Vanitas is about digital transience and refers to 16th century flower still lifes in which flowers bloom at the same time, which in reality never do. In the installation AKMAR brings together digital flowers from different computer programs that represent different generations of computer eras. The oldest flowers date from 1991, when Windows 3.1 was still the operating system.

With progress comes impermanence. This is what Vanitas is about. A video installation that shapes the transience in computer technology. The work refers to 17th century flower still lifes in which flowers bloom at the same time, which they in reality never do. I collected ready-to-use 3D models of flowers, flowers picked up from different libraries of different software programs developed over time. But no longer run on current hardware. Through this artwork I want to give an insight into the power and impotence of ICT, technology related to wealth and transience in our current world that is so determined by Information and Communication Technology.

-This work is an ongoing archive of digital 3d flowers that are stored in various software packages.-

I am fascinated by the fact that software becomes obsolete so quickly. Or is it just that hardware is updated so quickly? In the physical libraries we try to conserve knowledge (books) so that we can still learn from it. In the digital world, many virtual libraries (that are part of software packages) are disappearing because these packages simply can no longer be opened due to the development of hardware.

The constant stream of updates and new materials is becoming more and more expensive. Technology allied to wealth and impermanence. Here too there is a resemblance to the flower still lifes from the 17th century; Wealthy painters could afford to spend a year on their flower still lifes. had the time to wait for the flower to bloom and the money to buy, for example, the very expensive tulips at the time. Poorer painters had to get their knowledge from botanical books.

The physical installation is 8 by 8 meters and consists of 48 skewed and tilted screens. On it, digital 3D models of flowers spin gracefully in circles. The big difference with the sixteenth century: the flowers do not depend on the seasons, but on different types of software that have been used for this in recent decades, such as Plant Studio, Google Sketchup, Maya, 3DS-max, the popular computer game Minecraft, or Cinema 4D.

The colourful flowers flow gracefully across the LCD screens – their physical ‘vase’. The black power and video cables connecting the screens meander between them, like the jagged branches of wild bushes. In between are glass vases, with a number of screens resting on them, a subtle reminder of the time when flowers were still organic. Rough and pixelated, created with just a few lines or smooth and realistic in high resolution: the design of the digital flowers reveals something about the development of technology in recent decades.

The play with time is given an added dimension in the used screens: old, slightly yellowed models from a German office building. Their position in relation to the window determined the way they are now discoloured. The longer the screens were in the sun before, the more yellow they now look. The passage of time is stored in both the digital and physical material.

Besides the sculptural video installation, there is a ‘part two’ where I play in another way with the language of the virtual world. Software programs have in common that they all simulate reality, our world. They enchant us with their realism. This realism consists of wireframes and pivots and fluids. Rendering gives it color and shape that looks real.

During the exhibition a 3d printer will print a same flower every day, It has a performative character. The printer is asked to print one flower a tulip from MAYA2008. Rendered the tulip looks real. This reality changes when it’s 3d printed. Due to the miscommunication between the old programming language and the 3d printer, despite repeatedly entering the same model, another flower will emerge.

Thomas van Huut wrote an essay about Vanitas read it in dutch or english

Vanitas (2020) / 48 screens / video content virtual flowers / 8×8 meters



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