regulate natural processes and encourage a cosmic balance of all things in the Universe.

Tao suggests that the answers to life’s problems can be found through inner meditation and outer observation. Taoist ideas and images may have nurtured or inspired a love of nature in the Chinese, so that they have traditional felt a need to protect it, and have had many ways of cultivating an affinity with it. The Chinese have always seen nature as a companion, a place of security and support to which they could retreat from the cares of the world to rest or heal themselves. Nature, through Tao, is also sincerely life-affirming. Nature can be unfathomably brutal and Tao constantly reminds that the external world is explicitly on-ideal: in fact, according to Tao, the ideal world can only be found through a spiritual path. The only thing that might compromise one’s eternal happiness, in Tao as in Buddhism, was a state of mind, an attitude.

Both Tao and Nature are associated with a non-materialistic attitude to life, a spiritual approach to living which many perceive as a possible answer to the social issues of today: the problems of sustaining a unified and healthy social order. Taoists believe their religion holds the answers, as it advises its followers to emulate nature, with its simplicity and relaxed, non-intellectual approach to life. Tao seems to suggest that many of the environmental problems of today have arisen from a materialistic human attitude that has overwhelmed man’s spiritual relationship with his natural environment. Rather than coexisting with our living space, people have begun challenging it, and it has even become a respectable achievement to be seen to “conquer” nature.

An estimated 42 million acres of tropical rainforest are destroyed annually, an area the size of Washington State. Around 50,000 species of plants and animals are condemned to extinction every year, an average of about 140 species a day. There are more people than ever, and these people routinely pillage resources, destroy or change natural processes arbitrarily and are support the production of thousands of products that lead towards the ‘destructive path’ of the environment – contradicting the Taoist ‘path’. Increasingly materialist in their lifestyles, most people believe that only matter exists, leaving no room for spiritual beliefs. Our quest for pleasure corresponds to a demand placed on the Earth for immediate gain. The visible world takes precedence over any spiritual or psychological activities and ultimately a form of materialism becomes the only truth and belief. Nature’s force is unknowable in its essence but observable in its manifestations. With the crisis of energy and resources, the crisis of ecology and environment, the crisis of belief and mortality we experience force in the form of nature’s lamenting reactions.

“We believe in the formless and eternal Tao, and we recognize all personified deities as being mere human constructs. We reject hatred, intolerance, and unnecessary violence, and embrace harmony, love and learning, as we are taught by Nature. We place our trust and our lives in the Tao, which we may live in peace and balance with the Universe, both in this mortal life and beyond.”
– Creed of the Western Reform Taoist Congregation

The recent revival of instinctive desires preserve the health of our planet’s life without compromising human comfort is the task of ecological attitudes in art and design. Those ecological design solutions that take on board Taoist philosophies link nature, culture, and technology to resituate social human requirements in an environment where the balance of nature receives precedence. Artists and designers must of course work within the constraints imposed by their clients, including the practical and material demands made by every stage of production.

Classical Taoist philosophy, formulated in part by Laozi (the Old Master, 5th century B.C.), in part by the editor of the Daodejing (Classic of the Way and its Power), and in part by Zhuangzi (3rd century B.C.), represented a reinterpretation and development of an ancient nameless tradition of nature worship and divination. Laozi and Zhuangzi, living at a time of social disorder and great religious skepticism developed the notion of the Dao (Tao – way, or path) as the origin of all creation and the force – unknowable in its essence but observable in its manifestation that underlies the mechanisms of the natural world. These men saw in Dao, Nature, and in Nature, Dao. In both these Ways lay the secret to harmonious living. According to these early teachers, the order and harmony of nature was a model for human structures, so much more stable and enduring than either the power of the state or the civilized institutions constructed by human learning. The early Taoists taught the art of living and surviving by conforming with the natural way of things; they called their approach to action wuwei (wu-wei — lit. no-action), action modelled on nature. As one writer explains,

“Their sages were wise, but not in the way the Confucian teacher was wise, learned and a moral paragon. Zhuangzi’s sages were often artisans, butchers or woodcarvers. The lowly artisans understood the secret of art and the art of living. To be skillful and creative, they had to have inner spiritual concentration and put aside concern with externals, such as monetary rewards, fame, and praise. Art, like life, followed the creative path of nature, not the values of human society.”

Chinese history is dense with stories of people who have grown tired of the pretensions and desperation of social activism increasingly aware of the fragility of human achievements, and whose response has been to retire from the world and turn to nature. Such people have traditionally retreated to a countryside or mountain setting to commune with natural beauty, often composing poetry about nature , or painting interpretations of the scenes surrounding them, as they attempted to capture the creative forces at the heart of Nature’s vitality. Such people might share their excursions with friends or family, drinking a bite of wine, enjoying the autumn leaves or the evening skies.

The literature of Chinese utopians often had a Taoist slant: Tao Qian’s famous “Peach Blossom Spring” told of a fisherman who happened across an idyllic Chinese community who had fled a war-torn land centuries earlier, and lived in perfect simplicity and harmony ever since, blissfully oblivious to the turmoil of history beyond their idyll. While the inhabitants urged him to stay, the fisherman departed and shared his discovery with a local official. However hard he tried, he never found a path back to the grove. The fisherman never found a route back because he had failed to understand that he had discovered an abstracted, ideal, world – and one which was to be found not via an external path, but a spiritual one. The utopia was a state of mind, a unique attitude.

Laozi and Zhuangzi had reinterpreted nature worship and belief in esoteric “magical” arts as something both more abstract and more tangible, but the ancient methods and beliefs crept back into the tradition as ways of using knowledge of the Dao to enhance and prolong life. Despite its pragmatism, for some Taoism would always go hand in hand with magical belief. Some Taoists poured their energies into a search for “isles of the immortals,” or for herbs that could unlock the secrets of immortal life. Many Taoists were interested in health and carried out many studies of herbal medicine and pharmacology, in fact entailing significant advancements in these arts. Taoists even worked out the principles of macrobiotic cooking and other supposedly new and healthy diets. Sensitive to natural processes, they recorded gymnastic mechanisms and studied the effects of massage on keeping the body strong and youthful.

Taoists were, then, both magicians and of proto-scientists: they represented the sector of Chinese culture that most closely studied and communed with nature. Some Taoists held that nature was filled with spirits however, theosophically, such spirits were simply many manifestations of the one Dao, something impossible to represent as a single image or in one discreet form.

“The Tao of Heaven operates mysteriously and secretly ; it has no fixed shape; it follows no definite rules; it is so great that you can never come to the end of it, it is so deep that you can never fathom it.”

The Huai Nau Tzu

The central theme of Taoism is a relationship, and as such contradicts the general western attitude to nature. Nature should not be considered as something passive, awaiting man’s masterful control, but as an equal or even superior partner be mastered in a relationship. The aim of the Taiost is to rediscover and eventually merge with the ordered origin of the universe and the only way to do so is the Tao – the path shown to us by nature.

Early Taoist philosophers set out from their civilised worlds to take expeditions into the natural world, where they hoped to learn from primitive people living in remote mountain villages. Initially they aimed to introduce the benefits of human civilization to the mysteriously rhythmed order of nature. According to the Tao, nature is

“infinitely wise, infinitely complex, and infinitely irrational. One must take a yielding stance and abandon all intellectual preconceptions. The goal is wu wei, doing nothing contrary to nature. Nature does not need to be perfected or improved. It is we who need to change; we need to come into accord.”

Contrary to one possible interpretation of Yin/Yang, Taoists rejected all dichotomies, including the fundamental existence/non existence one, since it is their belief that both stem from the same source, “Athe deep and the profound.” Rather, Taoism’s goal is to use consciousness of duality and wisdom about it to reach the stage before any dualities existed. There is only one path to this source, then – the observation of nature. As one writer explains,

“The Tao is a divine chaos, not a random accident. It is fertile, undifferentiated, and teeming with unrealized creation. It is the mother of everything in nature; it is a great darkness that operates spontaneously to give birth and life to all things.”

3) Ecological thinking in contemporary art and design

Are we really moving towards a common lexicon of human creation and natural creation? Alan Power cites Steiner’s “startling prediction”,

“ Buildings will begin to speak. They will speak a language of which people have as yet not even an inkling,”

Yet I wonder how startling this really is. Buildings are indeed more “scientific”, more complex with less obvious evidence of human intervention. Many buildings nowadays appear to have been designed and built by aliens, no longer made to be lived in but impenetrable to our rational human minds. Again, they resemble complex organisms in their initially baffling structure, their illogical shapes and apparent preference of shape and form to practicality. But they are still made by humans, albeit humans employing a dozen layers of technology to translate abstract geometry into audaciously confusing formulae. They are still constructed by and for humans to use, and to that extent are utterly comprehensible, at least to the humans that use them. Where there is room for gratuitous aesthetic treatment in a design, designers, consciously or not, grasp the zeitgeist, construct from fashionable and available materials, and exploit their artistic freedom as far as their unconscious notions of the “aesthetic” will allow them to. These notions, I am attempting to argue, are controlled by biologically ingrained forms of the organic. It doesn’t matter if a building is technically accomplished to exhibit skeletal forms, as with the giant domes of the Eden Complex in Cornwall, the Brooklyn Bridge in New York and the Mildred Cooper chapel in Arkansas or swollen like the pregnant belly of the Guggenheim, NY . Nature can be found in all design, both rational and irrational, and the more we try to escape it, to avoid mimicking it, the more we are forced to study its base rules, its gravity and its ebb and flow, the tensile strength of its spider-webs, the effects of its uncontrollable eruptions and tidal waves and tornados.

Nature is absolutely full of potential metaphors for ways in which we can improve our lives. Today, apple peels are being used by scientists at the University of Clemson as a metaphor for edible packages’ disolvable pouches like boil in the bags that add protein to a macaroni and cheese dinner, or packages that act as a booster for laundry detergent. There’s certainly a human instinct to perceive products inspired in obvious ways by nature, as being somehow “good” for us, or “good” in a moral sense. Of course, human instincts are not to be trusted blindly, and it doesn’t follow that because a kind of packaging is inspired by an apple core it is environmentally friendly, inspirational, beautiful, or better for us or the world. But I suppose it has a slightly higher chance of being one or more of these things, our instincts are not too wide of the mark and do control the things we want to buy and sell.

A study entitled “Trees in Small City Business Districts:
Comparing Responses of Residents & Potential Visitors” begins,

“This study tested whether public response to trees in the downtown business districts of smaller cities is comparable. Research methods included interviews and mail-out surveys. Survey respondents prefer having large trees in retail streetscapes. Trees are also associated with reported increases in patronage behavior (such as travel distance and visit frequency), and willingness to pay more for products. Few differences in response were detected between small city residents and potential visitors who reside in large cities.”

What is it about natural organisms that make us want to part with our money? Marketing strategies state such things as fact, using careful example to “prove” what we “intuitively” want to believe is true – that “good product and package designers have known for centuries- that the best inspiration for new products comes from nature. The camera mimics the human eye. Helicopters, like hummingbirds, can hover and fly backwards. Velcro brand fasteners were inspired by prickily burrs attached to a Scottish inventor’s boot.”
They get away with this because nature is, and has always been, such an alien force to us humans, as we have seen. Like an alien from another planets, we hope it will be benevolent and, through its own irrepressible character, its mysterious and enviable immortality, hold the secrets to our own improved lifestyles and lifespans. Of course our relationship with nature has changed slightly as we have changed, as a race, but our view of Her remains essentially the same as ever. We still need to imitate and control what we see outside us, in the hope that we can sypher off a little of the magic and mystery for ourselves. In the developed world these harmless, yet irrepressible rhythms are increasingly invisible. It is possible to spend months in a city dwelling, never seeing a dead animal, a nesting bird, a tree in blossom. Nature has become more promising, more mysterious, more magical, and more frightening through its real invisibility, but nature is not wilfully elusive or coy, this is an invisibility we that have imposed.
Inevitably, the packages and products that are environmentally superior that are kind to nature also resemble it: they might be inherently efficient, easily recycable, and often they use recycled materials made from renewable resources. One organisation creating such products, back in their 1990s heyday, was “Zerosm”, and they identified several techniques fo

History of Artist Expression in Comic Books

Comic books, like many art forms, have been co-opted by a hungry consumer capitalist economy which makes a Faustian bargain with its artistic meals: give me your subversive art forms and ideas, this economy says, and I will communicate them to a mass audience beyond your wildest dreams; however, in exchange, your art forms and ideas will often simultaneously be stripped of their dignity and uniqueness by becoming products of no less ubiquity and no more value than toothpaste – mere tools to sell, sell, sell, and make more, more, more money for gigantic multinational corporations. This phenomenology is the ultimate in postmodern recontextualization, the stripping of an object’s original meaning and significance, and its endowment with a new purpose either heretofore considered or deemed ethically, morally, or artistically acceptable.

We shall explore the unique nature and popularity of comic books, and the themes presented in their narratives and characters, as a quasi-underground phenomenon whose ever-increasing popularity from the 1940s to the 1980s left them perfectly positioned to be gobbled and turned into movies and merchandise by giant corporations eager to both exploit the devotees of comic books and expand their numbers.

What has been the big deal, historically, about comic books? Though they are primarily a postmodern phenomenon localized in the latter half of the 20th century through to the present, their roots go as far back as the 17th century, when the English mass-produced woodcuts depicting ghastly public executions. Comics first reached mass popularity in the United States in the 1930s in the form of newspaper comics; then, the comic book as a separate, thriving, and sophisticated art form began to evolve from there. “…The comic book has been one of our most familiar, yet least appreciated, popular art forms. As vehemently criticized as it is passionately defended… [it is] a graphically sophisticated and culturally revealing medium.” (Sabin, 1996, p.1).

After roughly a decade of occupying a comfortable place in the American pop culture mainstream, comics, and then comic books, began to take to reflect a less sanguine view of American society. Violent crime comics began to appear, and the more squeaky-clean comics of the 1930s and during World War II absorbed some of these same themes. In the so-called Silver Age of Comic Books, the 1950s through the 1970s, most characters and narratives began to take on a darker and more complex tone, mostly in response to plummeting sales after World War II that reflected an unsettled cultural undercurrent brewing in America.

In this initial countercultural heyday of the 1950s and 1960s, comic books were sometimes dismissed, much like rock-and-roll music, as the juvenile, unsophisticated, and pulpy fantasies of hormone-addled adolescents. Sometimes, however, comic books were labeled as cultural filth that was an ongoing threat, destructive to teenage minds. In 1954, right-wing American psychiatrist Dr. Frederic Wertham published a book called Seduction of the Innocent, which was an all-out assault on the ostensible delinquency-inducing content of comic books, and which singled out Batman for special criticism, claiming “a subtle atmosphere of homoeroticism.” (Wertham, 1954, p. 189). Wertham’s criticism of comic book content led to the establishment of a censor organization known as the Comic Code Authority that same year, whose heavy-handed influence forced comic book writers and artists to go somewhat underground with their subversive themes.

However, Batman (and Robin, whatever his relationship with Batman may or may not have been) has far outlived both Dr. Wertham and the chilling effect of his book, and in fact, the longevity and deceptively complex content of comic books have proven them to be much more powerful than anyone ever dreamed. They have for decades embodied striking artistic expressions of artists and authors, who collectively spoke for countless millions of young people who did not quite fit in to the mainstream of society.

These millions were given voice by comic books such as The X-Men, The Incredible Hulk, The Amazing Spider-Man, from the Marvel Comics Company, and Batman and Superman from the DC Comics Company. Each of the aforementioned titles tells an extended set of stories about a character or characters who are misfits of some kind, whether it be physical, psychological, or emotional, and who take on a variety of preternatural and/or superhuman characteristics which allow them to not only address their own personal struggles with their differences from others in society, but to aid society itself in coming to better accept those who are different; or, alternately, the characters are either born with or afflicted by a condition which makes them a misfit and therefore different from others in society, and must adapt to life as such.

These comic book stories generally involve a variety of morality plays, ranging from simple good vs. evil, to the exploration of antiheros, that enable the characters to attempt to effect positive change in the world, and provide both catharsis and inspiration for the readers.

The X-Men, for example, were created by legendary comic book author Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby in 1963. They were /are a group of teenagers born with genetic mutations that have endowed them with a variety of superhuman characteristics, not all of which are necessarily constructive. In the Lee/Kirby universe, the X-Men are widely ostracized and discriminated against not only because they are different, but because non-mutant humans fear the X-Men are the next logical, superior step in human evolution and therefore could render ‘normal’ humans obsolete.

The teenagers’ stories often involved them attempting to come to terms with their powers and how to fit into the so-called normal human society. The X-Men were comprised of such characters as Iceman, a young man who could freeze objects at will; Wolverine, a foul-tempered young man whose skeleton is laced with a nearly indestructible metal alloy, including metal knives which he could extend and retract from his hands at will, albeit with considerable pain; Storm, a young black female who could control the weather, including the ability to summon storms at will; Nightcrawler, a young male born with blue fur who could become virtually invisible at night and teleport short distances; Cyclops, who could shoot beams of pure solar energy from his eyes, but not always control this power; Rogue, a young female possessing the hyper-empathic ability the feelings, memories, and abilities of other beings she touches —unfortunately, however, prolonged contact with others can weaken or kill them; Magneto, an older male survivor of the Nazi death camps who can manipulate magnetic forces, but whose psyche was so twisted by his experience at the hands of the Nazis that he has become an arch-nemesis of the X-Men; and Professor Xavier, an older male paraplegic with amazing telepathic abilities and a world-class intellect, who has dedicated his life to mentoring other mutants and defending them from themselves, unsympathetic humans, and the perennial machinations of Magneto.

