About the media

With her production team, Fiennes brings to her work substantial experience of filmmaking and visual effects technology to create dynamic works which are able to perpetually self-generate in a continuous, non-predictable, ‘randomised’ visual display. This means that the works are liberated from the need to be played over or “looped”.

By combining coding instructions with pre-rendered imagery, Fiennes enables video and audio layers to be selected at random and in ‘real time’ from a substantial database of original imagery and recorded sound. The works are consequently liberated from the traditional, prescribed and linear film format, as narrative control is relinquished to the computer engine which drives the work. This means that the storytelling process is discharged from being fully controlled by the artist/director, making each viewing experience spontaneous and unique

The technology behind the work enables sequences of video and audio layers to be selected autonomously (i.e. at random) by the machine, in real time, from a substantial database of pre-rendered imagery and recorded sound. The result is a highly immersive, mesmeric experience

Fiennes explains that these hybrid works are neither ‘film' nor 'video art’ but a new - or hybrid form of moving-image media, in which the work itself possesses its own degree of narrative autonomy.

She suggests that the experience is perhaps closer to that of encountering a painting or still work of art ; - there is no fixed narrative or prescribed length and the viewer chooses how long they wish to spend with the work. If the work is encountered again, there is every chance they will see sequences they did not experience previously. The databank of content and the potential variation of combination is substantial. Fiennes suggests that - “The point at which you encounter the work and the time you choose to spend with it is the perfect time for you”.

The technological innovations employed in the creation of the project point to a new range of creative possibilities for filmmakers and artists working with the moving image.

About the work

In Yugen (2018), the actor Salma Hayek Pinault is Martha Fiennes’ muse and it is her character and potent presence which dominates the screen.

Watching the work, we are led on an on-going, dreamlike, often surreal journey encounter with both a natural, material world, as well as with that of alternate dimensional realities. Through technique and subject matter, Fiennes creates a dramatic and unusual evocation to stimulate the subconscious mind.

Yugen is accompanied by a majestic, hypnotic music and sound score written and produced by composer Magnus Fiennes. Martha has collaborated with her brother Magnus with her first SLOimage™ work, Nativity (2011) as well on both Martha’s previous feature films. In a further expansion of the media’s generative dynamism, the Yugen engine self-selects and chooses audio tracks, depending on instructions.

Subject Matter

The title Yugen refers to a concept in Japanese aesthetics which alludes to the principle of a subtle yet profound awareness of the beauty and mystery of a partially perceived Universe. Yugen suggests that which is beyond what can be said.

In Yugen, Fiennes’ imagery stimulates the viewer with a range of unusual environments, from literal, ‘natural world’ landscapes to extraordinary dynamic ‘fractal’ worlds suggesting the idea of alternate dimensions of influence upon the experience of reality. “I’ve always been drawn to the idea of extended levels of consciousness - such as with dreams, archetypes, hyper-space, Out of Body Experiences, Near Death Experiences, realms that psychoactive plant medicines conjure - as well as the vast reservoir of human creative expression that has preceded us”.

The subject of the artwork explores the idea of a distinction between an Earth world - the ‘gross material plane’ with which we are all primarily identified - and alternative planes of existence which express both reality, potential and influence. In the work, Salma Hayek Pinault's presence dominates as an immortalised personification of the Aeon, an ever-transmuting archetype or emanation

Fiennes describes her character as that of a “numinous, evolving priestess figure who presides in trans-dimensional realities”. Watching the work, the viewer ‘travels’ between environments at the behest of arbitrary decisions driven by coding instructions embedded in the media.

Through a range of playful, often surreal, visual allusions - including to the Pistis Sophia of Gnosticism or to celebrated Mexican poet/shaman Maria Sabina - Fiennes encourages the viewer to 'free the mind' and contemplate parallel realms - imagined or otherwise - and its relationship to our own.

