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Sean Capone

May 2018

Public Viewing Hours:
Fridays 6–8pm
Saturdays 1–5pm
Sundays 1–5pm

Cities & The Sky #3, a new digital animation by Brooklyn-based artist Sean Capone, is the most recent in a series of public art projects that the artist has been engaged with for several years. This body of work explores more experimental, process-based and phantasmagoric forms of animation, using generative software to create and manipulate dynamic visual systems in real-time. Visually, the Cities & The Sky series evokes the dynamics of landscape painting, the pop graphics of mural art, and the synesthetic ‘visual music’ of abstract art and expanded cinema.

As an artist working in the public sphere, Sean is interested in using moving imagery to immerse and surprise the viewer, to encourage a reflection on one’s experience of the built environment and the temporal flow of media information, and—in the case of the 150 Media Stream project specifically—to engage this flow of imagery as part of the very architectural fabric of the space itself. In our contemporary media culture, more so now than ever before, the ‘screen’ is both a surface to observe and a space to inhabit.

Interview with Sean Capone

The 150 Media Stream itself is like a giant landscape, could you talk about the sense of the space in the work you create in relationship to the installation’s scale? Did the fragmented structure of the wall create challenges in achieving that sense of space?

I was very concerned about the fragmentation of the surface in terms of visual clarity—my work tends to have a lot of visual information and details. At first I wanted to address each unique ‘blade’ of the video wall individually, thinking sculpturally or architecturally about it. But after a few tests I learned to relax after realizing the viewer’s minds filled in the gaps of visual information, so it didn’t have to be so tightly mapped… and also that the screen itself is so high resolution and so vast that one’s perceptual & perspectival space is always shifting. Thus, the viewer’s bodily presence physically moving through the lobby, taking the screens in a section at a time, is essential to the overall visual experience. I decided against finely detailed imagery, opting instead to use more negative space and broader fields of flat, flowing color than I would use if it were a single-channel video. The negative space, at this scale, becomes a kind of portal, a penetration through the morphing canyons and efflorescing forms.

Your work references painters, especially those working with abstract landscapes. Do you see your work as a moving painting?

I will sometimes refer to the work as ‘moving painting’ as a kind of shorthand, but I don’t see it as operating in the contemporary field of expanded painting. Not fully. Maybe I share some of the same concerns—the intersection of digital techniques with more traditional materialist practices, for example. And I certainly do draw a lot—drawing is how I storyboard, conceptualize and develop the work. In the animations, I do insert visual references to painterly strokes and gestures, but that’s more by way of synthesizing the energy of those forms to remind myself of animation’s foundational relationship to drawing and mark-making—even as the field of animation becomes increasingly digital and automated.

But, out of respect to the serious endeavor of painting, I will say I am creating animations which are meant to function philosophically and perceptually as a contemporary form of ‘expanded cinema’ as theorized by the media scholar Gene Youngblood. He wrote the seminal text which described a speculative form of immersive, post-cinematic media ‘atmospherics’ which has now become our cultural reality—for better or worse!

You talked about creating romanticism completely from a piece of machinery. Could you elaborate on that and the relationship of computers to landscapes?

Animation is a rather tedious affair. Whether working traditionally or digitally, the long solitary hours creating a couple seconds of imagery is something you have to contend with, meditate upon, and generate energy from. Occasionally I have to remind myself that it’s really quite an extraordinary thing, to sit down at a computer and emerge some hours later with a piece of film, an artwork or video ‘object’ that didn’t exist before, that can be instantly experienced and disseminated into the culture. And unlike traditional artwork which exists at a fixed physical scale, video is infinitely scalable, modular, and portable. This was the creative-artist-as-hacker dream of the 90s, which is the romanticism I was talking about. Kind of a fake but very seductive countercultural fantasy—the aesthetic that was in the air around when I started out, made possible by the introduction of personal computers and software of seemingly otherworldly power capable of creating new kinds of images, videos, music, architecture, etc all in one package—and all within the power of a single user with no specialized training or access. My choice of imagery: urban and natural landscapes, abstract ambient visuals, and so on, was my attempt to create the same kind of experiential atmosphere of the kind of music I was listening to (Harold Budd, The Orb, Eno, Morton Feldman, et. all.)… often categorized as ‘sonic landscapes.’

But of course, every few months I freak out and swear I’m going to throw my computers out the window and disappear into the countryside to study ceramics, become a farm-to-table chef, or do something ‘real’ that I can actually wrap my hands around…

How do you maintain a studio practice in New York?

Clawing up the mountainside, one fingernail at a time!

In addition to patching together an uncertain livelihood from commissions, prizes, and artwork sales, I use my skillset in animation and design to take on commercial projects. I was very active in the motion graphics field for a long time, but since moving to New York I shifted to working mostly in the event & fashion industries. More than just a way to make extra cash, these jobs opened up different channels of creativity and collaboration for my own work. I think as a video/film artist you have to develop this kind of flexibility. I would love to be a video artist set designer for the theater and performing arts! The field of moving-image scenography has become very established now and really exciting to me—lots of potential.

Learn more about Sean Capone here

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Adler Planetarium

150 Media Stream website:
design by the narrative: branding & design
photography by michael salisbury