The X-Men and their stories were unabashedly allegorical and subversive in nature, content, and theme. Professor Xavier was modeled after civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr. and Sir Francis Xavier, Catholic missionary and founder of the Jesuit order. The sense of loneliness and isolation experienced by Rogue was a reflection of the near-universal teenage experience. The bigotry and intolerance of homosexuals is another allegorical component featured with the X-Men narratives, particularly in the film adaptations directed by openly gay Bryan Singer. In X-Men 2, the character of Bobby Drake characters ‘comes out’ of the closet as a mutant to his parents, prompting them to ask if he has tried not being a mutant, parodying the oft-heard question of parents directed their gay children.

Anti-Semitism, personal alienation, anti-Communist paranoia, and racism are also allegorical themes that X-Men comic narratives have explored in detail. And like The X-Men, Batman, Spiderman (also a Stan Lee creation), The Incredible Hulk and Superman all were dependent upon and explored the themes of what it meant for a person to be forced to hide or to be ashamed of a component of his or her true self, or to lead a dual existence – one private and personal, one public. Superman (created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster), known by millions as a mild-mannered reporter, socially maladroit nerd, and bearer of an unrequited love for Lois Lane, who happens to be a near-omnipotent superhero when called upon in extraordinary circumstances, is the perfect embodiment of both teenage reality and teenage wish fulfillment. The Incredible Hulk (another Stan Lee creation) gets angry like all of us, but has real power – scary power, often – to do something about it thanks to his green steroidal transformation.

Batman (created by Bob Kane and fleshed out by Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson) lives a quiet, dark life of solitude contrasted with public works of enviable nobility and good. These feelings of powerlessness and awkwardness, combined with empowerment fantasies, were and continue to be direct reflections of the collective concerns of millions of young people, and perhaps many adults, as well – how to fit into a society that demanded conformity without losing the uniqueness that embodies one’s individuality.

Ironically, the collective popularity of all of these comic book titles has historically been so striking in terms of sales that it would not be an unfair question to wonder if it fact the teenage misfits who bought them were in fact the majority, not the minority in society. Comic book sales peaked in 1993 at a staggering $850 million (U.S. dollars) and are still very healthy, though currently, the popularity of comic book characters is as likely to be manifest in movie ticket and DVD sales of film adaptations of comic books as it is in comic book purchases. More on this later.

The character archetypes and narrative themes of most of these original and ongoing comic book series were produced in the crucible of the fairly conformist sociocultural pressures of the modernist era in the United States. The teenagers of each successive decade, beginning with the 1950s and continuing to the present, have been characterized by isolation, disaffection, rebellion, disillusionment, all combined with the pressure to adapt without question to the relatively monolithic mores of the generation which preceded them, a generation for whom belonging to a larger social group, for whom the values of unquestioning self-sacrifice and acceptance of authority figures and establishment power structures were the norm.

Men were called to duty, whether in World War II or in the burgeoning post-war corporate universe; many made the ultimate sacrifice – their lives, or worse, their souls. Women, too, had their duty – to support their men in discreet, subservient lives of quiet domestic efficiency. But as American young people began to question the assumptions behind the Cold War, and question the rational and wisdom behind the interminably bloody Vietnam War, their uncertainty on these issues led to a greater wholesale questioning of the mechanisms and assumptions of society’s very foundations. (Even Batman, whose creation in 1940 arguably predates postmodernism, eventually took on countercultural subject matter and themes, to say nothing of the suggestion of a taboo homoeroticism in the relationship between Batman and Robin.)

This rebellion was met with heavy disapproval and disappointment by parents, representing the previous generation. The ongoing schism between these two generations has caused huge cultural, social, and political conflicts that continue to be played out even in 2005. These conflicts have been vividly reflected in the artistic expressions of the times – literature, music, and films.

From the standpoint of the older generations, comic books were perhaps never adequately understood, respected, or even recognized for the potent and unusual artistic and cultural forces that they have always represented — certainly as potent as more conventional and commonplace means of artistic expression, high art and classical music, just to name two ossified examples. (And, incidentally, these generational clashes were not limited to the United States in terms of understanding the rise of the superhero comic books. The country of Japan, tiny as it is, has become its own powerhouse in terms of churning out groundbreaking styles of comics, such as Katsuhiro Otomo of Akira fame, reflecting generational struggles unique to the Japanese youth culture.)

The artistic expressions that arose out of the clash between generations also represented an evolution in classifications and mechanisms of art itself – the evolution from modern art forms to postmodern art forms. Modern art, reflective of the cultures from which it sprung, was generally conformist, and adhered to classic rules of form, function, and design, and either explicitly or implicitly supported the symbols of establishment paradigms by exploiting binary oppositions of ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ (i.e., Americans vs. Communists). Postmodern art rejected the methodology of modern art on every level, deconstructing it to such an extent as to even question the basic psychological definitions of symbolism in human art forms.

The discarding and combination of genres and forms, the pastiche of styles, the toying with unorthodox symbolism, and an active interest in subversion and smashing of establishment systems – rebellion itself — are all manifestations of art evolving to postmodern form. And instead of existing to analyze, but ultimately reinforce the paradigms of patriarchal establishments, postmodern art analyzed and often sought to undermine these establishments and their conventions, if not destroy them altogether. As noted by postmodernism scholar Andreas Huyssen, “…contemporary postmodernism operates in a field of tension between tradition and innovation, conservation and renewal, mass culture and high art, in which the second terms are no longer automatically privileged over the first.” (Huyssen, 1986, p. 267).

As such, any art form that has enjoyed longevity has internalized and incorporated this revolutionary and evolutionary process, or been discarded or fossilized. Comic books are no exception to this rule, and their staying power has manifested itself in the last 20 or so years by their translation to and eventual dominance of the genre of film. In fact, comic books in their Silver Age forms were arguably inherently post-modern in nature, as they combined complex and detailed visual artistry with complex and serialized narratives, an intermixing pastiche of separate genres which had never before been combined in such a unique form.

Books had, of course, often featured illustrations in the past, but they were only to provide occasional support and dimensionalization of the narrative, as opposed to being as important a component of the medium as the narrative itself. The fantastical and stylized nature of many of the illustrations featured in comic books were often postmodern artistic explorations in their own right, seeking to push the boundaries of conventional illustrations. Their explorations of anti-heroes helped deconstruct the notion of simple constructs of good and evil.

American consumer capitalism, which is inherently (though not necessarily benignly) postmodern in its relentless desire to commodify anything and everything, particularly that which can be packaged as new, hip, and edgy – and thus desirable – has hungrily devoured comic books and the films which come from them. In doing so, the artistic and societal merit of comic books, in particular their subversive characteristics, have become themselves subverted by the deity of consumer capitalist commodification.

The ultimate dream, for example, of fans of the X-Men comic books, that their beloved misfit characters would reach movie theatres and therefore a larger audience for their collective angst, has come true — but that dream has also become a nightmare for some fans, as these same subversive misfit X-Men have also become action figures, clothing lines, cartoons on the side of fast food lunch bags and boxes — all mass marketed to mass audiences in order to maximize profits for corporations that are more interested in shareholder earnings than they are the artistic merit of airing the collective voices of disaffected teen angst.

If the phenomenology of disaffected teen angst can be appropriated to make a profit from teenagers, then corporations will be chasing the teens and their money incessantly. However, corporate interest in teenagers as a demographic generally has little to do with sociocultural altruism. In fact, cultural observers should take heed – “ventilation of genuinely alternative social visions collide directly with the underpinnings of power in the economy at large.” (Schiller, 1986, p. 152) The trade-off is as follows: as long as such ventilation of alternative social visions makes a profit, it will be tolerated. But in the consumer capitalist corporate universe of today, art for art’s sake, particularly if the art does not reinforce the machinery of consumer capitalism, will never generate much more than limited enthusiasm, and is more likely to meet with insidious hostility.

The primary perpetrators in this arena are the behemoth corporate conglomerates that own the media, and the acquisitive way in which they manage their film and television divisions. In the 1960s and 1970s, film studios and television networks existed as independent business entities whose sole focus was the creation of films and television shows – nothing more, nothing less. While these companies were undisputedly interested in profits, the process was far more artist-centered and quality-driven than they are today.

The presumption was that quality films would result in box-office successes, though the expectations of profit were relatively modest compared to today’s standards. Then, in 1977, a watershed moment in film history arrived in the form of the blockbuster Star Wars, a comic-bookish story in its own right despite being an original creation of writer/director George Lucas. The film was not only the most financially successful phenomenon in movie history, but it alerted movie studios to a whole new economic model, centered around the notion of ancillary profits. Most notably in the case of Star Wars, the ancillary profits came in the form of merchandising.

Inexplicably, before the film’s release, executives at 20th Century Fox, the film’s distributor, were convinced the film would be a flop, and in contract negotiations with Lucas, acceded to his unusual request to receive 100% of profits derived from sales of merchandise inspired and/or derived from the film, for example action figures and lunchboxes. The Fox executives surely rued the day they signed over these rights to Mr. Lucas, as Star Wars merchandise generated $1 billion in profits for the shrewd filmmaker.

Another lesson learned by Fox, and other studios hungry to recreate the fiscal orgy of Star Wars, was that films targeted directly at children could be extremely lucrative at the box office, beyond profit margins to which they had become accustomed. Movies were no longer mostly the artistic or escapist purview of an audience comprised largely of adults. Their children came to be seen as a previously under-exploited source of bonanza profits.

Lastly, movie studios began to rethink their conventional economic model, which was to produce modestly-budgeted films and reliably make modest profits. What Star Wars ignited was a phenomenon known as the ‘blockbuster mentality,’ a hunger for epic profits from so-called event films, on which the studios became willing to gamble heretofore-unprecedented sums of money in hopes of hitting the proverbial jackpot. George Lucas, who began his career as a subversive filmmaker of eccentric tastes with critically acclaimed films such as THX-1138 and American Graffiti, unwittingly created a perfect storm that turned the film industry on its head.

Star Wars was no fluke, as it turned out, and it was not long before the greedy capitalistic corporate culture of the 1980s began entertaining, no pun intended, the notion that film studio and television networks could be glamorous cash cows. In short order, huge companies whose core business usually had nothing to do with the entertainment industry were battling it out to see who could get into show business the fastest. Coca-Cola acquired movie studio Columbia/Tri-Star, which was later sold to Japanese electronics giant Sony; General Electric acquired the NBC television network; Capital Cities acquired the ABC Television network, and News Corporation acquired 20th Century Fox and the Fox Broadcasting Company; Gulf + Western acquired Paramount Pictures, etc.

The unfortunate side effect of these mergers was the infusion of bottom-line, short-term profit-hungry thinking, as well as corporate models of branding and marketing products. These large corporations viewed films and television shows, and the intellectual properties that underlied them, as products, pure and simple, no different from mouthwash, shoes, soda drinks, or cosmetics. They expected their new acquisitions to transition from being art-focused and letting profits flow from quality, to simply making whatever sold the most tickets and had the most lucrative ancillary market potential.

There was no single identifiable point, such a historical date or a press conference, when the critical link between art and commerce was separated, or the historical deference of profit to art was inverted (themselves postmodern phenomena, incidentally), but the entrée of comic books into the world of film and television, which has become a powerful, dominating presence of comic books in film and television, followed and was directly related to this paradigm shift in the economics of the entertainment industry.

The adaptation of comic books into film and television properties has been an exercise in creative cannibalism in some sense. Increasingly, film and television studios have taken on the risk-averse mentality of their corporate masters, and one of the effects of this has been to seek out intellectual property that might guarantee the fiscal success of a film or television show adaptation of said property. To the extent that a wildly successful book was often adapted for films geared towards adults, wildly successful comic book series were seen as a surefire way to guarantee a teen audience and the disposable income purchasing power of them and their parents.

Movie executives sought to acquire the rights to comic book characters and stories which they could ‘exploit’ – actual film industry terminology – and build into ‘franchises’ – also actual film industry terminology, particularly creepy given the obvious parallels to McDonald’s or Gap store franchise business models. For the most part, these franchises have been wildly successful from a financial point of view, though perhaps not from an artistic standpoint.

There have been six Batman films made by Warner Brothers movie studio (owned by corporate behemoth AOL Time Warner, who not coincidentally own DC Comics, the original home of the Batman characters and comic books): 1989’s Batman, 1992’s Batman Returns, 1995’s Batman Forever, 1997’s Batman and Robin, 2004’s Catwoman, and 2005’s Batman Begins. Each film sported star casting of the highest caliber; however, perhaps with the exception of the first film, were special effects showcases first and artistically ambitious second, if at all. Nor were they particularly true to the time-honored complexities and lingering darkness of the comic books. Iconic film critic Roger Ebert (a devoted fan of the Batman comic books), in his review of Batman and Robin, took a forlorn swipe at each of the films to date:

… my delight began to fade at about the 30-minute mark when it became clear that this new movie, like its predecessors, was not *really* going to explore the bizarre world of its heroes, but would settle down safely into a special effects extravaganza. “Batman & Robin,” like the first three films in the series, is wonderful to look at, and has nothing authentic at its core… Watching it, I realized why it makes absolutely no difference who plays Batman: There’s nobody at home… Give the foreground to the characters, not the special effects. And ask the hard questions about Bruce Wayne. (Ebert, 1997)

Ebert’s last line refers to the perennial rumors that perennial bachelor Bruce Wayne might actually be a homosexual, or failing that, possess some unusual sexual fetishes that might not comprise the sort of fare that young children should be seeing at the movie theatre or on DVD.

But this topic, as well as any serious exploration of Bruce Wayne’s psyche, was not been considered particularly lucrative by the marketing machines at Warner Brothers until the franchise was on the verge of death after the box office mediocrity of Batman and Robin and the outright box office disaster of Catwoman, which cost $85 million (U.S.) to produce and only made $40 million (U.S.) at the box office. 2005’s Batman Begins was an unapologetically dark and complex film. Roger Ebert’s review may well have spoken for many Batman fans who ached for more substance and less pure style:
The character resonates more deeply with me than the other comic superheroes, perhaps because when I discovered him as a child, he seemed darker and more grown-up than the cheerful Superman. He has secrets. As Alfred muses: “Strange injuries and a nonexistent social life. These things beg the question, what does Bruce Wayne do with his time?” (Ebert, 2005)

Apparently, the moviegoing audiences agreed with Mr. Ebert, rewarding Warner Brothers with $205 million (U.S.) in box office receipts in the United States alone, and a similar – and still increasing – tally worldwide. The lesson here is that while an artistically unambitious and shallow film like Batman and Robin, which is more childish cartoon and marketing machine than serious filmmaking, can certainly turn a modest profit, it is entirely possible to be artistically ambitious and make plenty of money at the same time. One wonders why the latter is more often the exception rather than the rule, to the detriment of the integrity of comic books and their rich characters.

In theory, the adaptation of comic books to the film and television arenas could have been a boon to not only the comic book industry, but a force for cultural good in the sense of spreading the subversive word to a larger audience. While there is no question that American and Western teenagers are far more aware of Batman and The X-Men than they were 30 years ago, the expansion of the audience has come at a price.

First of all, the structures of film and television do not generally lend themselves well to the sort of narrative complexity that is a hallmark of comic books’ ongoing multi-character storylines. While the two X-Men films to date were generally well-received by fans of the comic books, many fans vociferously complained that many characters were either simply not included in the storylines, or they were altered to suit Hollywood norms in order to maximize audience appeal. While a third X-Men film is in the works, the simple truth is that 20th Century Fox, the movie studio that produced the films, simply cannot make any more than one X-Men film every two to three years and the complicated narrative history of over a dozen characters unspoiled over the course of 40 years of storytelling simply cannot be done adequate justice by a two-hour movies – as good as they may be – which get released only periodically. Secondly, for many young people, seeing an X-Men or Batman film may be their very first exposure to these universes, and depending on their reaction to the quality of the films and their natural consumer predilections, it is not certain that these teenagers are going to seek out the more dimensionalized, rich, and complex narrative universes to be found within the comic book series.

In fact, given the immense popularity of video games among teenagers, who as a general rule spend as much, if not more time transfixed by their Playstations and Xboxes than they do reading, it is more likely that teenagers who see X-Men films will buy the video game adaptations of the X-Men comic books instead of investing in the comic books themselves. The statistics bear this out: in 2004, sales of comic books in the U.S. totaled $300 million – a considerable sum of money, but a far cry from the $850 million sum reached ten years earlier.

Comic book money had, for better or for worse, flowed away from the comic books themselves and into the reinventions of the comic books – the movies, the video games. It is unfair, perhaps, to dismiss video games as worthless, but also difficult to avoid the conclusion that the X-Men video game, which is simply a violent combat simulation featuring the various mutant characters, carries more artistic and social worth than the comic books to which the video game owes its digital existence.

