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Michael Burr


Michael Burr

Artist biography

Michael Burr is a digital artist from Canberra, Australia. He makes code-based works, art objects and animations.

Exploring many different methods of design for the web and for the arts has left him with a diverse array of applicable skills and cross\over experience.

Starting out with traditional art (drawing and sculpture) Michael first entered the digital arts in 2000. Starting, as most do, with simple image editing, he soon moved into 3D. With the shift to 3D came experimentation with lighting and camera work and naturally, animation.

Michael's animation work then managed to regress back to 2D animation and eventually back to hand-drawn frame by frame traditional animation. This was explored in parallel with his exploration of programmatic and physical computing arts. The programmatic arts led him to processing virtual reality, augmented reality and web design, while physical computing projects came in the form of Arduino projects with additional practices including copper etching, electronics and sculpture. 

Artist work: WJ Macdonnell's Telescope

Medium: Animation
Music: Licensed by Moby Gratis
Date: November 2012

Artist statement

The first threads of research for WJ Macdonnell's Telescope came from automatism/free-drawing and the 'exquisite corpse' game as explored by the surrealists. These processes explore the subconscious mind and how it can reveal itself through mindless unplanned expression over extended periods of time. The product is often revealing and chaotic in nature with momentary insights into what the creator is experiencing. The artist tried to imagine how an individual might produce the same effect in an animation. In the end deciding to set out and produce an animation using free-drawing ideas in combination with 'exquisite corpse' sandbox inspiration. That is to say an animation that from moment to moment had no direction, but sporadically came together to give a glimpse of what was passing in the mind of the creator. To comply with the concept of freedrawing, the artist had to have some node of reference for each coherent moment in the animation. The moments may only be seconds in animation terms but they were hours of drawing.

For each indivisible sequence the artist surrounded himself with specific imagery or reading material: from photographs of WJ Macdonnell sitting at his telescope to texts and talks given on the object's history and scientific significance. The influences that guided the transition sequences was the looped music that the sequence is played out to. The sequence is played several times during the playback of a single musical loop, while the music looped hundreds of time in the ears of the artist during the animation's production. While at first glance the music and animation appear to be only superficially linked, the bond between them is inextricable. Across multiple viewings and several loops of the entire piece, the viewer will begin to see how the flow of lines and accuracy of contours ebb and flow to the various environmental conditions acting out on the artist as the piece was produced.

Artist inspiration

The first thread of inspiration for WJ Macdonnell's Telescope came upon the artist through an artistic collaboration venture where many video artists and animators were organised to produce works that chained together but were created independently. This was based on the ‘exquisite corpse’ game as played by the surrealists. It is a game where an artist would draw a head and then fold the paper over so only the bottom of the neck was showing and pass the page onto the next artist who would draw the upper torso and so on. The end result was a collaborative artwork with moments of cohesion but no overall direction.

The other concept that was very influential in the conception of this piece was automatism and in particular free-drawing. This is the act of drawing for an extended period of time, until that artist runs out of ideas. The artist is then left with no higher thought to control the images drawn and they begin to express deeper influences on the artists mind, things the artist may not even have realised they were thinking about.