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
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?