Lastly, the value of ancillary X-Men merchandise, such as T-shirts, lunchboxes, and plastic soda cups from Burger King adorned with X-Men characters, is fleeting and thus fairly dubious in comparison to the lasting collectors’ item value of the comic books themselves, to say nothing of the inherent worth of the content of the books, and the visual and narrative artistry contained within them.

Ultimately, and sadly, the postmodern machinery of consumer capitalism has appropriated comic book visuals and narratives and separated them from their inherent artistic value in order to make them both more appealing to a mainstream audience, usually children and younger teens, and more exploitable in terms of ancillary markets such as merchandising. The positive side of this equation is that the subversive art and storytelling found in comic books was brought to a larger audience, but may well have been eviscerated of its soul in the process.

Films like Batman Begins, with its dark exploration of the recesses of Bruce Wayne’s psychology, and X-Men 2, with its unapologetic homosexual allegories, do their source material adequate justice and make their corporate masters a lot of money in the process. What can be hoped for the future is that movie studios see fit to release more films such as these and less of the vapid, lowest-common denominator special effects orgies that tend to predominate the box office landscape. Hellraiser and Constantine were met with outright hostility by fans of their comic book source material and performed poorly at the box office. It is no longer enough to simply adapt a comic book to guarantee success. Many audience members have grown more shrewd and sophisticated, and demand quality in storytelling.

In the words of Nightcrawler in the film X-Men 2, “Most people will never know anything beyond what they see with their own two eyes.” If this is true in a world where what is put before the eyes of teenagers is predominated by movies and video games, it is imperative that the content not merely reflect the status quo desired by consumer capitalism, but the thought-provoking stories and characters, daring and subversive thoughts, first brought to us decades ago in the best comic books.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Sabin, Roger. Comics, Comix & Graphic Novels – A History of Comic Art. Phaidon Press, 1996.

Robinson, Jerry. The Comics: An Illustrated History of Comic Strip Art. Putnam Publishers, 1974.

Wertham, Fredric. Seduction of the Innocent. Amerion Publishers, 1954 (Reprint 1996).

Tuzi, Marino. “Individualism and Marginality: From Comic Book to Film: Marvel Comics Superheroes” College Quarterly, Spring 2005 – Volume 8 Number 2. Taken from:
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Advantages and Disadvantages of Ambient Occlusion Shader

This dissertation is to simplify the ambient light in contact shadow using Maya embedded language (MEL) which can be useful for all lighting artists to get a global illumination effect in simple steps and to reduce process of render time and they can connect and disconnect the ambient shader and adjust using GUI (graphical user inter phase) all the buttons will be in GUI itself. These are simple techniques but if one needs the old fashioned moves he’s got to go to the control set up tools. But these are simplified here and all can be achieved in simple clicks which is easy to navigate. All actions present in the GUI area all are present in my interface and one reason its better as its simple. This has been focused in a manner to anticipate all professional or not its easy to all. This helps all and even helps to navigate better through the GUI controls better.

Chapter 1 INTRODUCTION

Ambient Occlusion is a lighting technique that which is used to cast shadows on objects. This is a technique used in lighting which is misunderstood as this method casts shadows on objects where light does not reach. This method gives out a good render to the object with normal modes in the output. Ambient occlusion creates or casts soft shadows around the object which gives out a molded look.

In technical terms ambient occlusion is a global illumination method and is commonly referred to as a cheap trick for alternative method of global lighting method. To be more specific in answering the above is each person has his means of working and all processes differ from one another. This is where ambient occlusion comes into being as some calculate the intensity of the light setup for every work file but most don’t and the best way to overcome is to use ambient occlusion where this does all the calculation and gives a better quality render more than we can accept.

On aspects to other global illumination methods ambient occlusion does calculate in it manner but regarding other properties in the scene file. Where it has to go according to all shapes in the scene file to calculate the light setup to generate a global light effect which seems less complex than the regular lighting aspect in the software. This specialty makes ambient occlusion very well accepted among game developers and level designers and in various levels of production animation.

Here I am going to simplify the Ambient Occlusion shader to get ambient light in all contacted shadows. Connecting the ambient occlusion to all the shader is a big process as we have a number of shader in a single scene file. I am going to develop a separate user interface in Maya for the user to manipulate my tools. By using my tools all the shader can be connected to the ambient shader with the single click and also can disconnect all the ambient shader in a single click.

1.1.AIM

To simplify the ambient light in contact shadows using Maya embedded language (MEL)

1.2.OBJECTIVES

Study the advantages and disadvantages of ambient occlusion shader

To study about the real world light properties

To implement natural lights using software

Developing a MEL for simplifying ambient occlusion shader

Developing an user interface in Maya for user to manipulate the tool(GUI)

1.3.STATEMENTS OF THE PROBLEM

To connecting the ambient occlusion shader to all the other shader is a big process if there is number of shader are available in single scene file

1.4.RESEARCH QUESTIONS

What is ambient occlusion?

What r the different techniques for creating indirect lighting

How shadows variation in time

what are the advantages and disadvantages in ambient occlusion texture

How to simplify the ambient occlusion texture node

1.5.SIGNIFICANCE OF STUDY

When we are connecting ambient occlusion texture to number of shader most of them are facing the problem like connecting with shader one by one some time we may miss some shader while connecting and also it will take time to connect to lot of shader Here am going to do this dissertation for solving these problems. Here I am going to simplify the ambient occlusion texture by MEL script

1.6.Hypothesis

The hypothesis of this project is to simplify the ambient occlusion texture using Maya embedded language (MEL)

Chapter 2 Literature Review

2.1.Literature: Mastering Maya 2009 Eric Keller, Eric Allen and Anthony Honn 2009

This book speaks about how ambient occlusion forms form indirect light rays and ambient occlusion effect can bring from Final Gathering and it will take more render time when u create in Final Gathering The above information help to get some knowledge and information about ambient occlusion.

2.2.Literature: Mental ray for Maya 3ds max and XSI Livny Boaz

Ambient occlusion adding realism and produce more details in the output and render will be fast when we compare to Final gathering and Globule illumination how ambient occlusion works and explain detail about ambient occlusion attribute and also tell about what are the different between occlusion and ambient occlusion

2.3.Literature: Introducing Maya 2011 – Dariush Derakhshani

We can take ambient occlusion as separate render pass that to help add more depth in models and later we can adjust in compositing. Ambient occlusion give great contact shadows

2.4.Literature: Maya Visual Effects: the innovator’s guide Eric Keller

Ambient occlusion is the easy and quick way to get Global illumination and tell how ambient occlusion note works in texture. Ambient occlusion produce soft shadows as like real world. when two models are placed near certain amount of light will be block and u will get soft shadows at the corner of the object

2.5.Literature: Rendering with Mental ray & 3Ds Max – Joep Van Der Steen

There are different types of shadow in 3ds max like normal 3ds max shadows and ray trace shadows .but normal shadows wont work in mental ray. If u need to get accurate shadows go for ray trace but render time will be increases when compare to normal shadows. Bounce light gives u realistically feel as like real life lighting. In real life light wont stop travel when its hits the ground it will hit and bounce for certain distance till its die and ambient occlusion also the one form of creating bounce light or indirect lighting for the scene but ambient occlusion wont be physically correct lighting when compare to FG(Final Gathering ) and GI (Globule illumination ). Ambient occlusion give reflective occlusion where we wont get in normal occlusion.

2.6.Literature: Writing Mental ray shader: perceptual Introduction Andy Kopra

This book tells about how ambient occlusion rays are calculating in the scene and tell about how Technically ambient occlusion works in MEL scrip this book gives me clear idea how to develop my scrip in MEL

2.7.Literature: Rendering Techniques 2006 – Tomas Akenine-Möller

 Ambient occlusion shadow produce form ambient light. Ambient light emits

form all direction and produce soft shadows. Most of the production companies

using ambient occlusion for lighting for time saving in lighting and rendering.

2.8.Literature: Maya: secrets of the pros – John L. Kundert-Gibbs, Dariush Derakhshani

Ambient occlusion techniques in production are used in two ways are backing of ambient occlusion texture and taking of ambient occlusion passes in render. In backing of ambient occlusion we cant tweak while compositing but In ambient occlusion render pass we can tweak and bring new effect in compositing.

2.9.DVD:Digital Tutors Mental Ray Nodes Library

This Tutor helps me what are the uses of the ambient occlusion how to connect ambient occlusion texture node in shader and explain clearly about the Attribute Editor of ambient occlusion to get good output.

Chapter3 METHODOLOGY

This document consists of a quantitative and qualitative method by Survey and gathering information from Internet, Books, tutorials , articles, books, paper and videos.

3.1.POPULATION:

The people who are suitable for this population is texturing artist, lighting artist, rendering artist.

They were questioned regarding the ambient occlusion shader and its uses in production field. The population of this research work carries the production experienced person.

3.2.SAMPLING:

Judgment Sampling

3.3.SCOPE AND LIMITATIONS:

This research is limited to the ambient occlusion shader.

Chapter 4 Lights in CG

4.1 Overview

4.2 Types of lighting

Chapter 5 Indirect lighting in CG

5.1Introduction

5.2 Final Gathering (FG) and Global illumination (GI)

Chapter6 Ambient occlusion

6.1 overview

6.2 How it works

6.3 Advantages of ambient occlusion

Chapter 7 Rendering

7.1 Mental Ray rendering

7.2 occlusion render over mental ray

Chapter 8 MEL

8.1 Introduction to MEL

8.2 Creating GUI

Chapter 4 Lights in CG

4.1.Introduction

Lightning in computer graphics (CG) is nothing but giving special effects to the scenes to improve the quality of animation. Lightings available for all kind of occasions, all we need to do is just adjust the parameters. Most of them will not give more importance for lighting while creating there images or animations. Lighting plays very important role in computer graphics (CG), we can easily find the talented and untalented person in computer graphics (CG) by looking at the light effects given in the image or animation .Though we already know something about lightings in photography, film and video. We are just trying to bring the reality to computer graphics (CG). Lighting is used for creating a 3D effect by differentiating the foreground from background or else we can combine both to create 2D effect. This effect (Lighting) is mainly used to impress the viewer. Lighting is the most powerful tool in the computer graphics because this is the only tool which makes the viewer to feel. If your lighting perfectly fits for your image or animation then the final output will be much good to impress the viewer. Lighting can be expressed in two ways by being illuminated and a process of illumination. Lighting is defined globally by means of object which can be visible through the source illuminant application. Bouncing off lights or shiny objects can be made by the manipulation of light. If natural light is unavailable artificial lights can be used instead. Lighting is used everywhere and anywhere. Light is never said to be the same because of its variability, so lighting also changes. The natural sun light that we see in day to day life varies in a short period of time but the quality does not vary. The term state of lighting could in term mean intensity, its direction, its texture and form. This means something emotional. lighting is also a process of purposeful planning and design in which the light is to illuminate in an object. When lighting is necessary, the lighting position and placement are to be in considering, once deciding the intensity. Lighting process also refers in analyzing the light quality as it strikes the subject.

4.1.ADDING LIGHT SOURCES:

Adding lights to the scenes can be done in several ways and also different kinds of lights available in lighting effects. Some kind of lights are used to highlight the background, foreground, character etc., we must choose the light which is highly suitable for the cases so that the people could not able to find which effect is used.

There are several types of adding lights effects available

POINT(OMMIDERECTIONAL)LIGHTS

SPOTLIGHTS

DIRECTIONAL LIGHTS

AREA LIGHTS

Site accessed on 27th sep “Pixel Cinematography: A Lighting Approach for Computer Graphics (SIGGRAPH 96 – Course 30)”

SPHERICAL AREA LIGHTS

FLAT AREA LIGHTS

LINEAR LIGHTS

MODELS SERVING AS LIGHTS

4.2.1POINT(OMMIDERECTIONAL)LIGHTS

Point lights are also called as omni or omnidirectional lights, because it transmit in all directions, like any other lights e.g. bulb, sun etc

The main thing in giving this effect is checking the shadows it should not spread in all directions. In real life, u can see more uniformly omnidirectional lights. Most of the times point lights are similar to real light bulbs for example, bulb lights spread allover the particular empty place, if a opaque thing (metal, wood etc.,) is kept in that place the shade will form behind that thing and side and size of the shade is depend on the location of the bulb.

Though it is likely as omnidirectional we can spread it by using throw-pattern that is uneven. if you want to focus more light on some particular direction then you must do this action texture map to the light else by grouping the light with 3D object that produce shadows

This light rays stimulated out from one infinitely small point in space, Its illumination and shadows passes out form the light in all direction.

It is difficult to find a light which is uniformly omni directional in nature. Many light sources emit some amount of light in some directions. Uneven point lights can be used as a throw pattern, like a real bulb to emit more light in some direction rather than in other direction. This is done by applying a texture to the light or else by grouping the light with the 3d object which will cast shadows.

4.2.2.SPOTLIGHTS:

Spotlights is the major light effect which is commonly used in computer graphics (CG).This light effect is used by major computer graphics (CG) specialist because it can be used to focus on a specific target. Spotlight is also similar to point light sometimes but it slightly differs in pointing the target there are some limitations for spotlights are it should not exceed.we can determine the focus aim by rotating the spotlight. You can also fix a target for your focus so that the focus will always on that particular target.

Spot Lights are the most used light in the lighting design of computer graphics. Most of the popular artist prefer spotlights to light a scene because, this light can be controlled in any times to aim light at a selected target. The emition of spotlight is light radiation from a point, same as like the point light. The illumination in the spotlight is controlled through a cone angle or a beam of the light. The rotation of the spotlight will determine where the beam is aimed. Objects can also be linked to light to stay in the same orientation position. A spotlight has more controls and options which is not found in other type of lights, some options like projecting a image map from the light, creating fog, etc…

With the help of spotlight the falloff which is the softness of the cone, allows the intensity of light diminish more gradually in the edges of the beam.

4.2.3.Directional Lights

Directional light is an infinity source of illumination from a distance. These lights are variously known as distant, direct or infinite light. This light sets a single vector for its entire illumination object from the same angle, doesn’t matter the object’s position. The shadows emitted by the directional light are in same direction and they are orthogonal projections of each 3d object’s shape. The matter in placing the directional light is which way it’s pointed. The directional light is not so easy in aiming to a preferred local area like point and spot light. A set of lights constituting from different angles can be used to produce fill light, even in the individual lights in all angles in a low intensity. These lights can fill very large areas with illumination appearing as ambient, like filling the daylight from the sky giving a quick effective global ambience. it deals with the light position where it is placed and it is all about the direction of the object, shadow and lit falls depend on the light location. However the sunlight is the major source of light we need some more light effects to impress the viewer most probably directional light is used. The directional light which needs some specific angle to present a proper lighting so that the person should concentrate more on angles.

4.2.4.Area Lights

The lights like point and spot emits light from a infinity source into space, which is not simulating the size of physical light source in real life. Point light cannot be scaled in any dimension. To get more accurate simulations of the real light, this area light have definable scale, so the all the rays of light are not emitted exactly from the same point.

If the light is scaled small, the illumination will appear similar to a point light. The larger scale of area light, make the light appear softer, shadows appears to soft and the illumination in nearby objects. The amount of shadows and light achieved with area light makes the scene excellent in realistic rendering.

The source of the light comes from some long gap like windows etc, is said to be area lights. This effect is important when the image or animation dealing with the room setup for example if there is a room there might be some windows so we must implement the area lights. It matches the situation than any other lighting techniques

4.2.5.SPHERICAL AREA LIGHTS:

Spherical area light is also like area light it will spread in all directions. It is also called spherical light, spherical region of space is the source for the spherical light, this is mainly used in the case where the large light source. The spherical light has omni directional so the light does not have effect on our output. you can also replace the spherical light to point light when the illumination needs more concentration on light to cast soft edged shadows

4.2.6.FLAT AREA LIGHTS:

Area light also available in flat shapes such as discs and rectangles. Light emitted from two dimensional areas can use less rendering time than three dimensional areas. The number of samples used to adjustable either approach. A rectangular area light is same as illuminated ceiling panel, a plane width and height that illuminates with naturally soft, diffused light. Light from ceiling is the major use of flat area light simulating the reflected illumination brightly lit walls and ceiling providing a soft. Aiming or rotating light changes your result, light from the edge of the flat area light is same as creating sharper shadow and also dimmer.

4.2.7.LINEAR LIGHTS:

Linear light has same functionality as florescent tube and also scaled in one-dimension.it has a length soften the shadows and extend its illumination in one direction. How linear light affects the output. The shadow objects along the length of the light are very soft, but shadows from the end of the light are focused.

We can use linear lights from fluorescent tubes, laser blasts. Line shape is not specifically needed, linear lights and it is used for general soft lighting scene they will not add as much as you’re rendering time as other types. It is similar as spherical area light .

4.2.8.MODELS SERVING AS LIGHTS:

Light effect by model serving as lights is a 3dimensional model in your scene sort of area light source. By using this model we can make a nontraditional shape of light like neon sign, it is also used as a true light sources, as shown in figure. However, bright looking objects can be made by rendering the neon sign,and also by positioning other kind of light to the surface rounding area.

