Dalena Tran elucidates the vastness and overwhelming nature of the digital era in her video work Incomplete (2021).
MiMi based on Eve Goulden | Ed. Peter Traynor | 17 November 2021 (revised January 2022)
Dalena Tran (b. 1992 – US) is a New Media artist, creative director, and educator living and working in Los Angeles, CA. Her research-based practice reinterprets applications of traditional art forms with emerging digital technologies through hybrid mediations. Engaging various media forms as semiotic storytelling, she investigates the everyday confluences of language and expression; presence and immateriality; voyeurism and surveillance; urbanism and hegemony; play and pause Her practice incorporates music video direction, research and critical writing. Through the use of open-source software, she reinterprets traditional creative processes within the context of digital forms of production. Tran’s digital art is centred around the exploration of the interconnections of human-centred experiences via films and animations. As an educator, Tran recently held a visiting professorship at Ohio State University. She taught in Moving Image, Internet Art, and Sound and Image.
Screenings from Jan to April 2022, don’t miss:
- 27 Jan – 6 Feb w/ Slamdance @slamogram (online)
- 6-13 Feb w/ Brussels Independent Film Festival (Brussels, Belgium)
- 18-24 Feb w/ SEEYOUSOUND @seeyousoundfestival (Turin, Italy)
- 23 Mar – 23 Apr w/ Kaboom @kaboomfestival (Utrecht/Amsterdam, Holland/Online)
Dalena Tran, announcement on Instagram @dalenaxtran (2022) © Courtesy of the artist.
Highly influenced by music and sound, we can bet that the next project will be rich in colour and texture with that poetic melancholy that characterises Dalena Tran’s work.
Artist, Title work (yyyy) © Courtesy of the artist.
Did you know?
Tran is editor of the online platform FLAT Journal. With contributions from artists and theorists such as Corey Archangel, Hye Min Cho and Rob Heppel, the publication has an ongoing open call for content surrounding themes of art and digitality. Based at UCLA, FLAT Journal presents theoretical writing from Los Angeles and beyond.
Dalena Tran, Incomplete 4:02 min. (2021) © Courtesy of the artist.
Directed by Dalena Tran | Music by Ash Koosha | Additional Software, Tooling, & Type by Hirad Sab | Produced by SOOZ GLOBAL
Play, watch, reflect, and feel. Dalena Tran’s work questions a variety of emotional thoughts in her digital audiovisual and animation projects. The most recent one, inspired by Ash Koosha’s song of the same title, the video Incomplete (2021) presents a glitching generative adversarial network (GAN) simulation of a natural landscape inhabited by fleeting bodies.
The video starts with a series of interrogations based on Pablo Neruda’s Book of Questions. As an excellent storyteller, Tran sets the tone; you are here to wander into a more intuitive and imaginative introspection. Embark on a reverie-like journey surrounded by wild horses and free-flying birds, majestic mountain peaks and infinite Van Gogh-esque blue skies.
But wait! “Has the future already happened?” asks Tran - affirming with the subtitle: The year is 2021. The future has already happened.
Submerged into a directional flow of information and disparate impressions, our increasingly virtualised world takes shape as a slow-burning anxiety; a rupture in linear time. Composed of a single take, Incomplete invites us to traverse a fluid choreography of weightless bodies surrounded by nature and animals. Everything looks diluted, even the surroundings are blurred, an elusive evocation of what we may remember of the world while in lockdown. As we remain alone and confined, nature continues its perpetual cycle of life and death; while our craving soul, which wants to reconnect with nature, can only surrogate in the digital realm.
As mentioned by Gabriella Gasparini in The Natural Sublime, the mind has the power to reclaim the natural from the claws of technology; but also a power to reshape and re-contextualise what we mean by the idea of ‘natural’, aided by a form of technology that doesn’t seek to destroy or take over, but rather blend, merge and coexist symbiotically with nature.
Tran evokes the ubiquitous presence of technology in our daily life with contrasting vivid colours and undefined shapes. The effect of setting the story in one frame recalls our mortality in this reconstructed beauty of nature. The digital sublime is invoked by this pixilation, which renders a vertiginous experience of the work.
The visual flow of the one-shot video is continually disrupted and distorted by an influx of image files. This video is also a brilliant homage to Hito Steyerl’s notion of the poor image, where images are collected, copied, and processed to the point of disorientation and anonymity. A process which, according to Tran, illustrates “a different perception of coherency”.
