The world according to Daniel Swan

Living the dream in 2.5D

Text by Veronica so

Illustrations by Daniel Swan

What is so attractive about internet art, is how its sense of democracy and autonomy, partly encouraged by lack of rules and tradition, has encouraged a new community to inject a much needed surge of creativity. Work is championed for its ingenuity and fantasy offering budding talents like Daniel Swan to enjoy a stable platform to impress with their new vision, rich imagination and homemade skills. 

Watching a Swan video places the viewer as a first person shooter in the hypnotic and multi-layered gamescapes of his mind and guides the "player" through a hallucinogenic digital maze built around a foundation of repetition, rhythm and symmetry. In a dreamlike state, the viewer enters an alternate universe of automatic sliding doors, spiralling tunnels, electronic beats and journeys to the nuclei of mysterious structures. All in the perpetual suspense of arriving at some off-kilter trans-humanist future by the end of the video. 

Swan bemusedly likes to highlight how he managed to fail a graphic design course at Camberwell College of Arts by accidentally submitting a VHS tape of "Will and Grace" instead of Lux Laze, the dystopian sci-fi film he made in Canada. Since then, he has turned his back on analogue filmmaking in favour of 2.5-4D digital animation, creating mind-hacking fantasy sequences for Channel 4 and the BBC TV, meta-animated flyers for Lucky PDF, and surrealist 3D music videos for bands like Django Django and Hounds of Hate. 

His highlight of the year is Plane Drift V, a three-minute animation for Channel 4's Random Acts, a short-form arts strand that goes out between late night programs. The video featured animated toy tanks and a sinister corporate building made up of flat images and videos arranged in 2.5D. Swan explains that the station initially found it dull. "They wanted me to shorten it to one minute. I pretended to make some changes and eventually they put it on after Desperate Housewives, which was really great." 

Currently, he is working with Ben Vickers to produce a visual accompaniment to Cory Doctorow's talk for the BBC, the Coming War on General Computation. The video should resemble a maxed-out, ultra-customised screencast of his Ubuntu desktop, with applications throwing up pictures and videos while various chat clients transcribe the audio in real time. He is also preparing for forthcoming shows at the Serpentine Gallery in collaboration with Ed Fornieles, and New York's Eyebeam, showing a series of "ruminative environments based on future technologies built as 3D architectural visualisations." Having long avoided 3D software, Swan is currently learning and working with several animation programs, such as Cinema 4D and Z Brush. For inspiration, he enjoys "getting things wrong" and Call Of Duty§


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