Chapter 5 Indirect lighting in CG

5.1Introduction

The indirect illumination simulates caustics, global illumination and final gathering.the specification of light energy is required. To allow color the light energy is as a RGB triple. But the values of the RGB are usually much higher than the range for color. In the preprocessing step the number of photons stored from the light source is determined by STORE and the number of photons emitted is determined by EMIT. The photon emission stops when either of the limit is reached. Using the power law of 1/r(exp) energy from the light source decreases as the square of the distance increases from the source. The physical correctness is lost when the exponent is other than 2. During caustics preprocessing The number of caustics photon stored can be specified by the caustic photon value which controls it. Likewise global photon value can be specified for global illumination. The value ranges from 10,000to 100,000.by increasing the value the accuracy increases and the bluriness decreases. In indirect lighting the lights sources are invisible by default. As the number of visible lights are increased the performance is reduces.

5.2 Final Gathering (FG)

The estimation of global illumination is done by a technique called Final gathering. It can be illuminated by either sampling a number of direction over the hemisphere or by averaging the total final gather points nearby. To improve the quality of global illumination final gathering is used. Without final gathering computation on a diffused surface is made by the photon intensity near that point. With final gathering the new rays of light is are made to hit the sample hemisphere for the determination of incident illumination. Using illumination from the globillium photon map and the illumination at the points of diffused surface is computed. Some rays hit a specular surface and their contribution for final gather color is zero. Tracing each ray utilizes lot of time so it is done when it is necessary. For purely diffuse scene final gathering eliminates low frequency noise and dark corners. As the final gather averages over many values of direct illumination fewer photons are needed. Final gathering can support only a single bounce. And multiple effect have far less impact on the image. The final gathering can perform these if the shaders can adjust the trace depth, otherwise it will be performed by photons by default. To control the photons coming from distant source of light final gathering is used and is good for film production. For CAD related applications photon mapping is used. Final gathering can be turned on or off in the options. In each final gathering the number of ray shot can be changed. The maximum distance at which the ray can be used depends on the scene extent. Decreasing the scene extent can reduce the noise but increase the render time.

5.2.1.Global illumination:

Global illumination simulates the light bouncing of an object. It has two steps process. the photon emitting light emits photon in to the scene. A photon map is created to store the intensity and place of the photon in three dimensional space. Then the surfaces are illuminated. It is based on the intensity of the photon. In global illumination diffusive value is a must. In the second part of the image the actual process is rendering of the image. The energy value is averaged and these values are interpolated to get the image as the light is bouncing of the diffused surface. After perfecting the in this method, the photon map can be saved and reused. Thus we can save the time of rendering each frame, provided the scene is static.

This is the calculation of more complete light transfer model said to be global illumination. This accounts for the indirect reflected light transfer in the scene. There are two types of global illumination, one simulates the behavior of the light of perfect specular light, and the second behaves in perfect diffuse light. These are most commonly referred to ideal specular, which hold ray tracing. Perfect diffuse reflections are called an ideal diffuse reflection, which is calculated using radiosity. This technique was developed in enhancing the realism in computer images in mimicking the light transfer. In periods it developed like image synthesis (photorealism) to simulation (photo accuracy). The radiosity is computed first and the ray tracer is computed to calculate the direct illumination the same way the reflection and refraction.

5.2.3.Local Illumination

This is the direct illumination from a light source, this means a method of lighting which come form the direct visible source. This will not take full light in account; it only shows how the light affects the object that it calculates in the scene. Local illumination neglects the reflections and light propagations as its’ bounced around the environment. The light transfer simulation in local illumination computes the light only produced from its light source itself to the object that it illuminates and stops there. In a sense an incomplete light transfer’s model because it computes only the effect of direct light and cheats by the environmental lighting settings as glow to make it as reflected.[9]&[10] Local and Global

5.2.4.Ambient Light

This is a light with constant intensity setting on the scene which serves as the sum of all in the direct illumination reflections in the scene. When describing this in effect ambient light is a kind of self-glowing illumination that mimics the object-to object light reflection. It is an independent intensity for all the objects in the scene. This light was invented to fake the direct illumination interobject reflection so the image will not be dark. This setting is adjusted globally through a scene parameter or per object.

The preferable setting for ambient light in most scenes in set to be zero or low unless the object is producing light. This setting makes the fill light and the secondary lights influence in your scene more visible.

Site accessed on 19th oct [http://:jmsoler.free.fr/…/tutor/lumiere_cornell_en.htm]

Chapter 6 Ambient occlusion

6.1.Overview:

Ambient Occlusion is a lighting technique that which is used to cast shadows on objects. This is a technique used in lighting which is misunderstood as this method casts shadows on objects where light does not reach. Ambient occlusion creates or casts soft shadows around the object which gives out a molded look.

In technical terms ambient occlusion is a global illumination method and is commonly referred to as a cheap trick for alternative method of global lighting method. This technique is to get ambient light in all contacted shadows. This is where ambient occlusion comes into being as some calculate the intensity of the light setup for every work file but most don’t and the best way to overcome is to use ambient occlusion where this does all the calculation and gives a better quality render more than we can accept.

6.2.How ambient occlusion works:

Ambient occlusion is a technique which adds visual realism to the image without being physically correct. The ambient occlusion result can be used to darken concave areas, which human eye perceives as indirect illumination shadows, or contact shadows. The advantage of ambient occlusion is its computational speed. As it may be computed with very short rays and as no additional shader evaluations are required, the performance may be significantly higher than for final gathering.

6.3.Ambient occlusion gains render time:

Ambient occlusion is enabled by default. However, no actual computations will happen until requested by further settings or by shaders. The ambient occlusion cache is set off by default. In this mode, only shaders which call for ambient occlusion values will initiate computation on demand. If no such shaders exist in the scene, there is no overhead compared scenes rendered with ambient occlusion turned off. In case the ambient occlusion caching is enabled then mental ray will perform some computations before rendering starts, to fill the cache.

The global defaults for ambient occlusion settings can be specified as scene options or on the mental ray command line. Most of these values can be overwritten by a shader.

The ambient occlusion caching may be enabled for the current rendering to gain overall speed. In this case, several preprocess passes will be computed. In the first pass, some ambient occlusion points are created on a coarse grid. Subsequent passes refine the grid adaptively. The density of the grid is determined by the “ambient occlusion cache density” setting which gives the upper bound to the number of ambient occlusion points per pixel.

Site accessed on 19th oct http://download.autodesk.com/us/maya/2009help/mr/manual/ao.html

6.4.Results better than indirect light:

Ambient occlusion is the easy and quick way to get Global illumination and tell how ambient occlusion note works in texture. Ambient occlusion produce soft shadows as like real world. when two models are placed near certain amount of light will be block and u will get soft shadows at the corner of the object

Ambient occlusion adding realism and produce more details in the output and render will be fast when we compare to Final gathering and Globule illumination

Ambient occlusion refers to a type of shadowing that occurs when the ambient light in an environment is occluded (blocked) from reaching a surface by other nearby objects or other parts of the same object. You can see ambient occlusion effects in the photograph .The darkness that occurs in the cracks and crevices in the plaster design on an overcast day are a perfect example of ambient occlusion.

Ambient occlusion effects are seen in many renders created using Final Gathering. that the ambient occlusion that occurs in a Final Gathering render lacks a certain amount of detail. Unless you increase the number of Final Gathering rays, detailed ambient occlusion shadows are difficult to achieve,

and the more rays you emit into a scene, the longer the render time will be.

This latter method is the most common approach and offers the most flexibility: the occlusion pass can easily be modified in the compositing software. Eliminating the need to re-render the entire scene if a change needs to be

made. In this way you can use the ambient occlusion texture to augment the shadowing of a render pass that uses Final Gathering or as a substitute for rendering with Final Gathering

Literature: Mental ray for Maya 3ds max and XSI Livny Boaz

Literature: Maya Visual Effects: the innovator’s guide Eric Keller

Literature: Mastering maya 2009- Eric Keller

Chapter 7 Rendering

7.1 Mental Ray rendering

Mental ray rendering is capable of producing a realistic and quality image. It can render just with a single processor machine. It is achieved by advanced and proprietary acceleration technique. It achieves better performance using parallelism on multi processor machine and also on network machines. Mental ray can be used on wide range of application, such as in full length movies, games, architectural design and on virtual models. Mental ray rendering is used as a standalone application for efficient rendering on local machines and as a software library on 3D content creation and CAD systems. Mental ray has a number of standard shaders which range from basic illumination to typical materials for architectural and design, car paint to physical sun and sky lighting. Mental ray has a built-in standard models for best rendering performance and quality cover.

7.2.Rendering

Ray tracing is an option on mental ray. Ray tracing is used for rendering very complex lighting. Ray tracing software is based on ray tracing architecture which allows for the flexible implementation of lighting effect. It includes reflection, global illumination, refraction. To speed up the ray intersection calculation it uses advanced tree algorithms. From an on-demand loading of geometry it can adjust to dynamic scene manipulation. Ray trace is used to produce shadows of an object. Without the ray trace is turned on there will be no shadows. In ray tracing, the light path is tr

Irish Troubles Political Cartoons: An Analysis

The political cartoons about the Irish troubles drawn by a number of prominent cartoonists in the early 1970s differed sharply from the cartoons produced by artists during the peace process in the 1990s. Arguably this could be down to a number of factors. Firstly, cartoonists in the 1970s were much more likely to attack specific groups of people – the Irish themselves have been targets of British supremacist derision for several hundred years, and have been depicted in a derogatory light in cartoons since cartoons were first printed.

Second, the situation was considerably more grave in the 1970s than it was in the 1990s – although the IRA were still established and effective in the 1990s, the 1970s saw the most bloodshed, and therefore, it must have been very difficult to perceive what was a complex and (to some) ridiculous situation in Ireland without knocking the Irish for propagating and sustaining this idea of religious sectarianism. The complex political situation in Ireland that had arisen as a result of four hundred years of religious complexity between the dominant British Protestant landowners, who held the political reins, and the oppressed Irish Catholics, ultimately had a great impact on the British interpretation of the Irish throughout the generations, and also upon the representation of the English in Irish journalistic literature and art.

Thus, a particular view of the Irish came to be represented in the British media, which tended to emerge whenever there were specific troubles within Ireland or else among the Irish in Britain. These stereotypes, especially of the Irish, can be said to be at their most potent during the time of the political troubles in Ireland. The resultant swathe of political cartoons that were printed on a regular basis in the daily newspapers in both Ireland and Britain, particularly during the political unrest and violence of the early 1970s, tended to push the Irish into a subcategory of their own, denied of their identity as autonomous individuals, subjected and represented by a more dominant political force, namely, the English.

The history of the cartoon in respect of this tradition of Irish caricaturing is interesting, as it reveals a rich history of treating the Irishman as a figure of derision and ridicule – however, it is more interesting to note that this figure changed throughout the years and, especially with the increase of militancy among the grass-roots of Irish working class communities, saw the emergence of the cartoon depiction of the Irishman as a simian, bestial, uncivilised caricature, often wielding knifes and other implements, and driven by a fervid passion to kill, much like zombies from a horror film.

The history of political cartoons goes back to the eighteenth century. However, technological developments in photography changed the nature of cartoons at the turn of the century, in many ways shaping the type of cartoon we see in newspapers nowadays: Fitzgerald, in Art and Politics (1973) argues that: “[The photograph] simply replicated the surface structure of life; it did not normally give it a ‘depth’ of interpretation or meaning.” Thus, the photograph didn’t entirely remove the need for the political cartoon, and in a sense, established the medium of the cartoon as a more biting representation of political and social malaises: “The political cartoon on the other hand sought to disrupt daily life, to make jokes and stage whispers and asides at the process if everyday life. […] The political cartoon was by its nature more subversive [than the photograph].”

So, the nature of the political cartoon is to satirize and to comment upon, using visual imagery and caricature, the complexities of the cartoonist’s imagination / ideological persuasions. The effect of satirising political situations, and the placing of topical events into the medium of the cartoon, at least according to the cartoonists themselves, is largely arbitrary in its effect on the population: “Measuring the extent of the cartoonist’s influence on public opinion is a much more difficult, if not impossible task. […] Many cartoonists are […] dubious about its power.” Conversely, however, governments have always stepped in to control the production and the distribution of subversive cartoons.

This suggests that they do possess a certain amount of impact when discussing or lampooning political leaders and people of significance: “French caricaturists of the 1830s who dared mock King Louis Philippe were fined and imprisoned; New York cartoonists’ criticisms of municipal corruption prompted government officials to attempt to pass an anti-cartoon law in 1897; and even in the modern era, when political cartoonists are prizes rather than prison sentences, satirists in totalitarian states have suffered harsh censure.”

Indeed, some of the more subversive work of cartoonists have frequently stirred up controversy, especially concerning the representation of the Irish in British cartoons. In “The Irish”, by cartoonist for the Evening Standard, JAK, the representation of the Irish caused controversy that, with Ken Livingstone’s recent “Nazi” comments about the Evening Standard, continues to plague the political scene today: “…none can excuse the fact that [‘The Irish’] represents one of the most appalling examples of anti-Irish cartoon racism since the Victorian era. […] As a result of complaints made by many people in Britain, the Greater London Council, under its leader Ken Livingstone, withdrew its advertising from the Standard and demanded a full apology, which was refused.”

The cartoon itself equates the Irish with death and barbarism, with the words: “The Ultimate in Psychopathic Horror: The Irish”. Although angered by the IRA bombings and the killing of innocents, this inability to describe the political complexities of the Irish, reducing them instead to a monstrous racial stereotype, not altogether unique in the cartoons of the time, tends to simplify, and thus promote Irish resentment during the period. However, in the second period I will be discussing in this piece, namely the late 1990s, the cartoons drawn by people like Martyn Turner during the peace process of the John Major and Tony Blair governments differ wildly from this tendency to demonise and / or denigrate the entire nation of Ireland – instead the cartoonists eye is drawn to subversive representations of the bureaucracy and the players within that complex and impenetrable political chess game that the Irish peace process became in the eyes of the public.

The cartoons drawn, generally, seem less provoked by Irish or British resentment, and more represent a more benign form of political satire, that being the politics of government rather than the (sometimes militaristic) persuasions of the Irish population. The crude and hurtful Irish stereotype as barbaric, brutish and stupid are discarded – instead, the governmental players are the main focus for the satirists eye.

There was a period in the early 1970s when an impending civil war in Ireland seemed inevitable, with clashes between British paramilitary and Loyalist groups in a state of near-war. “A number of paramilitary organisations were formed in Protestant working-class areas to counter-balance the activities of the Provisionals and carry out attacks on Catholic areas. As the IRA increased its campaign of shootings and bombings, 1972 became the most violent year of the Troubles with 467 deaths in Northern Ireland, 321 of which were civilian casualties.”

The work of the cartoonists of the period assumed a similarly grave and polemical nature, as often the caricaturists and the cartoonists of the period would be divided between Catholic / Protestant, as well as down British / Irish lines. The problems with British intervention as “peacekeepers” culminated in the “Bloody Sunday” massacre of 30 January 1972, where British troops opened fire on unarmed catholic protesters: “It was in January 1972 that the British Army shot and killed thirteen civilians in Derry, writing another disaster into Anglo-Irish history. ‘Bloody Sunday’, as it was called, was commemorated twenty years later in 1992 with bitterness and anger.”

The representation of the British paramilitary presence in Ireland divided cartoonists, and the culmination of the supposed folly of British intervention in Northern Ireland reached boiling point with Bloody Sunday. Thus, politics and ideology in 1970s reached such a stage that generalisation and ignorance about the Irish situation abounded, signalling a return to the grotesque caricaturing seen in Punch in Victorian times. The political complexities, difficult as they were to sum up in a simple argument, were thus heavily simplified by a number of British cartoonists, and this gross simplification often led to the demonisation of the Irish as a whole. This is demonstrated by both the cartoons of Cummings and in the highly controversial cartoon, “The Irish”, printed in the Evening Standard, in which all Irish citizens are tarred with the same brush.

Again this differs greatly from the work of Martyn Turner, who I will focus on in greater depth; his cartoons are steeped in the complexities of the Irish situation, the bureaucratic and political turmoil of the Irish peace process in the 1990s, and its eventual resolution in a ceasefire. Thus, the body of Martyn Turner’s work in a sense tells us how the political cartoon, especially the market for this particular brand of political cartoon has changed from representing the opinion of the ignorant masses, to enlightening and stimulating an informed few.

Martyn Turner strays away from the traditions of social stereotyping, choosing instead to focus on the political bureaucracy and its many players. His cartoons are effective on a number of distinct levels, and his work is predominantly concerned with satirizing political institutions and their players, rather than making sweeping and hurtful gestures about a whole group of people. Especially from the overtly racist work of the 1970s, we see a resurgence of the Irishman as a simian stereotype, who is either drawn to carnage and violence, or else is too stupid to conduct his own affairs with any degree of control. In Cummings work of the early 1970s, we see the Irish represented as racial stereotypes.

