Siggraph 96 Reevaluated

Siggraph 96 took place in New Orleans. It is still one of the most
important, if not THE most important conference on computer graphics and
animation. The images and animations shown at Siggraph proved one more
time to what infantility and monstrosity the human mind is able if it is
only guided by the motive to gain the highest profit. Two general
directions can be abstracted from the stream of digital imagery:

A) scientifically grounded realism: the methods for the visual
representation of natural phenomena of all kinds are continually getting
improved. […]

B) plastic reality: all kinds of monsters, comic figures, ghosts,
neo-Frankensteins, chewing gum heads, heads without bodies and bodies
without heads.

ad A) The term "virtual reality" is slowly getting a new meaning. It is
not just a mere visual representation of the world anymore but a
representation in a much deeper sense. The forces of physical nature are
now taken into account. Once the model of a human person is designed,
mathematical programs take care that its movements look "natural" when
animated. Movements of groups of people or animals are also animated in
a natural style through "flocking" techniques (Craig Reynolds, Jessica


At Siggraph it was clearly visible that this industry and the research
and development behind it is in a very strong way influenced by its
sponsors. These sponsors are the big film and special effect studios in
Hollywood, but also the big computer and telecom companies and last but
not least the medical and military sector. So at Siggraph of course
Hollywood is on the forefront and you could almost smell the desire for
new software and hardware tools which are faster, cheaper and more
efficient in manipulating the masses. The "R & D" done in and for
Hollywood does not care at all about any humanistic principals, just
about satisfying the goals of the studio moguls.

ad B) Plastic Reality

The "Electronic Theatre" introduced this years film and video show with
the best animations from film, games and ads. To put it mildly hardly
any of the productions deserve any special coverage. Seventy or eighty
percent of the movies featured monstrous figures, mostly very comic
strip like. This cannot be just by chance. We know that the technology
can do other things as well. There were some examples in the program
that showed other ways but they were by far the minority. The most
expensive hard and software, the best paid script writers, directors,
graphic designers and animators are standing behind these productions.
How comes that there is such a degradation of the human image that is
shown in these productions? There is fighting and killing, synthetic
blood floods the screen, spacecyborgs haunt each other, monsters rave in
underground catacombs.


Pulp-Economy ———— The close alliance between pulp-entertainment,
science, and computer technology is not that bad if we were able to look
at it in a postmodern indifferent way. At least it is not directly
killing people and sometimes it