“Without a Doubt” centers on the notion that humans mentally and physically construct subjective versions of the world they inhabit. A "neutral" physical world existed through the eons before humans appeared with their unique brand of interpretation and consciousness. Since that time, we have altered our physical environments, as well as our belief systems, based on a balance of rationality and spirituality. I enjoy the notion that the Almighty is actually an architect who employs exacting measurements in the construction of a perfect universe.
William Blake, The Ancient of Days, 1794 and Free Masonry Compass and Square Symbol
I began this animation project, as always, with a desire to digitally recreate physical objects that interest me on a personal level, pun intended. Old tools, especially those used for measurement, often carry an aesthetic that goes beyond function. Drafting tools such as compasses, dividers, straightedges and slide rules were often treasured by their owners as revered objects. These tools were manufactured to exacting standards and came with rich leather and velvet cases that would be passed on from generation to generation. My father gave me his old mason’s level that has the wooden equivalent to wrinkles. Though I don’t have much practical use for it, it reminds me of the hours he used it to pay for a hospital bill on the occasion of my birth. I set about duplicating assorted measuring objects by examining the subtlest details of their character.
I needed a theme to draw these interests together and hit upon the work of a most worthy individual - René Descartes. This 17th century philosopher/mathematician not only addressed basic conceptual questions and answers (“I think, therefore I am.”), but also defined fundamental principles of mathematics and geometry (the “Cartesian” coordinates located along Z, Y and Z axes). I liked the fact that his famous quote is recognized by most everybody and has become a cliché of philosophical thought, most appropriate because my work is often about “recycling” clichés. He reached this premise through a process called the “Method of Doubt,” thus the animation is titled, “Without a Doubt.”
I selected quotes from his “Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting One’s Reason and of Seeking Truth” that were available on the public domain site, Librivox. A “human” entity that is comprised of measuring tools and other objects that represent our world concept, delivers these lines. Some symbols included in this character are a political globe and a generic two-story house, who is an old “actor” I have employed repeatedly over the years.
The Last Step, drawing, 1999
The human environment is portrayed as an infinitely large wall of drawers, each containing a stereotypical room in which dramatic events take place. The scenes portray the compass as a protagonist, the house as our constructed environment and globe as the objective world. The huge wall of drawers is derived from an old wooden file cabinet advertised on EBay.
Just prior to the climax, there is a scene of marching compasses. I find humor in personifying the compass as a rather stiff, limping character or a militaristic marcher. The inspiration for the compass “army” came from an old ephemeral movie short about the history of measurement entitled “Precisely So” (1937) found in the Prelinger Archives.
The viewer witnesses three scenarios before moving to the climax, a roller coaster ride along the X, Y and Z axes ending at 0,0,0, or the center of the world. The large globe then begets a small globe in a never-ending sequence of scale and time.
I wish to thank John Chase, my longtime friend, for the compelling music which underlays a perfect tone and tension necessary for the success of the work.
Now I can give my poor computer a rest...
• 6 minutes, 3 seconds
• 1280 x 720, 16:9 aspect ratio, 30fps
• 3DS Max 2014, Mental Ray, Final Cut Pro, DVD Studio Pro, Audacity
• Modeling and Rendering: BOXX six core PC, 4.75 GHz, 16 Gb RAM, nVidia Quadro, Apple 30” and 24” dual displays
• Video and DVD Editing: MacBook Pro