In this dissertation, I will look firstly at the development of this stereotype, how it developed from an idealised representation of Ireland in the 18th century, to the myth of stupid, impulsive, apelike creatures in publications such as Punch in the mid-nineteenth century. From this I will then turn to representations of the Irish (and of the British involvement in Ireland) in the 1970s, looking especially at pieces of work that explicitly and blatantly attack Irish culture, using a stereotype that is both broadly racist, the only effect of which is to emphasise the lack of understanding and the bigotry in which a great swathe of British citizenry lived.

History of Stereotypes in Cartoons

James Gillray (1757-1815) is widely reputed as being the first great British cartoonist. In his work, the notion of the Irish as simian tends to prevail, and they, along with the French, are seen as barbaric, stupid, tokens of “otherness” that one tends to associate with any representation of a minority and / or, a barbaric outsider. In “United Irishmen upon Duty”, printed on 12 June 1798, Gillray attacks the dissident Irishmen: “It depicts the rebel United Irishmen as mere agents of destruction and pillage, without political or moral principles. […] The cartoon is one of several in which Gillray simianises the belligerent Irish.”

Thus, the reduction of the Irish to bestial stereotypes has a long history, that frequently makes a return whenever there is a reason for projecting hatred or condescension onto the Irish nation. In “Paddy on Horseback”, Gillray encapsulates the view of the Irish as stupid. In the picture, the Irishman has unkempt hair and a protruding jaw, however, he still possesses human, rather than simian features: O’Connor suggests that: “The early cartoons from the 18th century are openly racist, portraying the Irish as ignorant peasants – barefoot, ragged and thick.” Indeed, the image of the Irishman as a figure to poke fun at, and to label as the typical “fool” of caricature continues in a rich vein in British cartoons dating from this period.

Slightly later, George Cruikshank uses the Irish to poke fun at. In “The Two Irish Labourers”, which features two Irishmen climbing a ladder and getting mixed up, “George Cruikshank […] illustrates the antiquity of the English view of the Irish as objects of laughter and derision.” This cartoon isn’t political in its persuasion, but merely points out that, traditionally, and as the millions of jokes and put-downs featuring Irishmen in the punchline, the Irish could be used effectively to represent a typical stupid or ignorant person, who gets things mixed up or wrong. Thus, the re-emergence of these traditional Irish representations in the 1970s, when contextualised in a rich history of Irish racism, isn’t particularly surprising.

Punch magazine, published in the 1840s, became widely famous for its derogatory representation of the Irish as silly, warmongering, and ignorant, and signalled another re-emergence of this historical Irish stereotype, this time, and thanks to the scientific identification of racial stereotypes, the Irishman became more linked to representations of the Negro in mass art than to the civilised, aristocratic Brit. Thus, in Harper’s weekly in 1898, the Negro, with protruding jaw, upturned nose and large eyes, according to this very subjective illustration, actually equates the perception of the Irishman with the perception of the Negro. By contrast, the profile of an “Anglo-Teutonic” appears in the centre, and, with long nose, strong jawline and fairer hair, appears less simian in appearance.

This representation of the Irishman as a Negro, who is frequently seen as being untrustworthy, rapacious and animalistic in persuasion, is resurrected by a number of cartoonists in the 1970s as an ideal way of explaining, or at least glossing over the complex nature of the Irish situation. In “What was so marvellous…” by Cummings, he represents the current political situation in Ireland as a n exercise in British colonialism. Edward Heath and, then Home Secretary Reginald Maudling sit at a desk with a soldier on top of a map of Ireland. In the background, a soldier is seen walking through India, Cyprus, Kenya and Malaya.

The caption underneath reads: “What was so marvellous about the rest of the British Commonwealth was that we could always leave it.” The superiority with which Cummings regards Britain in relation to Ireland is striking, insofar as it essentially depicts Ireland as a dispossessed, colonized country, and glosses over the significant problems that the presence of British troops in Ireland actually caused. Of course, this view has some historical significance.

The governing elite in Ireland following the invasion in 1690 laid the foundations for a Protestant Ireland for nearly two centuries, and those in charge of Irish affairs were essentially protestants descended from English colonialists, using parliament to enact stifling and repressive legislation against the catholics, which culminated in removing the right for catholics to own land. This of course led up to the potato famine, which killed millions. Thus, the colonialist implications of Cummings’ cartoon flippantly portrays a reality in a fairly hurtful and bitter way.

In Apes and Angels, an overview of how the caricature developed in British cartooning, Curtis Jr. suggests that: “During the first two-thirds of the nineteenth century the stereotypical Paddy or Teague of English cartoon and caricature underwent a significant change. In sharp contrast to the regular, even handsome features of the ‘wild Irishman’ or woodkern of the Elizabethan and early Stuart period, such as may be found in abundance in John Derricke’s The Image of Irelande, with a discoverie of Woodkarne, first published in 1581, and different too, from the brutish, slovenly faces of Irish peasants appearing in prints dating from the reign of George III, the dominant Victorian stereotype of Paddy looked far more like an ape than a man.”

This reduction of the Irishman to animal is one that begins to return sporadically when the political situation gets grave once again in the 1970s. In these cartoons, often the complexity of the political situation is whitewashed, or else no attempt whatsoever is made to describe the Irish problem in terms of satire or a representation of different sectors of Irish society: conveniently, the Irish are placed into one single melting-pot, with no distinction or difference made between Catholicism, Protestantism, or of any of the different groups or classes that were at play in the turmoil that led up to bloody Sunday. Curtis Jr. suggests that the sudden stereotyping of the Irish may have been as a result of politics of a different type – namely, immigration:

“There was nothing specifically Irish about a projecting lower jaw until the 1840s, when thousands of Irish immigrants were pouring into England and Scotland, most of them destitute and many of them diseased.” So, much like modern views and prejudices surrounding asylum seekers, as well as Jews in the 1930s, the right-wing presses also found their target in Victorian times, namely, the Irish. This introduction of class into the issue adds another level of complexity to the issue. Often, the fighting Irishmen are seen crammed together into terrace houses, itself a sign of working-class life and a form of living regarded by the more middle-class newspapers as being inherently intolerable, just as their barbarity was regarded as stupid, brash and ignorant in Victorian issues of Punch. Thus, Curtis Jr., says that “The antecedents of this stereotype were just as widespread as the conviction in England and Scotland that the Irish were inherently inferior and quite unfit to manage their own affairs.”

Indeed, the superimposition of ideas onto the Irish is in itself exacerbated by the caricaturing of the entirity of the Irish race, essentially robbing them of the individuality of their own voices and subsequently their own autonomy. Punch magazine spearheaded a movement to caricature and derogate the Irish in cartoons: “…it soon became clear that Irishmen, in particular the more politicized among then, were the favourite target of both writers and cartoonists. Marion H. Spielmann, the chronicler of Punch, wrote that the comic weekly acquired a reputation for being anti-Irish during and after the 1850s.” An example of this anti-Irish sentiment can be found in John Leech’s “Young Ireland in Business for Himself” (August 22, 1846), in which a grotesque monster sells blunderbuss’s next to the sign “pretty little pistols for pretty little children.”

Thus, we are given the preconception that the Irish are violent, stupid and ugly. In John Tenniel’s “The Irish Frankenstein”, a sophisticated, British man tries to stave off a giant beast holding a bloodied knife. Thus, the bestial, simian qualities of the caricature emerge. This is especially pointed when the Irishman begins to demand autonomy: “When Irishman turned to political agitation and began to demand an end to British rule, then Punch changed his tune, and, according to Spielmann, the artists began to ‘picture the Irish political outrage-mongering peasant as a cross between a garrotter and a gorilla.’” Thus, perhaps the simionisation of the Irish stereotype is more as a result of the politicisation of the Irish working-class, which presumably the British cartoonist, especially one working for Punch, a deeply conservative publication, would feel threatened by. Thus, we have to also consider notions of class, as well as racial stereotyping: “The only Celt to be flattered and admired by Punch’s cartoonists was ‘Hibernia,’ the intensely feminine symbol of Ireland, whose haunting beauty conveyed some of the sufferings of the Irish people.

In The Fenian-Pest, published in Punch on March 3, 1866, Hibernia turns to her sister, Brittania as a grotesque, derogatory rendition of an Irishman peers at her with animalistic desire. Wallach suggests that: “Tenniel, depicts the rebellious Irishmen, those ‘troublesome people,’ as ape-like and unkempt. The main Irish character glares menacingly at Britannia, with his mouth agape and a sword-like weapon partially concealed under his coat. Behind him are other Fenians, chaotically amassed and presumably anxious to make trouble. Here the stereotype of Irishmen as violent, simian and disorganized reveals itself.” Indeed it is interesting the Hibernia, the only character that is celebrated in Punch, or at least not attacked on grounds of racial profiling, is one that is divorced from the traditionally masculine realm of political persuasion. In this particular cartoon, she is seen in the pose of desperately running from the Irish monster, and this traditional of derogation of the Irishman, especially the politicised Irishman, continues throughout history, making a controversial reappearance during the political conflicts of the 1970s.

Cummings, who drew cartoons in the 1970s for the Daily Express, uses similar prejudices to generate humour in a situation regarded by the British as increasingly confused. In “We’re pagan missionaries…”, Cummings depicts a group of pagans, coming over the sea and saving the Irish from their imminent self-destruction. The caption at the bottom reads: “We’re Pagan missionaries come to try and make peace among the bloodthirsty Christians.”

The Irishmen are shown crammed together, on the opposite sides of a terrace block, and details include a lop-sided dustbin, and a sign in the middle of the street, reading: “Cage: To keep the wild animals apart.” Again we return to the generally held perception of Irishmen as a race of sub-human animals: “The Cummings cartoon reflects this British incomprehension in its depiction of primitive tribesmen arriving to reconcile the barbarous Irish, who seem intent on tearing each other apart. The racist implication is that black, presumably African, tribesmen are more civilised than the Christian Northern Irish, who have now slipped below even primitive pagans in their innate barbarity.” Thus, Cummings seems to extract his political humour mainly from the use of stereotype and conceptions of otherness.

The British army is seen ironically as a pagan tribe, which obviously alludes to the primitive tribes that the Britishers colonised in the past. Therefore, the Irish are depicted as being even more primitive than this. Cummings’ cartoon ideas are steeped in the long tradition of pompous anti-Irish cartoons and jokes. “The cartoon […] reinforces stereotypical notions of the Irish as violent and blacks as primitive, and makes no attempt to convey any understanding of the underlying causes of conflict other than religious bigotry.” This is a reflection of a commonly held view about the political situation in Ireland. It seemed baffling to some of the British that two essentially Christian religions should be fighting, and the cartoons by Cummings highlights this innate superiority that the British has by portraying itself as heroes in trying to resolve the Irish conflict. Similarly, Cummings sides again with the British army in “How Marvellous it would be…”, printed in the Daily Express, on 12 August 1970.

Cummings naively treats the British influence in Ireland as completely benign. A beaten up solider stands between two monsters, one of which is wearing a t-shirt called “Ulster Catholics”, the other called “Ulster Protestants”. They run for each other, as the soldier, more diminutive in presence and, in case we didn’t know his nationality, sports a Union Jack on his forehead. Over his head towers a plethora of miscellany – socks, broken bottles and rocks – again, the two warring factions are apelike, bestial and violent in nature. The caption underneath reads “How marvellous it would be if they DID knock each other insensible!”. Thus, the patronising and condescending nature of the cartoon asserts itself more. “The implication underlying both cartoons is that the irrational nature of the Irish question can only be explained through some form of racial madness.”

Indeed, the racial implications, coupled with the inability, or reluctance to try and articulate and represent the complexities of the Irish situation in an easily digestible format, assists in depriving Ireland of a voice – of seeing Ireland and the Irish as a colonised island, once more exacerbating catholic (and protestant – the shifting of parliament to Westminster had the effect of causing offence to both Unionists and building support in working class catholic areas for the I.R.A.) tensions; furthermore adding support to the notion that Britain was indeed an occupying force in Ireland, and that the only means from which the British could be removed from Ireland was through paramilitary force.

Cummings later said that the IRA’s violence “make them look like apes – though that’s rather hard luck on the apes.” Of course, Cummings views on the IRA, their uses of violence and barbarism would never be particularly popular, but Cummings doesn’t even try to consider their opinions, and lowers himself instead to racial stereotyping and bigotry.

The cartoon by Cummings is rendered especially naïve by the events of ‘Bloody Sunday’. Of course, this stereotype has been resurrected many times since the 18th century, but, during Victorian times something in particular happened to the representation of the Irishman. According to Douglas, R., et al.: “The equation between militant Irish nationalism and a savage bestial nature achieved its apogee […] in the Punch cartoons of the Victorian era.” And this bestial nature was resurrected whenever war or conflict required an easily categorised and common enemy.

Certainly the most politically controversial cartoon drawn during the Anglo-Irish conflict was “The Irish” by JAK, for the Evening Standard on 29 October 1982. In it, a bystander is seen looking at an enormous billboard poster. It says: “Emerald Isle snuff movies present the ultimate in psychopathic horror”, then in enormous letters underneath, “The Irish”. The image seems designed to both shock and to reinforce the traditional stereotype of the Irish as bestial and bloodthirsty. A horde of Irish stereotypes, bloated and bestial, wielding daggers, drills, dynamite, saws and other crude forms of weaponry all fight in a orgiastic frenzy over a hill of graves. The caption underneath on the poster says: “Featuring the I.R.A., I.N.L.A., U.D.F., P.F.F., U.D.A., etc. etc.”.

Thus, every political group of every political persuasion is placed under the same violent and caricatured image of Irish barbarity. It is apparent that the cartoon would be controversial. “’The Irish’, featuring a cast of degenerate nationalist and loyalist paramilitaries, whose initials appear at the bottom of the poster. Not only is there no attempt to explain Irish political complexities or distinguish between different paramilitary groups, the cartoonist irresponsibly homogenises the Irish as a race of psychopathic monsters who delight in violence and bloodshed.” The political reaction to this cartoon had far-reaching implications, and the Evening Standard had advertising money cut from London Council, then headed by Ken Livingstone, if a full apology wasn’t issued, which wasn’t.

It is apparent that the power of the cartoon to shock and to provoke resonates profoundly through political circles, certainly as regards the more overtly racist images of Irish paramilitary groups, that depict an Irish nation that is both stupid, confused, poor and drawn genetically to acts of barbarity and violence. “One notable feature of some British cartoons about the troubles is their tendency to resurrect the simian stereotype to present a view of republican and loyalist paramilitaries as sub-human psychopaths, a feature which merely served to perpetuate British ignorance and misunderstanding of the complex nature of the conflict.”

Indeed, ignorance of the complexities of the political situation in Ireland, indeed, an absolute denial of the British influence and the disruption in Ireland, led to strengthening the anti-Irish fervour, and many cartoonists that used this idea for a cheap joke, may have done unnecessary harm to the establishment of peace among Loyalists, and the Irish in general already racked with anti-British tension. Although the cartoon cannot be justified entirely, it can certainly be contextualised by the political situation at the time the cartoon appeared:

“[The Irish] appeared at a time when paramilitary violence showed no sign of abating and when Anglo-Irish relations were still strained as a result of the southern government’s ‘neutral’ attitude towards Britain during the Falklands war. In July, two IRA bombs in London had killed eight people and injured over fifty others.”

Indeed, it is interesting that, when political and social situations are most strained, the simian stereotype re-emerges in cartoons. Overall, the simianisation of the Irish in cartoons has had a long historical legacy that dates back as far as the history of the political cartoon itself. In a situation of conflict, especially considering the supposed lack of knowledge surrounding the Irish situation in the 1970s, many of the cartoons represent this tendency towards returning to the historical stereotype of the Irish as bestial, monstrous sub-human, whose thirst for blood remains intrinsically linked to the racial characteristics of the people.

The representation of the British presence in Ireland, especially with the work of Cummings, and JAK, is seen in turns as a fruitless endeavour designed to bring peace to a nation that stubbornly clings to the historical notion of religious difference, or else are innately drawn to barbarity. Although these were not the only cartoons represented at the time, and there were some more sympathetic representations of the Irish situation, that tried to explain in pictures and simple captions the complexity of a political situation in Ireland, this return to the overtly, explicitly racist was definitely a theme in the 1970s cartoons, and served either to reflect the general confusion prevalent at the time concerning the troubles in Ireland, or else exacerbated this confounded hostility towards the Irish in general that certain sections of the British population must have felt.

Political Representations of the 1970s Crisis in Ireland

The Irish representations of the conflict differ insofar as they offer the viewer of the cartoon a more balanced, albeit anti-British view of the political conflict during the crisis. Gerald Scarfe provides a more sensitive body of work than what was usual in the British press during the time of the political troubles in Ireland. In “Untitled”, printed in the Sunday Times on 14 March 1971, blood runs into a lake from three graves on a hill, there to represent the deaths of three soldiers, two of which were lured into a pub and killed by the provisional I.R.A., the militant arm of the I.R.A. A crack in the dam pours blood onto a peaceful community, and provides another perspective on the Irish troubles in the 1970s that go beyond that of stereotype, confusion and resentment, instead providing a sympathetic and tender view of the events. Indeed, the representation of the political struggles at the time, in cartoons could be both chillingly regressive, and inspired – of course, the Irish conflict polarised opinion, insofar as the lines could be drawn down difference between the British and the Irish, or else Protestant and Catholic fronts.

