Shimmer Test: Cyberpunk 2077 

SEA // RIVER SHIMMER // BLOG // RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT 

Burton Art Gallery Press Release, Spring 2024
Burton Art Gallery and Museum is delighted to announce the appointment of Andy Hughes as our 2024 environmental artist commission. The commission will include the creation of a video artwork (Machinima) and research that aims to extend and create alternate perspectives around climate change and pollution.

Combining photographic assemblage, archival film, video gaming, and AI, this new video artwork celebrates the idea that even seemingly inanimate materials, such as plastic, were once 'alive' and may still possess a life of their own. As they flow through our rivers and journey across the planet, eventually they make their way into our bodies and minds. The first ocean life forms were microscopic, so small they would be invisible to the naked eye. It is what we cannot see that perhaps requires our focused attention now. His project called Sea/River Shimmer will connect the river Torridge and the estuary into real and virtual fluid watery worlds.




Andy has exhibited in both solo and group national and international exhibitions, most recently at Gapado AiR and the International Jeju Biennale (South Korea). He has dedicated over three decades to visualising the intricacies of plastic waste, pollution, and discarded matter, earning global acclaim. His work seeks to move beyond the conventional narratives about plastic pollution on land and in aquatic environments. His ground-breaking book, titled Dominant Wave Theory, marked a significant milestone as one of the pioneering photographic monographs specifically focused on the subject of plastic pollution. It stands out as an early contribution to 'raising awareness' about the detrimental effects of plastic waste on the environment. Andy first noticed the impact of marine plastic and other waste debris while sitting on a surfboard more than 30 years ago; it reminded him of the waste he grew up with in the Coalfield of Yorkshire. But rather than being fixed and terrestrial, it was floating and suspended in the sea.

Andy says: ‘My work aims to move beyond established visual tropes where messages of eco or plastic awareness lurk within. I aim to provoke heightened attentiveness and synesthetic modes of perception, challenging conventional ideas surrounding climate change and the broader environmental crisis. What we need is more than technocratic solutions to the ecological crises we face as a species.

Shimmer Test: Plastic Object with AI prompts

Body Veins

Image: The venous and arterial system of the human body with internal organs and detail figures of the generative system. Engraving, 1568. Becerra, Gaspar, 1520?-1568?

The ebb and flow of the river is a natural water vein. Unlike human blood vessels, which carry oxygen-poor blood to our heart, this river, like many others, carries more than just water.Rivers grow in size as they transport water from their source – from the headwaters to their mouth - carrying weathered materials, including human trash and waste, to the ocean. As natural and human-made materials enter the watercourse they become transformed. They morph and shimmer, float and sink. They are profound reminders of the intricate relationships between the movement of people and goods; they are important players in the water cycle helping to distribute water and dissolved substances around the Earth through their flow

Crystal Viens

Study for Crystaline Polymer Wave, 2024
Studio photograph combined with AI prompts

Current and future histories will be written with water. As oceans rise, islands disappear and coastlines recede, the surrounding seas will be soup-like. Glittering and floating within will be dispersed plastic particles, jewel-like and tiny. They may look like Diatoms (they produce up to 50% of the world's oxygen). In the novel, The Crystal World, J. G. Ballard presents an astonishing portrayal of environmental catastrophes. Ballard raises the idea of living flora and fauna undergoing a transformation into a mineral-like state, as well as the concept of time distortion... the novel stands out as one of Ballard's most perceptive works. This notion of non-linear time combined with imaginary visions of new kinds of materiality, forms the basis of this commissioned work. 

River Torrridge Map

Map of the River Torridge and its catchment in Devon, UK
Ordnance Survey OpenData

Source of the Tamar and Torridge, engraved by W.B. Cooke

Source of the Tamar and Torridge, engraved by W.B. Cooke
After Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851, Line engraving on paper, 79 × 134 mm, Tate, Purchased 1996, REFERENCE T07093

Ai - Vein

Sketchbook Notes
27.01.24

In a first experiment utilizing an AI tool, a vein-like structure is created. One aspect of the project aims to incorporate visual elements inspired by "The Crystal World" by J.G. Ballard. This novel unfolds amidst mysterious and otherworldly phenomena. Dr. Edward Sanders, a physician, embarks on a journey into the heart of the African rainforest where an enigmatic crystallization process is altering the landscape and its inhabitants. As Sanders traverses the crystalline terrain, he encounters a series of eerie and unsettling occurrences, including the crystallization of living organisms and the suspension of time itself. Ballard crafts a narrative that blurs the lines between reality and fantasy, delving into the psychological and existential ramifications of the crystal transformation. Themes of decay, metamorphosis, and the delicate nature of human existence are explored throughout the novel.

Andy Hughes Sea Shimmer Sketch

Plastic Atrocity, 2023
Visual study, experimental image

Northam Burrows North Devon

Rushes from first visit to Northam Burrows, Torridge Estuary
Location: 51°03'37.2"N 4°12'47.8"W
02.03.24

'This is a flat, sky-dominated landscape with strong sensory characteristics. The habitats within the mosaic (dunes, beach, saltmarsh, mudflats and farmland) each have unique qualities of pattern, colour and texture which are juxtaposed in different combinations. The salty smell of mudflats and the sea are ever-present, as are the calls of birds. Within the dunes, there is a strong sense of enclosure, isolation and wilderness. This contrasts with the open views towards the surrounding settlements, and the time depth associated with the strip fields at Braunton'.

