In an age of Google Earth where satellite imagery can be viewed at the click of a button, we’re all familiar with what the world looks like from above. Scientists use the application to discover new forests and islands that don’t exist; artists use it to create animations and digital installations.
In FIELD‘s seventh story for their Energy Flow project, called “Skynet,” the duo recruited the help of digital artist Andreas Nicolas Fischer to explore the aerial landscapes and bird’s-eye view narratives of the world from above—along with detailing unfamiliar surfaces seen very close up.
Stills from “Skynet” show birds-eye-view images inspired by Google Earth as well as macro shots of organic landscapes.
A long time practice of the surveillance industry, the secretive world of satellite imagery has now been opened up to the public-at-large and in this animation we journey through unusual textures and lands, witnessing them from the perspective of a soaring drone or the unnatural abstraction of an extreme zoom. These digital imaginings offer the viewer a landscape of desolation as they explore unknown terrains filtered through the viewpoint of technology’s roaming eyes in the sky and on land.
These new sights and strange plains were created by randomly stitching together satellite images and changing their photorealism through generative practices, along with adding in swooping camera movements to create the sensation of flying. For the more close-up angles, plant surfaces, skin textures, and fabrics were utilized to create an abstract aesthetic.
Fischer spoke to us over Skype to explain more about the project.
The Creators Project: What was the idea behind the “Skynet” story?
Andreas Nicolas Fischer: The name is a reference to the ubiquitous computing network from the Terminator movie and I took that as inspiration for the piece. It started out with the idea of viewing the world from the perspective of a drone. So I took some NASA satellite photos that they have on their website that people can use and repurpose and I wrote a little script, a piece of software that would rearrange these images. First I had the idea to use a specific landscape, but I didn't want to reference the specific parts, so instead the script uses textures and satellite photos from all around the world and it recombines them into a new landscape—so that's one part of it.
And then there are other parts of it where I experiment with macro photography, like in my video KT I – Les Embiez which was shot on a island in the south of France—I started gathering references and recording sounds and taking macro-pictures of the specific plants from that region. I then took them and created a digital landscape out of them. And that was the same technique that I used in “Skynet,” only using different textures for the Energy Flow project. So the idea was to explore the perspectives of an all-knowing ubiquitous computer network that can see in these different scales, from the macro to the micro. So you have a bird's-eye view—a very high up perspective—but it can also communicate with, for example, nanobots that see things on a nano level or on a bacterial, microbial, microscopic level.
Andreas Fischer’s cognitive map project, KT I – Les Embiez.
Was the direction of “Skynet” something that FIELD came to you with? Or was it your own devising?
No, I just got the brief from them and it was something that I came up with on my own. I see it as a continuation of the KT I – Les Embiez project, the cognitive map project I mentioned. So that was something that I was interested in for a while. To continue that, and to work more with that, and refine that. And I thought that fitted very well with the Energy Flow project. We had a couple of Skype conferences and we talked about making something that Marcus and Vera would be more involved with. But as it turned out, during the time of the project I had a lot of other stuff going on so I couldn't really fly over to London and I couldn't really make it into a collaborative effort, because of the coordination.
What are you hoping people will get from watching “Skynet”?
I think this is something that's really different depending on the viewer, it completely depends on the person who's watching it, depends on so many circumstances. There's nothing that I'm really hoping for. I want it to be open for interpretation—I can't think of anything specific that I would want it to trigger. It's more the associations that you might find you have with it.
Visit EnergyFlow.io for more information on the project and more behind-the-scenes imagery. Check back on The Creators Project every week for an in-depth look at a different storyline or feature of the film.
Meet FIELD in the video below…