This tendency to promote one particular view of the events highlights the struggle that cartoonists must have found when trying to find humour beyond the resentment and the anger at both the violence, which some people, especially in Britain, saw as unnecessary, and a particularly

Origins of Visual Expression in Art

In this dissertation, I will research the origins of visual expression, firstly asking why was it made, and who was it made for? I will then be looking for the earliest examples of where visual expression was found and then be moving onto how western art was developed and controlled though the early centuries in Europe. Then focusing on how one artist (Marcel Duchamp) chanced how institutions and art galleries could value art and lead the way for the future artists.

Finally, this will bring me onto look at the emergence of the YBA’S (Young British Artists) and the dynamics of their surroundings which would evidently lead to their success in the international art world, helped by the modern systems of mass media, written medias and public opinion.

In this, I will investigate the relationship between visual and modern day language mediums thought discourse, with an added envious on my own personal experience though the viewing of the art works in the exhibition at Liverpool Tate ‘Bad art for bad people’? by Dino and Jake Chapman (13th December 2006 ‘“ 4th March 2007), also including another artist who was the forerunner of the YBA movement and who would later become the YBA pin up, Damien Hurst. I will look how Damien Hurst used the systems of the media, being, news papers, Magazine columns, visual media and mass audiences, to make his own unique stamp in the art world.

I will look how the YBA’S became into the international limelight during the late 1980’s and 1990’s, helped with the guidance and backing of the advertising mogul Charles Saatchi, and his effect on the mass audience of the British public and aboard, making the YBA movement a success in the worldwide art scene.

Marcel Duchamp

To study how Marcel Duchamp’s artistic practices gave such controversy though-out the art world, arising the nature of art itself and what we view, and value as art. I will study the work ‘ The Fountain’? (1917) and how it can be singled out as the bench mark for future contemporary art practice of today, firstly looking upon the history of Marcel Duchamp’s life up to the point of his work ‘ The fountains’? creation and existence in 1917.

(3A) Marcel Duchamp’s ‘Fountain 1917’? www.google.com/fountain.gif/cwru.edu

Marcel Duchamp was born into world, in 1913, the French writer Charles Peguy Remarked, ‘The world has changed less since the time of Jesus Christ than it has in the last thirty years.’? (18) He was speaking of all the conditions of western capitalist society: its ideas, its sense of history, its beliefs, modes of production, and its art.

Born on the 28th July 1887 in Blainville, near Rouen in France, He was the brother of Raymond Duchamp-Villon, the sculptor, and of Suzanne Duchamp, the poetess and also half- brother of Jacques Villon. He began to paint in 1908 and at the age of 22 Duchamp was a member of ‘The golden circle’? a painter’s circle, which included Metzinger, Leger, and Picabia, He was painting in the style of Cubism and futurism, which is shown his work ‘nude descending a staircase,’? painted in 1912. (19)

In 1913 Duchamp exhibited this work in the New York Armoury show, in which it was the much more ridiculed work at the show. In 1912 when he painted ‘Nude descending a staircase’? Duchamp said, ‘that painting is washed up’?. (20) In abandoning painting, he said, ‘I want something where the eye counts for nothing.’? At this point the Duchampian revolution consists of the notion of the ‘ready-made’?. (20)

This term describes common objects with or without modification that were relocated in museums and galleries. The term ‘objet trouve’? first was first recorded in a letter to his sister Susanne Duchamp in 1913. (21)

The earliest readymade of Duchamp’s was the Bicycle wheel of 1913. This consisted of a bicycle wheel fixed onto a wooden stool. These readymades ojects were mass produced objects with common uses such as snow shovels and bottle racks which Duchamp would then sign. He would give the objects names that were totally irrelevant for their practical use.

In 1915, Duchamp went to the USA for the first time. (22) The USA now better developed than Europe in technology, communications and now had the tallest building in the world. Soon, Duchamp settled and became the centre of a group of painters round the ‘Stieglitz’? gallery in which the group adopted the ‘anti-art’? attitude as with Zurich Dadaism. (23)

In 1917, Duchamp sent his mass- produced urinal, (readymade) called ‘fountain’? to New York, (where the first show for the society of independent artist was held. Simply called ‘independent show’?, (24) signed with the name ‘R.Mutt’?, it was nothing but a common urinal. The work that was signed with a false name and exhibited on its back became centre to an unrealistic approach and was pulled out of the exhibition. The theory behind the readymade explained in an article, anonymous but believed to be by Duchamp himself in defence to his alter-ego, Mr Mutt, In the May 1917 issue of the avent- garde magazine ‘ The Blind Man’?, run by Duchamp and his two friends, printed this text.

‘Whether Mr Mutt with his own hands made the fountain or not has no importance. He chose it. He took an ordinary article of life, and placed it so that its useful significance disappeared under the new title and point of view-created a new thought for that object. ‘There are three important points here: First that the choice of the object is itself creative act. Secondly, that by cancelling the ‘useful’? function of an object it becomes art. Thirdly, that the presentation and addition of the object have given it ‘a new thought’?, a new meaning’? (25).

Duchamp’s readymade also asserted the principle that, art is defined by the artist. The idea of art is made in the artists mind as a concept for their personal perspective of how their world is interpreted. This is true for every person, as everyone can think of ways an object means more than its physical form. This is also true of objects that have sentimental value. In any place the owner has the object in owe of what it represents regard of its space. As objects of no meaning are only then represented by the space the object inhabits.

Marcel Duchamp gave the world a diverse outlook on the way art and the object could be perceived and portrayed in society, therefore leaving the door of the art world and its individuals open to create and develop concepts and ideas of art, which left the old institutions and practices to be questioned and revaluated.

From abstract expression to the YBA’S, Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain can be seen as a turning point in the ideas of where art can take the artists and the viewer. This can be seen none more so than the young graduate group of British artists of the late 1980’s to take the international art world by storm, they were later to be known as the YBA’S.

Duchamp’s single act of artistic expression changed the way we could view art but to explain this he had to enforce it with words. Discourse and written language had more importance now rather than just the documentation of visual art and its history. Written language now became a factor in which works of art were viewed, and with the evolution of the tabloids and the mass media would become intertwined feeding off each other for publicity, good or bad.

Russian Folk Dance: History and Relationship with Ballet

Introduction

1.1 Background Information

Russian people think that the Russian dance is a celebration of their lives. Russian folk dance and folk music discloses the feeling and an expression of spirituality. The visit to Russia is becoming an experience of this new land. Russia is known as an attractive destination due to the scary size along with an interesting history of Europe. It is considered as an ultimate tourist destination and the country is one third part of European countries with the diverse musical background. Russian dances are full of individual and huge performers (Chitranshi, 2009). Russian dances are the human activities which constitutes all properties about human. Thus Russian dance exists at this land along with their terminology, sayings, proverbs and conversations. In Russia, classical ballet is a ruler. There is no training for the modern dances and also there is no performance space along with some modern schools. Russian folk dance was common among the peasants, commoners and the lower class people living outside the city (earlier than the rule of Peter). The higher class people did not dance but they were getting pleasure from the enjoyable performances of dancing trainers.

The major differentiation among social classes within the culture of Russian dance took place as a historical event. That attack had broken the people’s way to live life and it also it changed the progress of Russian dances by stumbling its logical sequences. Russian classical ballet dance is very popular dance all around the world and it remained very popular since the nineteenth century (Chitranshi, 2009).

1.2 Aims and Objectives

The researcher here aims to understand the concept of Russian folk dance and the reason for conversion of this into Russian Ballet dance. While the objective of this study is to analyse the concept of folk dance in Russia and various types of Russian dances which are famous in the country.

1.3 Research Questions

In order to attain aims and objectives of the research, researcher has designed below stated research questions:-

  • What are the various forms of folk dance in Russia?
  • What is the history attached with Russian folk dance?
  • How did Russian folk dance transformed to Ballet dance?
  • How the dance, as source of entertainment had converted into professional dance?
  • Who are the famous people linked to Russian folk and Ballet dance?

1.4 Russian ballet

The actual ballet dance did not invent in Russia but the country has contributed very much for its development and currently Russian ballet has gained popularity all over the world. Various ballet dance performers along with the ballet companies have raised out of Russia and ballet theatres are attracting people in larger number. Ballet came into Russia during 1700s and in 1734, first ballet school was introduced (AlbrÑ–ght & Danіеl 2004). After few years, an imperial school of St. Petersburg found first Ballet Company in Russia. It was first dominated by Italian and Russian dances as well as chorographers. In 1800s Russia’s Ballet dance incorporated some ideas from folk dancing. The higher class people did not increase and promote the art by supporting some companies. The French choreographer named as Marius Petipa and he was renowned for inventing ballet of Tchaikovsky. Russian ballet took place and observed in new era in the 20th century. It has been identified in previous studies that Michel Fokine (choreographer), Vaslav Nijinksy (dancer), Sergey Diaghilev and Alexandre Benois (designer) set up the ballet company in Russia. At that point of time, superb dancer Anna Pavlova was taking the place. At present Russian ballet is known throughout the world and attracting lots of visitors. There is several ballet companies are operated in Russia such as Kremlin Ballet, Perm ballet and Imperial Russian ballet academy. The well known cities have established their own ballet orchestras and theatres and that are focused by number of supporters. The role of Russian ballet to the classical dances cannot be undervalued. It has been known from past many decades and considered as the indicator of the classical dance. It leads other type of dances. Young girls are becoming ballerinas and their dreams have been powered by the famous Russian dancers. Thus Russian ballet dance has captivated large number of audiences all around the globe.

1.5 Contribution of choreographers

1.5.1 Vaslav Nijinsky

This choreographer is renowned as the male dancer of all times and he has also called the god of dance (Parker and Derek, 1988). After the long time of female dominance in the field of ballet, he overtook the ballet dancers of those times such as Pavlova, Karsavina and Kschеssіnska established superiority in the within the male dance stage in twentieth century. His career in the ballet dance field has ended from past ten years due to his mental disease. But legendary of Nijinsky will continue until the appearance of such type personality who will overtake the ballet generation. Pole became the hero of an imperial Maryinsky theatre just after completing his studies from St. Petersburg school at the age of 18 years. He was the inspiration for the ballets in the western side. Then Fokine invented ballets for Nijinsky and other people like Ravel, Debussy and Stravinsky prepared music for him (Albrіght, Danіеl 2004).

At the time of First World War, Nijinsky as a Russian citizen was interned in Hungry. Diaghilev got success in getting him out of the country for the purpose to visit North American tour in 1916 and then he choreographed his main part in Till Eulenspiegel. Indicators of dementia praecox became clear for the members of the company and then became sacred of other dancers (Anthony, 2002). The first ballet of Nijinsky named as “L’Après-mÑ–dÑ– d’un Faunеâ€? has become a milestone within the history of ballet Russes of Diaghilev. That ballet was marked near to the period in which Fokine was the biggest dancer. Thus the dancer Nijinsky emerged as a choreographer and his thoughts stimulated the doubts raised by Diaghilev and it ran contradictory to the classical folk dances of Russia. The production of first ballet was totally based some choreographic scores and they were recorded by Nijinsky in his dance entry system. It remained for many years and he became unavailable due to his mental illness for reproducing the work.

1.5.2 Michel Fokine

Michel Fokine got training from the Imperial school in St. Petersburg and then he joined Ballet Russes of Diaghilev in 1909. Then he went to United States in the year 1923 where he performed for the American Ballet theatre and Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Fokine considered some artificial as well as random traditions along with the methods and techniques for expressive and natural choreographic styles. This style is known as the recurrent topic in the field of ballet dance. His new ideas and thoughts led the success of the Diaghilev Company. He choreographed so many ballets and Chopiniana that led Balanchine for trying the ballets which became his brand name. The classical ballet dance or folk dance has become unlimited since the days of Fokine and the people thinks that his choreography is old fashioned. So his ballets remained unproductive and suffered from deformation. He was surprised and shocked that it would happen in his career (Michel Fokine, 2011).

1.5.3 Petipa along with the Russian Ballet

Marius Petipa was the leading dancer and the choreographer along with the ballet of St. Petersburg in the year 1962. At that time he invented multi- acted ballet for the imperial theatre of Tsar. That ballet gave directions to other ballets and it was considered as classical ballet. In 1869, Petipa took the position of the master of ballet to the Tsar’s imperial theatre. Then he created so many single and multi act ballets for the presentation on the Russian stages. Then he created and developed Don Quixote type for the ballet in Moscow. He choreographed large number of dances along with numerous types of ballets.

1.6 Russian Ballet & Pushkin

The present days consider importance of Russian ballet at quite a notable rate. Bolshoi and Maryinsky are among the most renowned companies and training schools for teaching of ballet. These are well known all across the world for their remarkable practices. It is appreciable to note that the tradition of Russia is into existence even in present era. The firmness among dancers and choreographers along with the support by audience has resulting in attainment of this position. However, the past of virile nature represents the main factor for survival of this dance. The ballet of Russia was imported from France though; it admiringly attained its own position in the culture and dance. The dancers and choreographers of Russia considered themselves as equivalent to that of Western countries. However, Alexander Pushkin was the main cause for writing style by Russia.

The involvement of this man had resulted in portrayal of characters and story telling by utilizing themes of Russia that fits with the stage and survived for more than two centuries for Russian ballet. Western Europe was the main contributor to Russian ballet dance since the nineteenth century. However, the end of nineteenth century has resulted in formation of Russian ballet dance that differentiates itself from all over the world and become a leader in the arena. Didelot, the person well known as “Russian Ballet’s fatherâ€? (Steinberg, 1980), in the year 1816 along with explored Pushkin also termed as talent at local level, Russia started making strides for development of its unique form of ballet dance.

There was overlap between the Didelot and Pushkin’s era at St Petersburg for Imperial ballet. In comparison to the ballet dance of Western European countries, ballet dance of Russia lied far behind in the field of art. Talented Didelot along with Pushkin had resulted in foundation of unique dance of Russian ballet. In spite of the reason that these two individuals were not able to see the domination of Russian ballet, but they deserved appreciation for their efforts. The main characteristics for Russian ballet include as follows (Nickles & Kalman, 2008):-

There is an opposition existing between gender and nationality. Here nationality means the Western European and Russian region.

Story’s location for Russians

Music composition of Russians

Attitude against nation to reflect work of individuals.

Unique dancing steps supported by choreography illustrating special characteristics for Russian dancing.

On unfolding the ballet dance of Russia, the efforts by Pushkin in his development is influenced. The composition of music and theatrical efforts had been quite unique in Russia due to the talent of Pushkin. On combining these aspects, there raised development in new arenas. The effect of Pushkin to develop Russian opera finally resulted in improvement of Russian ballet. The ballet is usually dependent on music for most of the countries. However, as per Slominsky (1947) stated that there exists strong relationship between these characteristics. The experiments by Pushkin along with the fresh rhythm had resulted in creation of challenging situation among composers. As per Gerald Abraham, the Russians in this century enjoyed favourable time due to better lyrics in spite of pseudo classicism related to Derzhavin that are related to love poems resulting in new song in Russian for Pushkin (Abraham, 1985).

However, this was inspiring to note for the dancers and choreographers. The influence by Pushkin allowed in recognizing ballet of Russian for recognition of unique genera and not the import of talent belonging to different countries. The influence of Pushkin had helped in influencing the Russian ballet dance to be recognized all over the world with own image. The influence of Pushkin and Didelot had resulted in enhancing history of Russia to provide a strong background for artistic power. The involvement of Soviet along with arts had resulted in better improved arts.

The companies created in Russia, by imperial decree had gained favour from government to result in better learning experience. This had resulted in giving an opportunity along with the challenge. The support by two companies had further resulted in higher value of material found and helps in improvement of opportunities for research, but shall be well defined to ensure that there is no conflicting situation.

Chapter 2- Literature Review

2.1 Soviet Union and Folk Dance

The Soviet Union concerns for the study of folk dance as an important arena in addition to drama art and music. However, there was lack of recording that would have helped the dancers to develop their skills (Blacking & Kealiinohomoku, 1979). Prior to the revolution, there was no focus laid on folk dance. An individual needs to be aware of choreography, philology in addition to musical folklore (Blacking & Kealiinohomoku, 1979). Lack of recording system resulted in not availability of recording for choreography. The history of folk dancing in Soviet has been into existence from the 1920s to 1930s (Blacking & Kealiinohomoku, 1979).

The composers from Ukraine had been involved in this arena and the country was among those who started this concept of folk dance earliest among Soviet Union. The efforts by cultural groups have resulted in good collection of wide range of roles from all across (Bukland, 2007). After the formulation of Russia, the country was left with two choices: outward choice to follow western tradition, and inward trend to follow their culture and tradition (Schultz, 2000). That had raised the urge to have a thorough plan in such a manner that there exists a good balance between the two.

