Interview with AL and AL

AL and AL's I killed thousands of people last night and these are all the weapons I used - 3D and Pink Triangles - 3D from the Anaglyph Avatar series feature in the Animate OPEN: Digitalis exhibition.


Who are your influences or heroes?

They change - your influences, your heroes. Chris Porter, gay porn star - he’s sexy and sorted and into gay rights, he’s not a big mincing queen, he’s a cool guy. Peter Tatchell is inspirational; he’s devoted his life to campaigning for equality.

We were lucky enough to work with Philip Glass last year - he is one of our heroes. He was brilliant to work with. He taught us so much in a very short space of time. And while we are on Daddies, Sir Alex Ferguson manages Manchester United for his 25th season this year - the energy levels of him and Philip Glass are just amazing; they both have this extraordinary life force inside them that goes on and on making beautiful work and beautiful teams and they are both fierce and don’t take no bullshit.

Dennis Cooper, the man can write and his blogspot – The Weaklings is great. William Burroughs, been reading and re-reading his work for 15 years and never wanted to put a single book down, no writer gets near to him. 2Pac. We want to see a gay version of him appear in reality. He is the Prometheus of Hip Hop, he transformed the way young black men see themselves. No 2Pac - No Obama.

When gay men get a cultural icon with the same power, equality will follow. #simples. 2Pac had great tattoos as well, used his body as a symbol of what was going on in his mind. Ditto Francois Sagat, French actor and porn star.

Alan Turing. We make work on machines that probably wouldn’t exist without this gay man’s contribution. The man delivered Hitler’s secret conversations and plans to the allies and less than seven years after the victory he made possible this country pumped him with oestrogen to make him impotent because he was gay. Nuff said, from one concentration camp to another. Ben Chichoski created Call of Duty, total war, at home, every night, forever. If only it could replace the desire for real war, maybe in a few years when the graphics get better.

David Lynch. Love everything he has made. Mulholland Drive is one of the best same sex movies. Stanley Kubrick, brutal, always true. George Lucas and James Cameron, we love them and hate them, but we respect that they have managed to push the envelope of animation. Derek Jarman, we met in his magic garden. Fellini, 8½ has shown so far every filmmaker can only be second best.

We’re showing two parts of what was originally a four-screen installation – could you tell us more about the concept behind the piece?

Anaglyph Avatar was commissioned by Edwin Carels who we co-curated an exhibition with in Mechelen for MuHKA (Antwerp Museum of Modern Art). We went over to Mechelen to get inspired and we discovered on arrival that the station was the departure point for the trains which took the Jews, Queers and Gypsies to Auschwitz concentration camps. We had never known where that one way journey had begun before, and as gay men it kind of haunts you when you’re in a place like that because you think to yourself, “Shit, if I’d pressed the wrong buttons in my time machine this morning then I would have a pink triangle slapped on my chest and given a one way ticket to Auschwitz from this station.”

So when we got back to our studio we started thinking about all these gay men who had disappeared by this really organised logistical use of technology, and the image of all the pink triangles snowing down came into our heads. And when you travel now every airport you pass through subjects you to this mensuration of the body through biometric analysis. This got us thinking again about the medical experiments at the concentration camps and the desire to measure everything scientifically.

And just before this trip to Mechelen, Edwin came to this show we did at Edge Hill station in Liverpool which documented some of the biometric works we had lost when our studio was robbed. So we had really faced this cultural erasure of our own body of work and we felt like it would be interesting to make some work where our performing bodies had somehow disappeared inside the machine. In 2002 we had done some work with motion tracking, we have always been fascinated by the idea of the performing body being tracked and mapped on to an animated body.

But up until then we had only ever used a motion tracking suit to perform in as a thing to be filmed and thought about in itself rather than some technical procedure that should be hidden when it is transformed into some other character. Like we did with the Britney Spears TOXIC video performance in our Animate commission Perpetual Motion in the Land of Milk and Honey (2004), where we made Britney appear as a shadow of her form in a motion tracking suit to analyse and display her seduction as kinetic data.

So after the Mechelen trip we decided it was finally time for us to map human performances not on to an animated character but rather the biped which is hidden underneath every computer animated character, which of course looks like a skeleton to the untrained eye. So in some ways the Anaglyph Avatar series continues our strategy of making work, making studies about the mechanics and machinery of how the spectacle is produced rather than making an actual special effects spectacle. But as ever with these things, it’s more than that because the machinery of avatars is transforming so much technology in entertainment, sports and medical treatment, defence and robotics.

An avatar usually represents a person’s alter ego - who or what does the avatar of the title represent?

Exactly, but like we said, we wanted to show the mechanics of how an avatar is created, so our biped character becomes all representations and none, because the biped we are showing is the fundamental skeleton hidden underneath the appearance of every computer generated character you see in film. It could be a Na’vi or it could be Yoda. When you are biometrically analysed to see if you have a criminal gait as you pass through customs at airports, the computer capturing your movements sees you as a biped when it compares your data with other motion captured bodies.

It’s anaglyph 3D - what attracted you to that format? This type of 3D - and the skeletons too - feel as though they hark back to older forms of cinema – are you reflecting on the past as well as alluding to the future?

We have always thought about the history of technology in our practise. The machinery we have made our films with informs some of the ideas that we make our films about. The bipeds reminded Edwin of a book he gave us called Diableries which shows this fascination with death and satirical commentary in 19th Century photography which contains these amazing stereo-Diableries images of Satan and skeletons.

The Bipeds also reminded us of Ray Harryhausen’s famous stop motion animated skeletons sword fight in Jason and the Argonauts which inspired Lucas and Cameron when they were growing up before they became filmmakers.

When James Cameron was working on Avatar with 250 million dollars we were making our biometric studies with a few thousand pounds, but we wanted to experiment with optics and work with 3D because that is where technology is currently exploring and our view has always been that independent cinema must strive equally hard to explore the frontiers of technology and image making.

Fine Art traditionally has always developed new ways of seeing and the exhibition we co-curated with Edwin Carels explored and thematised the observing subject in an historical context. We included wire models from the 19th Century that Joseph Plateau had developed as part of his research into the physical act of seeing. The anaglyph rendering of our avatar series positioned the viewer in an exhibition of artists works, scientific instruments and archives that examined how we assemble a solid object and our view of space through two eyes compositing two images together. The visitor was invited to move among all this and to look into himself at the juncture of media and technology, art and visual culture.