Vox is a 2-screen synchronized SD animation with Dolby 5.1 surround sound, commissioned by Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces, Melbourne and the Institute of Art, Brisbane as a joint project in 2007. Deliberately employing a flat/graphic style of animation, two heads - one male, the other female - face each other. Each takes turn to sexually intimidate the other through a series of contorting biomorphic growths sprouting from his/her head. The active agent in this sexual change is entirely transformed while the expelling head remains grounded and still.
Concept & direction - Philip Brophy
Sound design, synthesis & mix - Philip Brophy
Premiere: Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces, Melbourne (solo exhibition)
The style of drawing for Vox is based on the flat unshaded technique typical of late Edo-era portraiture prints and their modern application in anime. Heads are formed as self-contained 'orbs' with two levels of flesh: lit and shaded. Selective minimal line work is then applied to refine and distill nuances of facial expression. Vox uses these key design features to retain a flatness to the imagery. This flatness is an integral aspect of the animation, in that the flat imagery is mobilized through computer motion. The purpose is to 'mechanize' the iconic representational face through contradictory 'natural' movement - to clash realistic momentum and dynamism with unrealistic objects and surfaces.
Caucasian fleshy tones are employed to create a restricted palette which less references human flesh and more evokes unhumaness: plastic surgery, mortician make-up, sex dolls, store mannequins, toy dolls, idol figurines, etc. The concept of infusing these 'figures' with post-human sexuality is a prime directive in the design and rendering of the images in Vox.
Traditionally, in most forms of animation the accompanying sound is literal/physical/actual in its sonically palpable properties (actual gunshot recordings to accompany hand-drawn guns firing, etc.). The sound design for Vox reverses this to provide inhuman, unnatural vocalizations, entirely, inappropriately and disorientingly matched to the flat imagery. While the bulk of Vox is directed towards excessively visualizing the voice, its sound design is thus comparatively minimal (in contrast to other AV works produced such as the Evaporated Music series).
The original concept for the sound was to work with actual vocal fragments, sampled and edited so as to be digitally modulated in real-time to 're-perform' the onscreen facial contortions. But a early test proved this to be too literal an approach. A diametrically opposed line was then followed by using an analogue synthesizer (a Roland SH1 with Expander) to generate a series of growls and screams to performatively simulate the onscreen organ expulsions. One real-time improvized performance was done for the male, then one for the female. This track expressed the 'voice' as emanating from the male or female mouth. In hysterical fashion, the vocalised sounds replicate the excessive orgiastic screeching implicit in the facial expressions. Then another performance was done for the phases of development of the organs. These were then cut and edited into precise position for the onscreen movements and changes in the organs. The end result is an entirely non-organic/artificial aural/vocal texture for the visceral/organic character of the male and female.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix has been configured for a 5-speaker linear placement - with all 5 speakers in a single line bordering the bottom of the 2-screens. As the organs move back and forth across the 2-screen space, so does the sound synchronously shuttle across the 5 speakers.