Fiennes cites influences (amongst many) to include the late Leonora Carrington, surrealist painter and novelist (1917-2011); Nicolas Roerich (1874-1947) painter, writer, archeologist, theosophist; Computer Gaming environments; Terence McKenna (1946 - 2000); ethnobotanist, mystic, psychonaut, lecturer, author; Dr David R Hawkins (1913-2002) ; M.D., Ph.D. psychiatrist, physician, clinician researcher and lecturer; Carl Gustav Jung, psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, anthropologist, philosopher; Gaia TV; Tarot; The Kybalion (Hermetic text); Book; The Law of One - The RA Material; Painter Frida Khalo; Poet WB Yeats; The work of the late Dolores Cannon; Biologist Rupert Sheldrake; William Blake; Salvador Dali; Madame Blavatsky; Book; Autobiography of A Yogi; the work of poet / shaman Maria Sabina; Film director; Andrei Tarkovsky (1932-1986) filmmaker, writer, editor, film theorist; Film directors; Stanley Kubrick; Ridley Scott; Paul Thomas Anderson; Spike Jonze; Terence Malick. The life and work of Hildegard of Bingen; Mellen Thomas Benedict’s Near Death Experience account; Movie 2001 A Space Odyssey

How is the work constructed?

Yugen was created using combinations of ‘pre-rendered’ filmed material; computer generated imagery (CGI); matte paintings; pre-recorded original sound and bespoke coding technology - operated and driven by a Unity gaming engine, especially adapted for the work by Amplified Robot; https://www.amplifiedrobot.com

Philosophy of engagement with the work

With its own narrative autonomy, Yugen takes us on a continuous and arbitrary journey. But can there be intelligence or coherence in what is selected to play? Fiennes is interested in theories which suggest that “All is spontaneously arising” (Ref Dr David R Hawkins 1913 - 2002; M.D., Ph.D. psychiatrist, physician, clinician and lecturer) and which propose that we do not live in a universe that is ‘causal’ as we tend to assume — rather, it may be a-causal. Acausality is likened to Carl Jung’s theories of “synchronicity”, the idea that reality is alive to the possibility of “a conspiracy of improbability”. This idea of a moment in which an improbable fusion of "meaning in time occurs". Moments of synchronicity are experienced by all of us, they break with statistical possibilities of reality and could be said to be manifestations (the result of) individual consciousness intentions and the universe. The principle is one of archetype (symbolic expressions in our consciousness) the awareness of which contain the patterning forces for synchronicity. "Synchronicities can be magical and can move the observer into a state of expanded awareness”. Deepak Chopra.

In this way, Fiennes asks whether the machine may throw up meaning through its ‘spontaneous’ selections of combinations of imagery; not unlike the principles of reading tea or coffee granules, or bones, wax, clouds, viscera or tarot cards ? All such ‘arbitrary’ manifestations contain intelligence and meaning to be found in their readings, an idea which abounds in global cultures.

Four principle stages in the creation of the work
Stage 1:

The filming of live action content - such as people or animals - in a film studio, shot against green-screen. Shooting against green-screen enables filmed materials to be subsequently matted or ‘keyed’ off the green and positioned into different environments of choice.

Stage 2:

Creation of imagery - both computer generated and ‘matte painted’. This is the process of creating (computer generated - CG) photo-real environments, animated sequences and fractal worlds and combining them with the filmed material to create clips or sequences to appear potentially, in the work.

Stage 3:

The composing and production of original music and sound to accompany the imagery. In Yugen, the audio comprises combinations of a significant degree of composed, ‘pre-rendered’ audio sections which play ‘at random’ with whichever image section is showing and which are again, chosen or selected autonomously by the engine, autonomously, in real time, to enable audio and image to be played together

Stage 4:

The loading and instructing of all material - the ‘assets’ - into the gaming engine. That is, all image layers and all composed audio. With Yugen, a Unity gaming engine has been adapted specifically in support of the vision for the project. The idea is to give it both 'freedoms and instructions'; sets of probabilities and wide possibilities to chose from and then to sit back and enjoy the show.

Additionally, there are sequences in the project that are created by the engine alone, constructed ‘in real time’ - as opposed to being selected from a pre-constructed asset.