Berlin-based video artist Gero Doll is known for a spate of highly hallucinatory digital films. Each animated film is crafted out of entirely different parts and themes, yet, like a fractal, each are clearly part of an identifiable stylistic whole.
Doll's latest, Advanced Truth, lies along his aesthetic continuum, but takes the chaos of the internet—its unpredictability and unreal qualities—as its starting points, and moves outward from there.
Sure, it's common these days to use the internet's various forms, like memes and GIFs, to recursively comment on the nature of the internet. Musician Jerome LOL's whole persona and artistic output relies on it, from the visuals to the hyperactive musical palette.
Elsewhere, "Famous New Media Artist" Jeremy Bailey sends up the internet with his hilariously imaginative art and performance pieces. Doll, no less artistic, is a bit more philosophical. Interested in the ideas that lay behind internet culture, Doll explores the things the Internet produces, both through its users and the network itself.
ADVANCED TRUTH from Gero Doll on Vimeo
Like like other shorts by Doll (AKA Limbicnation), Advanced Truth is as cyberdelic as it gets. It's a technicolor daydream, or nightmare, of human consciousness finding mind alteration through the endless doors and byways of the Internet.
In the first scene, a pixelated man stretches his body vertically, then metamorphoses in various ways. In another clip, what looks like a Terrence McKenna-inspired self-transforming machine elf with an ear as a body dances on a background of shifting colors. All of this has the air of a heavily digital psychedelic hallucination. And the visual kaleidoscope is matched by Olivier Girardot's shape-shifting music and sound design.
"The film was made for the internet, since this is where most people consume content nowadays," Doll told me. "I'm really interested in how films spread through social networks and how this can be a metaphor for the unpredictability of the internet."
Doll concedes that this unpredictability amounts to a quantum physics-like uncertainty principle within the internet. The internet as quantum mechanics, if you will. For Doll, the internet's unpredictability has its roots in data. In Advanced Truth, Doll takes metadata and turns it into what he calls "meta imagery."
Doll's ear-shaped self-transforming machine elf.
"In the film, I mean metadata as being a part of a bigger picture," he said. "In this case, the internet, since it's sometimes unpredictable to know what will happen with specific data created for the internet."
Doll sees the internet as, to a certain degree, an unpredictable intelligence. "We humans created something that we would love to have total control over, but we don't," Doll said. "So, it's very natural for something as complex as the internet to produce 'unwanted results'—accidents, if you will."
"I think there is a lot to learn from it. In particular, the correlation of the internet to the human brain; and, in the film, this is a subconscious interpretation, since I'm dealing with the internet every day," he added.
Doll also talks about the internet as producing things that are "unreal" and "uncanny." There may be a little Jean Baudrillard in Doll's talk of the unreal, or hyper-real, as creations that make it difficult or even impossible to experience reality. But Doll puts a more positive spin on that notion.
"I think many philosophers had the notion that culture moves us away from the 'real,' but at the same it forms a foundation for human existence and maybe for human evolution," he mused. "I'm often interested in where emotions and motivation come from. I just did a bit of research and I came to the conclusion that the limbic system plays an important part in these functions."
"Limbicnation is made up from limbic system and imagination," he added. "The limbic system is also a very old part of the brain, which makes it very mysterious to me. By 'The Nature of Things,' I mean that there is an unknown relationship to humans, to all things living and non-living."
In the internet and computer technology age, Doll sees code as the driving force behind imagination, as well as human and technological evolution. In the film, he parallels code in its larger sense with animated, generative motion. That is, animation that is algorithmic but also random in how it appears and moves.
"I made up some rules for the film, and one of these rules was to rely as little as possible on key frame animation and use generative motion to drive animation," Doll said. "However, these generative motions were extremely manipulated by me to produce a really non-reproducible result. I rely heavily on 'accident' when I use software, especially 3D software, since this is mostly related to the 'real world' and it's something extremely hard to reproduce."
"For me to capture this rare motion on 'virtual camera' in 3D space—in virtual space in a computer program—is very satisfying," he added.
As for how Doll sees code influencing new technology and humanity's future, he thinks the impact will be tremendously positive and negative. "I hope only the positive in the future, since code has tremendous power which automatically increases its value," he said. "And it will be valued most by power hungry people, who will misuse code to their advantage."
Doll also thinks that, like his animated forms, tech and code will continue to influence human consciousness. "It's a new and fundamental experience to work with computers and every fundamental experience shapes consciousness," he said. "Yes, we created a hyper-real world in which most of us live, and like every reality it has its rules and boundaries. But, for our time, it's quite advanced."