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Making Monsters with Miljohn Ruperto and Aimée de Jongh

Miljohn Ruperto with Aimee de Jongh, Mineral Monster 02, 2014. GIF animation

By Anuradha Vikram

Miljohn Ruperto’s Artist Lab residency and exhibition at 18th Street Arts Center, “Mineral Monsters,” is an interdisciplinary exploration of human vision and experience. The starting point for Ruperto’s collaboration with illustrator/animator Aimée de Jongh and neuroscientist/engineer Rajan Bhattacharyya is a quote from philosopher Georges Canguilhem’s book “Knowledge of Life:” “there are no mineral monsters.” Canguilhem, who wrote about the effects of pathology and disease on the human psyche, meant to suggest that minerals would form according to their own internal structures and not according to human expectations of ideal or universal standards that he described in the practice of medicine and biological sciences. Ruperto and company take this pronouncement as a prompt to explore the limits of our ability to project ourselves and our interests — as individuals, as a species — onto everything we encounter. The three will present their collaboration and insights in a panel discussion in 18th Street’s main gallery on Tuesday, September 16. The exhibition is on view through October 3.

The animations of rocks on view in the gallery are so simple that they are barely animations. Two frames flicker, triggering the left and right eye so as to challenge normal stereo vision. The rocks take on unusual qualities against their cave-like backgrounds. Ruperto describes how “the 2-frame animation is composed of the left and right eye views cycling back and forth to trick the eye into experiencing parallax and therefore a 3D effect. The effect is popular in GIFs and is at other times called wiggle stereoscopy or ‘piku-piku’ (‘twitching’) in Japan.” Specimens have been chosen collaboratively for de Jongh to render using Adobe Photoshop and TV Paint. She adds, “Each stone is digitally hand drawn on the computer, and each animations consists of just two frames: the right-eye view and the left-eye view. By rapidly switching back and forth between these two frames, an illusion of space, or 3D, is created. During my stay here I tested different types of animation, style, and intervals. I based the rocks on existing minerals that we selected.”

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