Decompress With These Video Game Dreamscapes

Gizmodo is looking at a lot of net art these days, but you’ll have to scan further than Google Arts and Culture to find it, so we asked net artists for help. Today, Peter Burr looks back on the crumbling art of Flash.


Firebombed by the Dissolution of Flash

“I used to troll the net searching for ‘digital animation’ a lot and I was really engaged with the work of MUMBLEBOY,” video artist and director Peter Burr told me of his early-aughts inspiration. Burr has, in the intervening years, mastered the medium: His videos feel like mucking around in the unraveling psyche of a video game, where every flat surface is teeming with seizure-inducing static (human skin, walls, etc. are all skinned with flashing patterns) to the hum of a synthesizer, in what he refers to as “infinite dungeons.” His latest full-length film, Dirtscraper, portrays the daily humdrum patterns of a human population unaware that it’s trapped inside an eroding underground multiplex ruled by artificial intelligence. Burr’s animation falls away into abstract patterns and rematerializes again almost unnoticeably (this has hypnotized me for an hour at a gallery before I noticed that several people were in line for the headphones).

Burr pointed to the 2000 Mumbleboy video “PAMPLEMOUSSE” as a specific inspiration. The absurdist free-floating sequence of cartoon animals and robots that move and with the logic of a video game, but with no purpose. “No doubt, it informed the painterly dream logic I employed in my early animations like this.”

Watching PAMPLEMOUSSE again reminds me of why I used to spend so much time searching the internet for keywords around ‘digital animation.’ At that time (2000, 2001) I was in art school and thinking a lot about modernism in painting, especially the concern for a material’s essential qualities. As I was learning new computer technology to make visual art, I was yearning for examples to reference and MUMBLEBOY was one of the few I really clicked with. It’s interesting to observe the perfect vector and gradient qualities that FLASH lends to the shapes, colors, and movements of his work. In a way, [my piece] ALONE WITH THE MOON is in a curious conversation with that, but from a standpoint of the crispy pixel dithering, and other techniques that highlight the cellular quality of LCD display tech.

Sadly, most of [MUMBLEBOY’s] work was firebombed by the dissolution of Flash. The dissolution of his work constantly makes me reflect on the precarity of the internet as a cultural platform. Lots of light has shined on that reality, for me, this past decade.


Updated: 4/21/2020, 10:02 a.m. ET: The introduction of this post has been abridged. You can read the original intro here.

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Staff reporter, Gizmodo. wkimball @ gizmodo