Al and Al

I’ve been looking into the work of Al and Al, two video artists who work with CG and who recently exhibited their film Eternal Youth in Liverpool as part of the European Capital of Culture festival.

You can see the whole of their film Interstella Stella here. It’s a disorienting mix of bluescreened live action, digital video, CG environments and raw-looking postprocessing. They use the both low-poly look of video games but fuse it with the high-poly look of high end film. The stylistic mashup does away with any sense of cohesion, but begins to define a type of CG experimentation that I’m sure will be reproduced in years to come.

I thought it seemed like a deconstructed Grand Theft Auto and that it’s references toward gaming were especially evident in the use of character point-of-view cameras. I wasn’t particularly drawn in by the story (it’s more of a visual sculpture than a story, very reminiscent of Matthew Barney’s Cremaster 2). What really grabbed me was the way cameras, lights and screens were littered throughout the strange urban twilight of the CG landscape. At times, the cameras were seen to track the main characters, but at times they remained in the background, perhaps filming another scene - a scene already passed or yet to come. The suggestion of multiple viewpoints in turn suggests multiple viewers, many stories, many agencies. Do the cameras represent virtual viewpoints, webcams, CCTV cameras, character POVs? Or some fusion of one or more of these? Who is watching and what involvement might they have with the story?

This prompted me to consider how the film approaches ideas of storytelling, truth and linearity/non-linearity. Interstella Stella seems somehow out of time. With all these cameras set up, the story could be told in a different configuration, to different audiences, in different places at different times. Which is probably not so different to the way a videogame works, but somehow Al and Al fuse the branching storylines of a game world with the fixed momentum of the narrative film - yet at the same time they do away with the goal-oriented nature of games as well as the narrative constrictions of film.

Which either leaves us with nothing, or a big ‘ol heap of something interesting.

Take a look at the remnants of their stolen back-catalogue.