by Anmol AhujaMay 31, 2022
Sturm & Drang - an exhibition at the premises of the Osservatorio Fondazione Prada in Milan - is the latest in a line of collaborations between Fondazione Prada, gta exhibitions, and the Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture at the ETH Zurich Department of Architecture in Switzerland. As a successor to the Sturm & Drang Studio university lecture series, which was followed by a preliminary exhibition at the Fondazione Prada Aoyama in Tokyo, titled Sturm & Drang Preview Services, this third phase of the project (from September 9, 2021 - January 23, 2022) will extend the scope of its predecessors, exploring the initial practices and processes involved in the creation of computer generated imagery (CGI) environments and experiences. Removing the focus from the refined digital end product to investigate and illuminate underlying concepts and techniques, the exhibition’s programme is curated by architect Luigi Alberto Cippini of emerging architecture and urbanism practice Armature Globale, alongside Fred Fischli and Niels Olsen of gta Exhibitions.
Sturm & Drang traces the ever-present impact of CGI imagery on modern life, from its implementations in content such as video games and film special effects to more strategic applications like architectural design, art, medicine, forensics, warfare, advertising, and simulated experiences such as virtual and augmented reality. Building on the extremes depicted by its namesake, the18th century German art, music, and literary movement Sturm und Drang - translated as ‘Storm and Stress’, the exhibition highlights the stark irony between the heavily produced and often emotionally poignant visuals created by CGI, and the inhospitable environments and labour-intensive methods employed to create them. Realised as a series of interactive installation mock-ups and architectural modules that cite both existing and imaginary spaces - depicting their creation from a technical and conceptual standpoint, the exhibits on show draw attention to the incredible complexity of digital modelling and its omnipresent influence in contemporary media.
Designed by Armature Globale, the sequence of archived environments and modules commences with a prototype for a military first-person shooter (FPS) setting - an archetype that is ubiquitous in gaming as well as military training. This reference model is also widely used in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for combat veterans, as per the curators. Exploring the real/virtual duality of how the same technology is presently used to design weapons in both the real and virtual world, this zone’s spatial configuration simplifies the concepts behind 3D motion tracking software which is utilised in cinematic post-production as well as tactical movement recording. The next space encountered is a tribute to a landmark work of fiction in the cyberpunk genre - William Gibson’s 1984 novel Neuromancer, featuring a recreation of the Cheap Hotel Chiba, where the book’s cyber hacker protagonist Henry Dorsett Case, connects to cyberspace.
Following this, visitors will be led into a space that celebrates the collective global culture behind the field of CGI production. A series of monitor-covered walls are used to play edited and post-produced videos of online videos and tutorials used to train designers and convey knowledge about the artform. This method of exhibition outlines the informal information channels and atypical learning patterns that are core features of the domain’s DIY ethos. A combination of optical and technological tables alongside mountable sleep spaces define the fourth environment on the second level of the exhibition. The design of this space intends to reflect the limbo hours spent by designers in waiting for digital renderings to complete, as a reflection of the procedures that bring CGI productions to life. MDF panels, tubular metallic poles, wooden structures, and plexiglass constitute the material palette for the design, structured as a museum and archive prototype envisioned for an existing modernist parking lot complex at ETH Zurich.
This final edition of the project Sturm & Drang extends the scope of its previous phases, which involved conversations with the Vice President of Research at The Walt Disney Studios along with the director of Disney Research Studios - Markus Gross, in addition to the American software company nTopology, the France-based architectural visualisation studio ArtefactoryLab, as well as artists Meriem Bennani, Sybil Montet, Emanuel Rossetti, and Sara Sadik. The culmination of a long-term project, this exhibition at the Osservatorio offers a tribute to the unsung stories and efforts that have made the digital world the vibrant place it is today.
To view the online lectures featured in the Sturm & Drang Studio workshop, click here.