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  • Beginning and End GamesA Parable in 3D
  • Claudia Hart (bio)

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Figure 1.

Claudia Hart, The Swing, 2006. Three-channel animation, one of three channels, each 720 × 1280 pixels, with stereo sound by Kurt Hentschläger, 10 min. Courtesy the artist and bitforms gallery, New York

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For many years, I was primarily a painter, and I exhibited paintings, objects, and photographs in the contemporary art context, first in New York beginning in 1988 and later in Berlin. Then in the late 1990s, I began working with three-dimensional, or 3D, computer imaging for the first time. In the mid-1990s, 3D animation software, or Maya, as it is called, was not available for the personal computer. It was supported exclusively on the UNIX operating system, typically available only in large corporations or academic institutions. So in 1997 I began taking classes at New York University’s Center for Advanced Digital Applications in order to gain access both to Maya and to the center’s sophisticated computer labs.

Learning 3D animation was quite challenging, and although I was an early adopter of computers, nothing I had previously done prepared me for the mathematical and technical rigor of spatial 3D imaging or the culture that surrounded it. When it came to courses in Maya or virtual reality simulations, there were hardly any women enrolled in classes. I was also one of only a small coterie of contemporary artists working with this software, since, until recently, 3D animation and imaging existed completely outside the purview of contemporary art discourse. There are a number of factors that explain this situation, one being that the technology was still quite novel, having been previously used mainly by the US Department of Defense to create flight simulations, and another is that the gaming industry that has since popularized 3D animation was then only nascent. And although Maya has since [End Page 87] become an entertainment industry standard, in many ways this technology is alien and remains a challenge conceptually, because it represents a distinct break from the analogical, photographic model of representation that has been the cultural standard since the nineteenth century. Reality is simulated in 3D animation not through “capture” like photography but rather by modeling a parallel universe “inside the computer” and then outputting it. In that sense, 3D animation is truly “post-photographic,” and as such it is still little understood both inside and outside the art world.

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Figure 2.

Claudia Hart, Mortification01, 2007–8. Rapid-prototype printed sculpture, ABS (acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene) plastic, 7.5 × 2.75 × 2.75 in. Courtesy the artist and bitforms gallery, New York

In 2000 I started teaching as a visiting instructor at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute in a department then called Computer Graphics and Interactive Media. Although Pratt is a serious fine arts school, at that time its computer art department was “production oriented” and more or less an extension of global engineering culture. I began to understand the students’ needs as vocational in nature; they desired entry not into the world of contemporary art but into what historian of science Timothy Lenoir (then chair of the program in history and philosophy of science at Stanford) identified as the “military-entertainment complex” (2000). The program was very demanding, as it was believed that mastering the elaborate Maya software interface required hours of memorization by rote. Its ultimate purpose was to train digital workers to staff proscribed stations in the production pipelines of multimillion-dollar Hollywood effects films or elaborate shooter games. Soon this art school training was to serve mainly as boot camp for the armies of the military-entertainment complex.

Professional mainstream 3D game culture has always been largely homosocial, and its users generally form a kind of [End Page 88]

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Figure 3.

Claudia Hart, The Seasons: Video Object, 2009. QuickTime video, 720 × 1280 pixels, with stereo sound by Claudia Hart, 10 min. Courtesy the artist and bitforms gallery, New York

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Figure 4.

Claudia Hart, Ophelia, 2008. Single-channel animation, 10-minute...


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