The video resulted from Tran’s research into open-source imaging software, 3D modelling, and animation.
“Many GAN-related works we see today focus on the interpolation of latent space and the fluid changes from one subject to another. With this work, I wanted to evoke an expression of storytelling using machine learning to expose the influx of poor images; providing the aesthetic and subjective quality that brings the attention back into the process itself”.
The Creative Team
- Directed by Dalena Tran
- Music by Ash Koosha
- Additional software, tooling, and type by Hirad Sab
- Produced by SOOZ GLOBAL
Incomplete is a metamodernist story, which questions our understanding of ourselves and our relation with nature in the form of a visual poem. The world, the environment, our lives are not linear lines, we all oscillate. Luke Turner’s The Metamodernist Manifesto (2011) proposed metamodernism as "the mercurial condition between and beyond irony and sincerity, naivety and knowingness, relativism and truth, optimism and doubt, in pursuit of a plurality of disparate and elusive horizons", and concludes with a call to "go forth and oscillate!"
To conclude, yes in 2021, the future has already happened. But, what is missing in this metaverse world to become complete?
Dalena Tran, Acts in Translation (2020), Online Video Installation, © Dalena Tran. Courtesy of the artist.
Acts in Translation (2020)
Featuring personal stories of loss as sound contributions from a network of global contributors, Acts in Translation is displayed online as a site for performance. Intertwined with digitally rendered visuals, a new story is told through the website on an hourly basis. Created during COVID-19 lockdown, the project explores the role of the Internet as a messenger in the absence of physical presence.
Dalena Tran, What Time Is There? (2020), Online Interractive Installation, © Dalena Tran. Courtesy of the artist.
What time is there? (2020)
This story is a search-party of one. It is an interactive narrative about a person with a diminishing memory who wakes up one morning in search of time, only to discover a world that moves with or without them.
Delve into the past with the music from The Caretaker’s An Empty Bliss Beyond This World. Let the sound of the water distract you while your thoughts wander in a labyrinth of memories, emotions and joys. Enjoy the ballad!
Tran created the artworks for the EP of the Manchester musician Sleepdebt. The concept is to convey a young woman's internal estrangement and sombre solitude while living among others in a densely populated city.
Have a look at the WebGL audio-visual website to interact with the surroundings of the subject.
Listen to the four tracks:
Sleepdebt , Gravity (2016) © Courtesy of the artist.
VR Exhibition in Hubs Mozilla
Tran’s work has been presented at Assembly Point, London and Gallery Platform, LA. It has additionally been featured in the online publications O Fluxo and Nowness. Moodafossil (2016) was broadcast on Adult Swim in 2016. Audiovisual performances have taken place by Tran at New Forms Festival, Vancouver; MoMA PS1, NY; and ICA, London.
2019, city / worship city, New Wight Gallery, LA.
2019, mornal : stasis – slowing down a mis-ordering of the normal, Broad Art Centre, LA.
2021.11, The Sublime 3.0: Fear and Awe, Agora Digital Art x thewrong biennale nr5, London, UK
2020, More a Cosmology than a Cartography, Gallery Platform, LA.
2020, Nearest Neighbour, UCLA Design Media Arts 2020 MFA Thesis Exhibition, Online.
- Slamdance Film Festival DIG Official Selection (online)
- Brussels Independent Film Festival, Brussels, Belgium
- SEEYOUSOUND , Turin, Italy
- Kaboom, Utrecht/Amsterdam, The Netherlands
- My Dreams These Days Official Selection
- Supernova Digital Animation Festival "Regeneration" Official Selection
- Simultan Festival "Unstable State of Things" Official Selection
- Big Cartoon Festival Official Selection
- Munich Music Video Awards Official Selection
- FIBER Festival "Mutation" Official Selection
- Experimental Film Guanajuato Official Selection
- Cucalorus Film Festival Official Selection
- VAEFF New York City Honorable Mention
- Animafest Gdansk International Animation Festival Official Selection
- TOFUZI International Animation Film Festival
- Istanbul International Experimental Film Festival Official Selection
- The Wrong Biennale "The Sublime" Pavilion
- /'fu:bar/ Glitch Art Festival
- CICA Museum "In Touch" Exhibition
- m-v-f- music video awards Finalist in animation and Innovation