The ballet present at St. Petersburg had been considered as Bolshoi too. The development of Maryinsky theatre at St. Petersburg in 1860s followed by the imperial ballet that performed at new theatre in the year 1889, and the company was named as Maryinsky Ballet Company. Thereafter, the name of ballet at St. Petersburg was changed due to the assassination by Sergei Kirov in the year 1934. Thereafter, Soviet Politburo was favoured for replacement of Josef Stalin. There was the opposition for Kirov, by left opposition party (Treadgold, 1995). Renamed ballet institutions had been compounded due to imperial city for Soviets.

The ideology from patrons had acted against Russian ballet, and that raised the concept of training of dancers for demonstrating the Bolshoi Theatre and Maryinsky. The seats were restricted for higher official authorities. The subject however had to face censorship resulting in ballet dance as being quite conservative (Dees, 2004). That acted against the introduction of this form of dance as a professional business. Individuals willing to carry on the operation for their profession had to face this as the major barrier against growth of industry and individuals attached with it. However, there still persisted the importance for all the ballet training centres. Moscow Company was among the famous training centres for the name of step child in the end of 19th century.

Talented pool of people gathered at Petersburg however due focus was laid on Maryinsky Theatre. This was the main cause of Petersburg Company leading quite ahead of Bolshoi Company and resulted in its brand value in European context (Bailey & Ivanova, 1999). Regulating institutions too became an uneven situation. The Bolshoi Ballet was not as tough to be carried on as compared to Maryinsky Ballet. Therefore, the latter had to make available all the resources along with the support provided by imperial court. Therefore, Bolshoi court enjoyed freedom of art. That was too tough to find out when the ballet dance in Russian context came to be known all around the world. The native dancers had to be well renowned at that instance to bring awareness among the genera.

The dancer named as Theophile Gautier at St. Petersburg, belonging to Imperial school had stated that the institution of dance results into remarkable group of soloists, incepting the corps for ballet which was same as for movement speed, precision, and unity. That was the moment of joy for the group to disband the right moment for reforming in quite a unique manner. The movement of those feet in perfect manner with proper match among the group, without any confusing stage were the causes of this success. The laughter and chattering were never there. The pantomime for dumb with no action, had the frame as per Lifar (1954), and his studies. That was the unique form of Russian ballet dance for executing during the mid of 19th century. Additionally, the starting of 1844 was the time when ballet dancers of Russia got trained at their place to start formation in West Europe for applauds.

Though the dancers were applauded both at national and international level, non Russian choreographers belonging to different locations had formed the dancing groups. Number of dance historians at those times stated that the ballets of Russia are not too different than those of French ballets for the Northern wind (Lifar, 1954). Additionally, the researcher had pointed that the dancers of Russia get training and learning from outside sources. The choreography training in Russia too was not of good standard. Therefore, the training and development was though noted in the country for Russian folk dance followed by the ballet dance, there still lacks the trainers. In case there would have been good number of trainers in the country, there can be improvement in ballet dancers of Russia.

The Russian dancers were one or the other way linked to non native place (Lifar, 1954). The learning from those locations results into convergence among Russians including Pushkin, various choreographers and composers for establishment of Russian ballet. There raises the importance to make an effort to improve the chronological sequence for ballets in Russia. There need to be a strong link between the choreographer, composer and writer. For this purpose, ballet dancers had to be compared with that of western counterparts to compare and contrast relationship between the two. Charles Didelot was among the most famous choreographers in his times and was in link with Pushkin. However, previous ballet dancers too had worked to explore the poems of Pushkin to develop ballet dance.

2.2 Isadora Duncan dance: the revolution of an artist in Russia

Isadora Duncan dance is known as revolutionary person of modern type of dances who made the first Russian show or presentation in the year 1905 in St. Petersburg at the Marinsky theatre. That was the time making event that had changed the grand Russian ballet tradition. Serge Diaghileff was the founder of the ballet Russe and he told about Isadora that she have given the permanent shock to classical Russian ballet dance and she had pointed the ways which were followed by them (Netti et al., 1991). Then Isadora returned to Russia for six times in her life time and found inspiration of the Russian workers. It has been revealed in the researches that after several years, the people will make the professional as well as personal journey in the country to bring the gift of American Duncan dance to the Russian people or dancers and also they will find that what would be remained within the art of Isadora in modern St. Petersburg. CEC international partners which is a Russian company and it sponsors for an artistic exchange between Eastern and Central Europe.

Isadora established a training school in Moscow by getting invitation from the commissioner of people who made efforts for brining art in front of the people. An ideology of Soviet anti-capitalistic requested to disappointment of Duncan with the millionaires in America who failed to fund the schools in Germany, France and Greece (Lomax, 1959). There was little stability within the training for current dancers outside the world of ballet of the Bolshoi and Kirov. From past so many decades, after the communism, an imitation of modern dance has been seen. It was the work of Martha and Graham and her European contemporaries along with the training in Jazz.

The dance of Isadora Duncan has brought together another dancers named as Michelle Vazquez Kickasola (Ivette Sotomayer and Cuban American) are elevated in Miami where the Cuban community acts as anti communist party. There were bothered about the choreography of red tunic dances to the red army songs and that may be disgusting for the people who have reformed themselves in the Russian countries in twenty first century (Hilton, Alison, 1995). It has been viewed that so many people have learned the dance as well music being as the main part for their history. Number of old people from independent states like Uzbekistan and Georgia has lamented the lives of people economically and politically under the communism.

2.3 Ballet dance of Ludwig Minkus

Ludwig Minkus was one of the biggest musical composers in the mysteries. He was having powerful posts in the imperial ballet theatres in Russia in the nineteenth century. He was known as an antecedent of Tchaikovsky but he was delicate being as a musician. Despite the obscurity, Minkus can never be forgotten. In early 1990s, the imperfection by Natalia Makarova and Rudolf Nureyev, the name of Minkus began to go outside again. Then Richard prepared the ballet recordings that presented some dumpy passages from the Minkus work and thus it provided surprising and wonderful things. From past so many decades, the words came to know about the music of Minkus and it was the traditional part in Soviet Union. That was linked with the legendary of ballet master, named as Marius Petipa. These works such as La Bayadere and Don Quixote were the two choreographers who carried by some valid protection from eighteenth century to the present day (Corona, 1991). They were presented first time to the people all over the world.

To ignore the expression of regret, the ballet was proved as successful. That success was consolidated and now it has been carried out by many companies from the federation of Russia. Thus it has resulted into the transformation of old ballets to new type of ballet. The success of these ballets with other types of ballets has laid within the power of score for bringing the emotions of the people and dance of life. Thus Minkus neither published nor revised but played several arrangements that have become very popular in all over the world. It needs a new life for the people who had given up the hopes of their lives.

The musical power and authority of ballet has become surprising for the people. These ballet stories has the real power and human demand in which the choreography attracts the esteem of Balletomanes, attracts music in its regularity, the beauty of the music keeps the attention of many people and it engages everyone’s heart. Don Quixote is a comedy and known as one of the most touching novels in the world and it is about the beauty among the ordinary things. La Bayadere is a tragedy that keeps an eye on the sorrows of people in case of love with full of passion, unfaithfulness, separation and death. It talks about the two things together shows a satisfying symmetry. The ability of the musician responds to the effectiveness of both the sides such as dark and light of the human being touches the main demand of the drama. The life of Minkus and the compositions of ballets and the works are poorly diagnosed and documented, thus the proper and right investigation is needed for them to explore the historical and critical material. The studies provided the help of George Verdak of Indianapolis and it made the copes of this material from the collected ballet scores. It continued by his inheritor before her death. Some major contributions gave by a professor who made scores of La Bayadere.

2.4 Partnership with Marius Petipa

The rich success of his work of Don Quixote have taken a part as a major step in the career of Minkus and his first appointment at the imperial Russian theatre in St. Petersburg in the year 1872 as the first court composer of ballet (Degh, Linda, 1965). The death of other choreographer named as Pugni led Minkus to take his place. He became responsible for musical devices as well as library in the Bolshoi theatre. Then he was told to compose music for ballet dance for the opera Mlada. It was commissioned by the director of imperial theatre. Then the projects was ended, Minkus revised prolonged his materials after some years for the development of ballet. That was followed by ballet one after another and Minkus appeared at the Maryinsky and Bolshoi theatre and it was all the choreography of Petipa. The researches have revealed that between the year1869 and 1886, Petipa generated only 4-8 ballets without composing any music by Minkus and that was the important partnership of these two artists.

Chapter 3- Research Methodology

3.1 Introduction

The chapter here explores research methodology used to complete this dissertation. Researcher explores the type of study undertaken at this instance and the approach used for analysing results. The researcher also explores the type of data used in the research and the approach used for the dissertation. The researcher has also explored aims and objectives of the research followed by research questions to achieve these.

3.2 Aims and Objectives

The researcher here aims to understand the concept of Russian folk dance and the reason for conversion of this into Russian Ballet dance. While the objective of this study is to analyse the concept of folk dance in Russia and various types of Russian dances which are famous in the country.

3.3 Research questions

In order to attain aims and objectives of the research, researcher has designed below stated research questions:-

  • What are the various forms of folk dance in Russia?
  • What is the history attached with Russian folk dance?
  • How did Russian folk dance transformed to Ballet dance?
  • How the dance, as source of entertainment had converted into professional dance?
  • Who are the famous people linked to Russian folk and Ballet dance?

3.4 Paradigm for Research

For this research, researcher has used interpretative approach for research. Therefore, the interpretations acted as the main source for data analysis. In addition to this, the descriptive nature of approach was used for research purpose. Researcher has made an effort to collect secondary data from various sources to have a clear thought process for the subject under study. The folk dance in Russia, right from its history to present times is analysed. Various famous personalities were also covered in the research to understand the philosophical approach in the country. Although it is preferred by researchers such as Richards & Hall (2000) to collect both primary and secondary data while carrying on the research process, secondary data was chosen hereon by the researcher due to complexity attached with primary data collection approach. Collection of primary data would have added too much to the complexity of this project.

First of all, researcher had a clear understanding of the research topic to understand all the concepts related with Russian folk dance. This helped in designing clear aims and objectives of the research. Thereafter, secondary data was analysed further to formulate the dissertation sections and integrate them well to ensure the logical flow of discussion. Then researcher had made an effort to attain the aims and objectives of research by answering research questions. This helped in final conclusion to demonstrate the findings.

3. 5 Research Strategy Used

The researcher has made use of case study as research strategy by designing of complete research process. This helped in clearly defining research problems that relate with the subject under study. The use of case study helped in gaining solution for the research. This had helped in acting as main cause for decision making stage to attain the aims and objectives of research. Theories related to folk and ballet dance of Russia were discussed to have a sound understanding of the subject under study. Therefore, case study was taken as a favourable approach for determining the research and evaluating it thoroughly (Robert, 2003). This approach helps in analysing results based on the theoretical framework prepared for the research.

Case study is used widely as per researchers such as Robert (2003) to analyse the outcomes due to high reliability and consistency associated with the concept. These help in exploratory study of the subject topic using numerous case studies for using the replication process to analyse based on the theory collected (Yin, 1994). The conceptual methods have been explored well through the use of case study method to analyse the results (Yin, 1994).

Through case study method, theoretical background of folk dance in Russia would be created to know about the existence of this traditional approach, which had resulted in Ballet dance introduction and the conversion of dance into professional dance. Therefore, case study seems to be the reliable tool for getting results within short span of time. This would also help the researcher to get rid of any sort of biasness due to different beliefs.

3.6 Method to Collect Data

For this research purpose, researcher has taken secondary data as the choice. Number of books, and magazines were referred along with journals and various internet sources. These would help in formulation of strong base to carry out research process. The results would be obtained thoroughly through this strategy to attain outcomes.

Characteristics of Chinese Culture in Online Games

Abstract

Game industry is a kind of globalizing market. This research is investigating the relationship between game art and culture. Due to each culture has an original root which influences particular cultural forms. Therefore, cultural barriers play a crucial role in the game design. In some ways, cultural barriers prevent games from globalization market.

The society of online games is formed by players who come from various culture backgrounds. Additionally, the online game which involves more interactive elements is affected by culture significantly. Players are not playing with computer but human beings. This new way of game play gives more freedom to players and designers. Meanwhile, online game has close connection with culture.

When we talk about online game industry we cannot ignore the Chinese online game industry, because China is one of the biggest online game industries in the world. The paper focuses on Chinese online game industry because of its accomplishments, highest speed of development and huge online game market. And how this ancient culture influences the new media form is crucial area to investigate.

Firstly, brief original Chinese culture will be presented for clearing an archetypal culture value. Based on Chinese online game industry, a local game named Westward Journey Online ? is examined for getting valuable methods which are how to use the archetypal cultural values into game art. From the examination on Chinese culture, value methods possible are getting for widen audiences all over the world. However, there is limitation existing in this paper which ignores other distinguishing culture contents. Further research might go more detailed on various culture forms for this particular research area. 

1 Introduction

The main purpose of this research is to examine the archetypal/universal characteristics that are expressed in Chinese culture within Multiple Massive Online Games in order to explain to a western the shared human values that are expressed in a uniquely Chinese expression of archetypal human values. The study examines the impact of archetypal cultural characteristics on game aesthetics that is important for corporations that are desirous to explore business throughout worldwide. Due to globalization might be a kind of megatrend in modern society as cultural forms, cultural barriers might exist to prevent the global distributions of games to some extent in the process of game development. There was a hot discussion about a female character in different cultural styles online (Liuduanyinsu 2008). This female character named Faith who was the heroine in Mirror’s Edge which was developed by D.I.C.E studio in Sweden (2009). Her appearance caused controversy about what kind of female character could reach the expectation from each side of culture backgrounds. When Mirror’s edge came to Japan, the Japanese players were not satisfied in the design of this character. Therefore, some of Japanese players adopted the female character depending on their own expectations. We could see the clear distinguishing features of different tastes on female beauty from figure 1 and 2. After the adaptation of the character, each side of players expressed their opinions. Both sides were not satiated to the other side’s design. The discussion presented the cultural barriers on female beauty. Exploring the question that is how the features of culture influences game aesthetics could clarify the future direction of both single Game Corporation and the whole game industry. Therefore, a high level of culture understanding is necessary for meeting players’ expectations. As a result, the cultural barriers influence game aesthetics in certain ways.

The platform of the study is set in China which is a long history country and has various mythologies which could reflect traditional culture and the process of development of each culture in some way. The culture studies could give us the solid basis of understanding of the Chinese cultural root and human values. The newest form studies of combing game art and culture open the door to explore new opportunities for fresh knowledge in this area. At the same time, the examination of Chinese culture could give a brief impression to western readers for understanding the distinct cultural form which has very different philosophy of life, attitudes, lifestyle, ideology and values from westerners. Meanwhile, it is aware that the myths influence game design and aesthetics significantly. Many myths are widely applied into game design and art, for example the characters in myths become main adopted features into game design like priest, Druid, Dragons etc both in western culture and eastern culture. Why is this situation happening? Are there same features between mythology and games so that the two things could be concordantly combined? In the research, the Journey to the West and games that were adapted from it is employed as a successful case to investigate for finding the acceptable answers. Moreover, the fast speed of development online game industry gives the research an additional benefit to unfold the examination.

According to the trend of globalization, bigger game marketplace could be opened by applying different cultural contexts into game aesthetics after the research. Moreover, the game industry gains much more attention from modern society which includes academic field and marketplace. People desire to obtain benefits from the fresh and cutting edge game industry such as entertainment and education.

The major research question is: how archetypal/universal characteristics are reflecting in online games based on Chinese culture? Afterwards, two further questions are: what is the archetypal characteristic of Chinese culture? And what kinds of archetypal could be translated into universal for more audiences in online games?

For answering these questions, multidiscipline study will be involved. There are culture studies, art, marketing and the newest one- computer games study. Depends on aims and research questions, the objectives have been listed below:

  • To establish understanding of culture for game aesthetics using creative methods in culture studies
  • To explore the relation of mythology and game aesthetics across several subjects
  • To explore the functions of culture in game aesthetics and seek possibility of combining two different cultures into game art for widen players.

2 The background information of Chinese online game industry

2.1 Localization of Chinese online game industry

Chinese online game industry has a fastest speed of development and gives a great influence on the globalization game marketplace. From the research of the three nations that are American, Korea and China, it could be discovered that the income of American online game came from games exporting, and Korea is developing the exporting outside and locally operating, the income of China online game mainly came from locally operating. Therefore, a part of income in American and Korea online games came from Chinese online game marketplace (iResearch 2009). The report from iResearch (2009) evinced that the revenue of Chinese online game market occupied about 27 percentages of global game market and it is ranked the second position, American online game industry is 29 percentages to take the lead and Korea is the third position as 21 percentages. Due to the fact about the data sources of game exporting, it is aware that Chinese online games industry is localization because of the lower export level. The reasons might be the strategy of government, cultural barriers or limitation of development.

However, the Chinese online game industry is the biggest game marketplace in the world that is gradually getting more and more important status in international game industry by reason that the Chinese market size is 30.4 million dollars which occupies 27.1 percentages of the gross income of global online game marketing in 2008 according to the iResearch China Online Game Research Report (2009). In addition, China online game industry has the fastest developing speed. The report also predicted that the occupancy of Chinese online game market will continually increase at the speed of 5 percentages based on the research. Additionally, it is expected that the occupancy of Chinese online game market will be close to 50 percentages, and reach to 45.9 percentages (iResearch 2009). So it will become a big importing point of international online game industry.

