Projections of Despair
This piece depicts my own interpretation of experiences of hospitalisation and health anxiety throughout the latest wave of the Covid 19 crisis.
produced by: Rob Elford
Introduction and inspiration
The key artistic inspirations for this project came from the unsettling and often troubling visuals imagery of the post-Second World War artist, Francis Bacon, and dark minimalist imagery of the animator and projection artist Motomichi Nakamura. Both artists explore macabre and figurative visual narratives drenched in blood red hues.
Similarly, to now, Bacon’s work chimed with the horror and death of a dark and unforgiving age. His triptych, Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, was exhibited for the first time in the same month that the concentration camps were disclosed to the public.
Nakamura also explores dark metaphors representing our primal emotional states, creating visceral and disturbing animated worlds. It seems fitting to reimagine these bleak depictions of existence amid a global pandemic.
Concept and background research
I wanted to create a strong visual statement that explored the anxieties and horrors of our Covid infused lives. When I started this project, I had just had an operation on my throat. A few days in, I woke with blood pouring from my mouth and had to attend A&E. This was both a frightening and disorienting experience made more difficult by sharing wards and rooms with patients hospitalised by the coronavirus. My overriding memory was of blood-stained clothes and immobile bodies. I decided to explore my trauma in this work. Similar to both Bacon and Nakamura, I wanted to use blood red visuals and abstract figurative forms.
Technical and process
Rather than dividing the projection into 3 distinct animations, I wanted them to flow and change simultaneously. With each animation taking centre stage at various points within the work. I also wanted to use a low frame rate in each of the animations to give a more timeless hand-drawn aesthetic to the piece.
Taking cues from my artistic inspirations as set out above, I wanted depict blood and despair in three unique ways:
Source 1: Dripping sky
This animation depicts streams of pouring blood cascading into a rising tide. The drips are filled with animated, angled brushstrokes that quiver and change size. The detailed illustration of this effect is at the top of the page. The piece begins with a glitched fade and ends by being saturated with blood.
Source 2: Digital glitter
I wanted to give the appearance of glistening, blood-filled cubes. I used both vectors and noise to generate a series of circles each with a randomly applied resolution and size, appearing at just one frame per second. This created a glistening effect that was also rooted in a strong digital aesthetic.
Source 3: Illustrated eye
This animation depicts a pulsating illustrated eye. The iris is filled with animated angled brushstrokes like Dripping sky. The Eye opens and closes, alerting the viewer to a change in state. The eye represents our endless gaze at the unfolding horror of the virus and our inability to invoke any agency for affecting change in a locked down existence.
Background sound is provided to accompany and contextualise the video. This is not a musical soundtrack to the code.
Future development & self evaluation
I think the illustration style worked well and I am pleased with the effect. It is a shame that some of the fine details from the coded illustrations were lost when displayed using ofxPiMapper. Ideally, and with more time, I would have liked to have added more clearer distinct details to the dripping blood as also more dynamic movements to the eye to provide for an even more complete finish. I also think that with greater technical expertise, the glitter effect could have been enhanced to have changed more expressively throughout. I had also wanted to use my own projector for the video; however it is now well over ten years old and the quality of the projection was extremely poor. Again, with more time, I would like to try revisit the piece with a full HD projector.
Although I created most of the code by myself, I did use the “triangle vectors” as a staring point for my Digital Glitter source. However, this was changed quite radically for the final projection.
Animateprojectsarchive.org. 2021. Animate Projects - Motomichi Nakamura. [online] Available at:
Peyré, Y., 2020. Francis Bacon Or The Measure Of Excess. 1st ed. Woodbridge: ACC Art Books.