Source: https://www.torridge.gov.uk/article/21652/DCA-58-Taw-Torridge-Estuary


Northam Burrows

Screen Grab: Mud flats Westbrook District Night City, Cyberpunk 2077
14.03.24

The artwork  Sea Shimmer integrates computer-generated recordings from the video game 'Cyberpunk 2077', thereby establishing connections between its futuristic Night City and real-life footage from the rivers and seascape of North Devon. Night City, portrayed as a densely populated, hierarchical society plagued by gang violence, corporate rivalry, and political intrigue, serves as the backdrop for a players' survival in the game. Both the virtual and physical realms drive the film's narrative, shaping the development of the artwork. The concept of entanglements between the real, present and future extends to the interpretation of the artwork, indicating that its meaning is fluid and subject to individual perspectives. The film encourages audiences to make their own connections and readings connected to the overall commission theme. For example; how might that piece of litter you saw today in the drain flowing towards the river move through time and space, might it be alive, where might it come to rest and what might it say if it could talk to you.

Gapado Workshop Note

Torridge Estuary
26.04.24

These images are a selection from the second visit to the estuary predominantly focus on areas where mud and water interface. These locations hold potential as visual components for the final film project and might also serve as subjects for photographic prints. The juxtaposition of mud and water creates dynamic visual contrasts, offering opportunities to explore texture, colour, and the interplay between organic and fluid elements. These selected images capture the essence of the estuary's ever-changing landscape and provide visual materials for both cinematic and photographic interpretations.

Gapado Workshop Note

Northam Burrows
26.04.24

This artwork aims to connect real-world landscapes with their representations in video game environments. Hughes suggests that to appreciate this connection fully, it's crucial to understand one's semantic memory - the memory of general knowledge and facts about the world. He emphasises the importance of feeling like you're actively recalling information from both the real scene you're observing and from the camera or game space recording it. This simultaneous engagement with memory, retrieval, and recording is may enable individuals to link the physical and virtual worlds together.

Gapado Workshop Note

River Torridge, Bideford 
27.04.24

Rivebank stream, River Torridge (near Bideford).

Gapado Workshop Note

River Torridge, Bideford
27.04.24

Mud and tree lined River Torridge (near Bideford).

Torridge Estuary
26.04.24

Torridge Estuary
26.04.24

Mobirise Website Builder

Imaginary Future Public Information Panel 
04.05.24

In 200 years, imagine an information board located in the Taw/Torridge Estuary, offering insights into the evolution of the landscape and the ongoing efforts to preserve its ecological integrity. This futuristic board would serve as a testament to humanity's enduring commitment to environmental stewardship and the continued importance of connecting people with their natural surroundings. The board might highlight the remarkable transformations that have taken place over the centuries, documenting the restoration of key habitats, the reintroduction of native species, and the innovative conservation strategies employed to mitigate the impacts of climate change and human activity. Visitors would learn about the resilient nature of the estuarine ecosystem and the collaborative efforts of scientists, conservationists, and local communities to safeguard its biodiversity for future generations.

As technology advances, this future information board could incorporate interactive features such as augmented reality displays, allowing visitors to virtually explore the estuary's past, present, and potential future scenarios. Through engaging multimedia presentations, visitors would gain a deeper understanding of the interconnectedness of ecosystems and the importance of sustainable practices in preserving our planet's natural heritage.Ultimately, this futuristic information board would serve as more than just a source of knowledge; it would be a catalyst for action, inspiring visitors to become stewards of the environment and advocates for the protection of fragile ecosystems like the Taw/Torridge Estuary.

Mobirise Website Builder

Hybrid Photo-Collage
04.05.24

As the commission progresses, new strands and scenarios present themselves. In addition to featuring gameplay from Cyberpunk 2077, other  possibilities begin to emerge. Among these is the inclusion of in-game footage from other popular titles such as Grand Theft Auto, Red Dead Redemption, and No Man's Sky. No Man's Sky stands out as an expansive, procedurally generated open-world game developed and published by the indie studio Hello Games. Renowned for its vast, virtually infinite universe, players are invited to embark on a journey where they can explore planets, encounter unique flora and fauna, engage in spacefaring combat, trade with alien species, and uncover the mysteries of the cosmos. A defining aspect of No Man's Sky lies in its procedurally generated world, where planets, creatures, and environments are created algorithmically, offering players an unparalleled variety of landscapes and ecosystems to explore. This feature ensures that each player's experience is unique, fostering a sense of endless discovery and adventure within the game's vast universe.

River Torridge Andy Hughes

Hybrid: Crystaline River Torridge, AI, 2024

"The brief span of an individual life is misleading. Each one of us is as old as the entire biological kingdom,
and our bloodstreams are tributaries of the great sea of its total memory".

The Drowned World – J.G. Ballard (1962)

River Torridge Andy Hughes

Hybrid: Crystaline River Torridge, AI, 2024

Torridge Estuary Andy Hughes

Hybrid: Taw-Torridge Estuary, AI, 2024

Torridge Estuary Andy Hughes

Hybrid:  Estuary Mud, AI, 2024


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