Remarks on Following Gravity's Rainbow

By Bunkley, Brit | Pynchon Notes, Spring-Fall 2003 | Go to article overview

Remarks on Following Gravity's Rainbow


Bunkley, Brit, Pynchon Notes


The comments below are excerpted and slightly revised from an interview conducted by Joanne Drayton and published in Brit Bunkley: Critical Illusions, catalogue for the exhibition Following Gravity's Rainbow, Pelorus Trust Mediagallery, New Zealand Film Archive Mediaplex, Wellington, NZ, 2005.

Because of my relative isolation from sources of commissioned public work after moving from New York to New Zealand, I jumped head first into the 3D digital world. This change of medium has not only proven to be a technical challenge but also opened up unforeseen creative possibilities. Using 3D software, I discovered I was creating what resembled constructed or staged photography (like that of Boyd Webb, James Casebere, Sandy Skogland or Thomas Demand), but with a virtual camera and within a virtual set. In the sense that the computer models resembled my public art, they approached a sort of virtual public art. When I began exploring the animation capabilities of the software in the late nineties, I created photorealistic 3D dreamlike animated videos spliced with real footage. Most were short, intuitively rendered at the length of advertisements. Recently I have been stringing these short animations together into suites of vignettes with a loosely unified theme (for example, my most recent animation: Vignettes of War and Business).

I am as interested in the subversion of monuments as I was in the eighties. By "subversion of monuments," I mean designing structures with exaggerated traditional and constructivist features, using heavy monumental materials (brick and other masonry) and also investigating contemporary options for the Western tradition of architectural monumental ornamentation. This architectural basis for some past work has now become the subject of 2D and 3D prints and scenes for video vignettes.

So, for instance, the brick chimney-like structure used in the video installation Following Gravity's Rainbow is obliquely based on earlier brick works such as Gate Mask, a faux brick wall in a public park. However, the intent is quite different. This brick structure is a prop for the video installation and houses the vertical projection of an animation video. The structure is a conduit between real and virtual space in that it appears historical (almost as if the gallery were built around it) and also has a great deal of mass (heavy and gravity-bound), the opposite of the digitally-produced, ethereal video projection (which includes a photograph of the structure's bricks mapped onto a virtual chimney in the 3D software).

Gate Mask, by contrast, was originally designed for a bridge project --as the opposite of a bridge: an obstruction. It was meant to force pedestrians to choose a path around it, creating new paths. The structure was a composite of generic and specific elements of the architecture of powerful institutions, reflecting the aggressive content of a threatening but also decorative obstruction. One side was modeled on a Brooklyn armory whose facade resembled a face. Another side had a blocked entrance covered with reflecting gold Mylar that mimicked a Roman temple entrance.

In addition to Following Gravity's Rainbow, several of my early pieces were also influenced by Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow, including Monument to "Death the Impersonator" (the phrase "Death the Impersonator" comes from a passage on the structure of the chimney as able to withstand an atomic blast). Another nod to Pynchon was an unbuilt theme park, ironically called a Peace Park (based also on the Italian Mannerist and proto-surreal park of Bomarzo), conceptualized in collaboration with University of California Landscape Architecture professor Chip Sullivan. The model Peace Monument, one element designed for the Peace Park, satirized the tendency of the Reagan administration to use ludicrous euphemisms for military projects, such as "Peacekeeper" for an ICBM with multiple nuclear warheads.

Gravity's Rainbow, winner of the National Book Award in the U.

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