Art + Thought / Richard Fenwick

RND - one of the programmer's most enduring commands: The ability to add randomness to data.
Why on earth would programmers wish to add unpredictability to their data? Well, the most obvious answer is that data that behaves with unpredictability better replicates life, and programmers are often in pursuit of this aim: From the varying length of hair on a CGI character to the variety of responses a computer has to a question, randomizing data can simulate a fuzzy logic that to a mere observer may be mistaken for artificial intelligence. Yet it is simply sleight of hand. A trick. A way in which to lull a user into accepting that perhaps the technology they are encountering is as human or as thoughtful as they are. Dream on.

The RND# project (Random Number) deals with this collision head on; between life and technology; between inert machinery and the chaotic nature of reality. And in the process, questions society's hugely weird and wired reliance on technology itself.
The project is an ongoing series of short 'sketchbook' films that currently stands at 20 completed pieces. It was originally initiated in San Francisco whilst I was an 'artist in residence' at product design giants, IDEO. Since then subsequent films have been made in London (UK), Shanghai (China), Newcastle (UK), Vienna (Austria) and Munich (Germany). Singularly these films are little more than random thoughts and snapshot commentaries, but as an intended set of 100 films they will, collectively, serve a more useful purpose; offering up an alternative 'user guide' to the art of living in the new millennium.

The specific subject matter of these films varies greatly - from films about trying to find the internet and working out how to use shopping trolleys, to films about airline safety and how we count the cost of economic growth; but the constant theme in all these films is the conflict - the randomness one introduces when people are asked to interact with technology. This is the core value; the structural glue that forms the intersection and the tension: the background to the surface gloss. When people interact with technology there are casualties: sometimes small and insignificant, other times catastrophic and life altering. Why do we endure it? Why do we keep adding technology into the mix? The answers are probably too long to print here, but one thing is for certain - our appetite is insatiable; our curiosity is piqued. There's no turning back now. We're on a road to somewhere… But, I defy anyone to actually tell me where that is.

Another important point to mention in regard to this project is the visual language of the films. The semiotics used in these films are very diverse. Many of the films fuse film language and narrative principles, others use graphic design and the written word; most attempt to juggle all these techniques at once. There are no hard and fast rules: The only thing that matters is that the idea remains the motivating principle and that the semiotics used fundamentally support the idea.

Richard Fenwick's career began in 1997 as a video graphic designer at Static 2358 where he designed graphic sequences for well known broadcasters such as Channel 4 and Filmfour. In 1998 he co-founded OS2 - a fiercely independent and, some would say, avant garde film and design company. Fenwick also owns his own experimental studio called ref:pnt (reference point). This personal space has allowed him to continue working with graphic based filmmaking: he has worked with WARP, Rephlex records, Creative Review and has initiated an ambitious art project called RND#.

Text originally published in ArtFutura's 2004 catalog.