The Essence of Instinct
for Charles Darwin
That summer you were alone
with your thoughts, which is to say
you were never alone.
Nuage. Vapours. The Narwhal.
Collecting iridescent bugs
in your barely-visible net.
Cataloguing, by sputtering candle
the endless lists, ink darkening
the corner of your mouth.
Your armament of facts
was nothing much to her, as she
tested your reflexes with a pin.
Birdwatching. Beetles. Pheasant
a black stone’s coup de grâce.
Once there was no pattern,
the crochet unpicked by needles,
coloured threads, broken limbs.
Pricked, you bleed like a prism,
dividing light from light
through the aperture of pain.
All at once, the peacock
opens his eyes, and the threads
pull tight, stitching you in.
This film-poem began as an exploration of the possibilities of using Google Deep Dream technology for film. I ran the Deep Dream software on frames of time-lapse clouds. Initial experiments were not deterministic enough, flickering wildly between very different images from frame to frame. I then composited dreamed-upon frames with their siblings to create a kind of motion blur frame, which when dreamed upon a second time created greater continuity both of movement and shape. To create further continuity, I also morphed various dream frames into each other.
The process is an attempt to simulate pareidolia–the phenomenon whereby we “recognise” patterns in random data, which is very much what Deep Dream is doing here, and what we humans do when we see shapes in clouds. The solid, iridescent imagery reminded me of William Blake, but the constantly-changing nature of these creatures made me think of the evolution of species. In researching Charles Darwin’s early life, the poem took shape. Valerie then designed the soundscape to accompany and complete this piece, drawing on her own childhood experience of hearing distant, indistinct voices.