2.2 The reasons of localization of online games boom in China

The localization of Chinese online game industry is possibly caused by multiple reasons. Are the Chinese players easily accepting the games which are set in other cultural contexts? The answer is negative. Local games with strong cultural contexts could get sympathetic attentions by players who live in the cultural environments. The cultural barriers caused game marketplace in certain ways. Based on the research about the developing areas of online games which are paid great attention in Chinese online game industry by Baidu (2009), the highest attention rate of place of online games’ developers is China, the 49.65 percentages, following the second place is Korea which is 43.82 percentages, then there are American and Europe occupied 5.36 percentages and Japan is the lowest attention rate which is 1.18 percentages. So we can see the major online games are developed by local Chinese developers and Chinese neighbour-Korea which has similar culture with China. The similar cultures shared common online game market.

And online game industry meet the situation in China, it is getting more and more advanced support from government and other objective supports. Since the operating of Chinese government’s strategy named reform and opening-up, the political climate became enlightened and loosened so that people’s concepts are diversity and more easily accepting new things and globalization environment is established as a result of that popular culture could gain opportunity of booming (Xiaolin 2008).

Moreover, why could the online games get improvement in China rather than console games? One main reason is the pirate. In China, players could spend just few money to get the illegal copies from peddlers. This becomes a bad habit in Chinese players. And the pirate brings a negative influence to the console and computer games. Therefore, Chinese developers cannot get deserved profits from developing videogames and console games. The intellectual property of game developers is not protected. The failure sales of videogames and computer games give more space to online games development in China.

Finally, huge population forms the largest marketplace in China. It is reported that there are more than three hundreds millions cyber citizens in China until 17 July 2009 depending on the update database of China Internet Network Information Centre (2009). Thanks to the development of hardware and cyber technology, the disseminate internet is continually growing. More and more people use internet in China, and there are more potential players on internet.

Based on the investigation of Niko Partners, there are forty six million online game players who spent seventeen million dollars on online games in China (Sina 2008). This great circumstance for online games creates more and more opportunities for online game development. Following on the fast developing speed of Chinese online game industry, the further potentials need to be explored by the industry insiders.

3 The background of Chinese culture

3.1 The collective and discriminative culture

In different situation, the definition of culture has different explanation. The research mainly discussed art and culture for the latter investigation of game art and culture. Therefore, the definition of culture related to art or aesthetics is the focal point; it does not mean we ignore other important comprehension of culture studies, all the necessary study also is considered through the whole process of investigation. For the later research, which definition of culture is properly suitable for investigating the relation of culture and game aesthetics might be sorted out.

Firstly the definition of culture in dictionary must be considered. The ‘culture’ in English involves several meanings as a noun. The one of major definitions in Oxford Advanced Learner’s English-Chinese Dictionary (1990, p.284) of culture described that ‘all the arts, beliefs, social institutions, etc characteristic of a community, race, etc’. In Collins COBUILD Advanced Learner’s English Dictionary (2004), there are similar explanations of the term ‘culture’ that are ‘ culture consists of activities such as the arts and philosophy, which are considered to be important for the development of civilization and of people’s mind’, ‘ a culture is a particular society or civilization, especially considered in relation to its beliefs, way of life, or art’ and ‘the culture of a particular organization or group consists of the habits of the people in it and the way they generally behave’. From there definition in dictionary, the main feature of culture is collective, a certain subject of people’s common mind. The common ground includes arts, beliefs, habits, lifestyle, customs, institutions and philosophy. So sometimes, the culture means people’s shared mind in one nation, one race even bigger in one group which has common benefits. Simply speaking, culture could be understood as a group of people who has a similar taste on game aesthetics in this field of research. This might be the reason why cultural barriers influence selling of games which involve strong cultural features.

Excepting the property of collective of culture, another crucial nature of culture is discriminative. Culture is regarded as “the collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another” by Geert (2001). If a culture loses its own distinguishing feature, it will vanish in the world. In other word, culture involves another important function which is identifying human’s origins. Therefore, different cultures exist by their identification and discrimination with other cultural forms. Applying the feature of culture into this research, the different areas in game industry could be distinguished by analysing cultural characteristics.

There is another English word ‘civilisation’ which is treated as a synonym of the word ‘culture’. It has similar definition with culture; however this word ‘civilisation’ emphasizes on the differentiation of culture. People always say ancient Egyptian civilisation, American Indian civilisation and Arab civilisation etc. When we say Chinese civilisation, the name externalizes the particular cultural form. A culture is archetypal and distinguishing. Therefore, the different culture gives distinguishing art styles to various games.

3.2 Chinese culture

The Chinese culture exists for thousands of years; it has great influences to the East area and other parts of the world. Due to the complex culture forms, it is hard to present a very clear and details of this particular culture. This paper is investigating the major root of Chinese culture which possibly affects modern new media the games. These contents of Chinese cultural root include Confucianism, Taoism and very crucial concepts of harmony between man and nature. These foundational concepts of Chinese culture give a great influence to very aspects of modern society. Meanwhile, games reflect or being reflected these traditional cultural concepts more or less. It needs to understand the cultural root for further studies of games and culture.

3.2.1 Brief introduction of Confucianism

The Confucianism is a complexity. Some people consider it is a cult, others think it is a form of learning (Xinzhong 2000). However, the research regards Confucianism is a form of culture. The content of Confucianism involves several disciplines such as moral, social, political, philosophical, and quasi-religious which reflect cultural contexts in China.

Due to the Confucianism involves different explanations in different historical periods; there is no specific definition for it. From different aspects, we could get different comprehensions from Confucianism. However, the central thought still exists and has positive impacts on modern Chinese people. Generally speaking, there are three cores themes and a crucial core concept in Confucianism. Those are “Li” – ritual in English, “De” – virtue, “Ren” – humanity and the doctrine of mean.

It is said that China is a state of ceremony because of the strict ritual from Confucianism. Some of the rituals were used into Chinese online games in order to give the local people familiar things in a virtual and realistic ancient world. In terms of original concept, “Li” is an important behavioural norm in Confucianism, and it includes traditional rituals. In Confucianism, it states that grades of people’s relationship which includes the monarch and his subjects, parents and children, older sisters (brothers) and young sisters (brothers) should be clearly distinguished, and upper position of person have superior rights than lowers (Baidu 2009). For example, in ancient Chinese imperial family the emperor could talk several wives, and the first wife’s child is the son and heir who have greatest prerogatives than other wives’ children, such as acceding to the throne as the first person selected. And in modern China, the norm involves less power, but in Chinese family there are still some shadows of the “Li” existing. For instance, children should respect seniorities. When a Chinese family have an important dinner together, the oldest family member takes a seat in the best positions around a big table. The senior people usually have a greater power in the society, others always respect them. So the “Li” developed the strict hierarchy system in ancient Chinese society.

The virtue named “De” in Chinese is a tool to measure human’s behaviours. Filial piety and Loyalty are two main contents in Confucianism (Kai-wing 1994, p.36). Filial piety means children should respect their parents. Simply speaking, offspring should give supports to their seniorities that cannot take care of themselves. These supports include mental supports and material supports. There are many legends and tales talking about filial piety in China to instruct people’s behaviours. One of the famous stories about filial piety is that the person named Dongyong sold himself for money in order to bury his father’s body, the city named “Xiaogan” which means the miracle of filial piety inspires god came from the ancient story (Wilt 2009). Ancient Chinese emperor applies “De” into ruling. The virtue in Confucianism requests governors using benevolent politics and self virtue to rule civilians. It presents using virtue to educate people for peaceful and steady society.

Humanity is a core content of Confucianism. It claims loving human, people should love each other, support each other and existing with each other. Therefore, the basic meaning of “Ren” is homage and friendship. In ancient Chinese governments always employed “Ren” into their ruling strategy, so it was developed to a kind of political strategy called policy of benevolence which advocated using the proactive and ethical human being to rule the country. It is different with western jural strategy. However, it involves some limit from contemporary viewpoints.

The doctrine of mean is another crucial concept of Confucianism. Zhangxin who is a professor researching Sinology introduced his opinion about the doctrine of mean. The spirit of medium way is doing something using appropriate methods to keep the things in a reasonable and fair expectation for people. He also claimed culture does not need to meet the international standards and the archetypal culture is the universal. Medium way is a root of Confucianism and Chinese culture, it affects people’s behaviours at present. People’s characteristics might be determined by the origin of their cultures. So the characteristics of Chinese people are introverted poise and defensive just reflect the medium way in Confucianism.

3.2.2 Brief introduction of Taoism

In the research, the characteristics of China are going to discuss from the native religion of Taoism rather than investigation on religion itself. Taoism is a native philosophical and religious of China and it focus on the moral code. It came from China and has influenced East Asia for over two millennia and the West for over two centuries (James 2003). On one hand, Taoism is one of main original inspirations for Chinese games. On the other hand, it is a core of human value in Chinese society.

Taoism’s concepts could be applied into computer game design. The original religion involves several worships. Those include nature worship, totem worship, spirits worship and ancestor worship. Moreover, there is a complex system of Daoism, different branches have different leaders. These features of Daoism give great inspirations to game designers. The features have already employed into several Chinese games which used traditional themes and backgrounds. The Jianxia3 online employed many Daoism’s elements into the game play (Kingsoft 2009). Players could choose Chunyang branch which is a real branch of Daoism as their clans. There are many rooms of Daoism could be employed into game design such as celestial beings, making pills of immortality and Fengshui theory in Daoism.

Taoism affects human being’s behaviours and thoughts; from this point the conducts in Taoism could reveal the core human value in China. The noun Taoism involves different elements with Daoism, at the first place we should distinguishing the two nouns for latter discussion. Taoism is a type of thought or doctrine; it was developed by Lao Tzu who is a thinker and ideologist in ancient China. The book named Tao Te Ching is a Chinese classic text which is considered as a basic origin in Taoism like Bible in Christianity. However, the first official classic of Daoism is named Taiping Ching. Tao Te Ching and Taiping Ching plus Zhouyicantongqi are considered as the origin of Daoism’s religion and theory by current academic area. Simply speaking, Taoism is a kind of theory and Daoism is a religion.

There are the jewels of the Tao: compassion, moderation and humility (Ray 1989, p.133). These conducts reflect to Taoist become a crucial belief named Wu wei which “is action without bureaucratic, competitive, aggressive, or self-serving effort. Wu wei is a way of being that comes from an internal sensitivity to the natural rhythms of the universe, similar to water flowing over or around rocks, logs, or islands in a stream,” (R. Paul 2002, p.152). Wu wei is a basic cognition of Taoism to the development of nature and human society. The general meaning of Wu wei action through inaction does not mean doing nothing but revealing things with soft and invisible power (Richard 2004). In Taoism, it is considered human’s behaviours and the way of act should obey the law of nature. The all things in the world develop by themselves, human beings cannot intervene the development of nature and all other things. This thought forces Chinese people like to stick to old ways and make Chinese characteristic becoming mediocrity. This is reflected in the characteristics is defensive and moderate temperament.

3.2.3 The relationship between man and nature in Chinese culture

This concept of relationship between man and nature reflects into game design is that the characters in games usually involve appearances of natural things like animal monsters. The situation is very different from western games which seldom apply monsters came from nature. This might be caused by Chinese original root which is called harmony between man and nature which is widely considered as the main principal part of Chinese traditional culture. In the traditional Chinese culture, the world is separated into three parts that are heaven, manpower and earth. For each part there are specific classic texts for guiding people’s behaviours. I Ching is used to guide for explaining relation between heaven and manpower. It presents how to obey law of nature to make human ideal and healthy. The analects of Confucius expound relation between manpower and heaven for instructing people making right choices. And the Sunzi Art of War is a book to be used in war it presents relations of human beings themselves. The Dao Te Ching which was mentioned in previous paragraph is employed to coordinate human and earth making the harmony between man and nature. The last one named Huang di nei Ching interprets earth and human beings for guide people to get the benefits from earth. The ancient classic traditional Chinese philosophy teaches Chinese people the major behaviours. It affects people’s choices more or less in modern society. Understanding Chinese culture, these principles have to be clarified, because when the character involves archetypal characteristics it must follows some elements from these concepts from ancient China.

3.3 The original mythology in Chinese culture

Mythology should not to be neglected because it reflects culture in some ways. William considers myth is “culturally important”, and myths are this kind of story which are created by individuals’ interpretations in discriminating special societies (William 2000). Myths demonstrate certain culture contents such as religious, rituals, customs, and people’s behaviours. Therefore, it might bring us to an articulate culture form by examining the particular mythology.

In terms of game design, there are many games applying mythic elements into character designs, background stories, environment designs and requests designs. There might have common senses between games and myths. Why could the mythic contents be widely employed into games? This chapter will discuss myth and find out the bonding point between myths and games.

3.3.1 The definition of mythology

At the first place, it needs to clarify that what are mythology and what kind of characteristics is involved in mythology. Williams suggested that myths are fictional but not unreal and non-empirical, however they are not incomprehensible and formed by values of fundamental mythical orientations of cultures (Williams 2000). And a common contestation of mythology is that “myths are stories about gods or remote ancestors, myths are sacred stories, myths are stories that explain how the world and humans came to be in their present forms, and myths encapsulate important information about human thought, feeling, history, and social life” (Yang, Deming and Jessica 2005). However, particular myths could be understood by people who live in the particular culture environment, it is hard to be comprehended by other person who has different culture background if he has not established understanding of the particular culture. Because each culturally mythology has distinguishing features. But myths still have universal features like the statement was presented by Stith Thompson in 1955 that myths are connecting with gods and their behaviours, creation, and the general nature of the universe and of the earth (Yang, Deming and Jessica 2005). Therefore, myths are universal and archetypal in every cultural form by using dialectic method of analysis.

Games as a creative industry need creation and imagination, however the design of games should not be incredible. The attributes of games are very similar with mythology’s which discussed above. This is not a coincidence; this is why there are so many designers employed mythological elements into the game design. There are two reasons that games should be imaginative and believable. The first one is the purpose of playing for imaginative feature of games. Players are anxious for getting entrainment from games; they usually want to get different experiences from playing games. If the environment and characters in games are same with real life, the game will be boring. Even a simulating game like series of Sims also involves other virtual elements for giving different experiences to players. Another reason is for believable; a game should be attractive to players, when players play the game they are immersing into the games. Unreal and incredible characters and environment cannot be acceptable by players. So most of successful games were adopted from real stories, the Non-players character, the monsters and the avatars for players were altered from fictional characters in mythology. Generally speaking, games and mythology have same attributes. That the reason mythologies are widely used into game design both in environment setting, background stories and character designs.

3.3.2 The origin of mythology

The origin of mythology is various. Some myths are adopted from the narratives of scripture by adding several imaginative elements and altered contents of the original scripture. And historical events are another source of mythology; the real historical case was rewritten by later people using the forms of legends and fabulous traditions which are widely disseminated. Additionally, there are other two features could describe myths which are allegorical and physical, nearly all the ancient myths are symbolical and involved some educational contents in aspects of moral, religious or philosophical truth etc (Thomas 2004).

In terms of the origin of Chinese mythology, it is generally believed that the Chinese mythology originated from the totemism of remote Chinese ancestors and legends of ancient tribes. Some Chinese myths are another form of historical records, for instance it is confirmed that the myth of Nüwa is partly true after discovering the historical remains belongs to the period of maternal tribes in China (need evidences). Moreover, the Chinese myths mirrored contents of religions; the concept of three worlds that are heaven, earth and human being in Chinese mythology is coming from Buddha. Many online games which were set in ancient Chinese environment were applied the concept of three worlds into game design. The characters in these games are generally separated into three groups which are celestial beings, devils and human beings.

The Chinese cultural concept of the harmony between human and heaven is also reflecting in the local mythology. The Chinese myths usually concentrate on explain rationalize, embellish, humanize, or historicize the mythical beings (Williams 2000 1993: 387). The Chinese myths usually involve the characters who came from nature, like various devils are transformed from animals or plants of the nature. And they involve historical events such as Yan Di who is a mythic figure that invented agriculture in Chinese history, and many devils in mythology are transformed from animals and plants so that their appearances embody the shape of original animals or plants. This phenomenon might be a kind of culture barriers existing in the form of mythology.

From the statement above, we could see the origin of mythology causes a kind of culture barrier. Mythologies of one culture are formed with local nuances. For example, the Chinese mythologies are influenced by local religions which are Buddha, Taoism and cultural ideology which is the harmony between human and nature. The local culture might determine major contents of mythologies. And mythologies were spreading by people in the different periods, during the different historical periods people’s thoughts are different and in some way reflect the certain society cognition. Therefore, the mythology is a mixture of local culture and people’s ideology of that time. Depends on distinguishing history of every culture, the local mythology is hardly understanding by other people who came from different cultural background.

3.3.3 The Chinese mythology in online games

Due to the similar points between mythology and games, they naturally combine together. Moreover, the