Saturday, 23 July 2016

Artscene roundup: Star Trek

Hirez of Spock by CatBones of ACiD

The computer art underground dug Star Wars, but that wasn't their only fandom! Carrying on from the survey of public domain textmode art of Star Trek, we proceed with ... further works on that theme from the artscene elites! No longer constrained to screens of a mere 25 lines length and more deeply concerned with the admixtures of colours possible with the F1-F4 two-tone "shading" characters, here at least they were finally free to really open up and go where no one had gone before!

OK, ok, to go where one man had gone before -- this picture, ostensibly by Mustang of Liquid, bears an eerie similarity to one of Noel Gamboa's illustrations in the previous post. In case it helps you to refresh your memory:

OK, so he airbrushed away the hand, bedazzled his alluring eyes, and drew the back of Spock's head (to say nothing of that solid gold original logo!), but the telltale signs remain -- the beauty mark over the eyebrow, the squiggle in the ear, the dip under the nose. In the scene, this is what was referred to as "ripping", and sadly, Mustang probably got away with it since March of 1994... until now! (His whole empire, crumbling away.) But in any event, these all serve to prove the same point: the socially shunned misfits in the digital underground identified most strongly with the outsider member of the Enterprise's crew, Science Officer Mister Spock. Even before last year's death of his actor Leonard Nimoy, he was far and away the most popular (practically the sole!) Star Trek subject for the underground artscene. D-Vibe, if you would please strike up the band:

There we go. We open with a peculiar piece from the February 1995 Freak artpack -- possibly, it's deeply unclear, also drawn by a profoundly egotistical artist called "Freak" -- illustrating what looks like a parodic "Mad Magazine" take on Mr. Spock, with some unorthodox outline style. Was it machine-converted? Hey, I can't be levelling accusations at every other piece in this gallery or I'm never going to get through! So let me not level aspersions at the good folks at Freak, and move right along...
This is a nice one by Snow Dog of MAX from back in 1993, showing a mismatched Enterprise-D (from STTNG) with a Mr. Spock circa the Star Trek movies, all capped off with a Starfleet emblem and a logo for a BBS with a Star Trek-themed name! Hat trick! While the previous piece had suspicious outlines, this hearkens back to the PD era of ANSI art (not so distant in 1993) which often failed to acknowledge the utility of black outlines at all.
And then... OK, a couple of decades without much activity. But when Leonard Nimoy died, long after the artscene itself (not unlike Trek fandom itself) virtually dwindled away into mere background radiation, the puissant remnants -- somebody please stop me before I make some comparison to the superdense remains at the heart of a white dwarf star -- emerged from the woodwork to give tribute. Here Realm Dweller commemorates the man's life and career with this ANSI of Spock chilling with some Tribbles, in the recent Blocktronics / Apathy reunion artpack:
And another textmode tribute, this one from Japan (where perhaps "A&D" translates to "AND"?) by the Shift-JIS artist known as Kalcha... who neatly in his small canvas manages to allude to the Vulcan salute with the "V" in "Live":
(He has composed at least three more Trek works in Shift-JIS, and lacking a graceful way to weave them in to the existing post, I'm just going to dump them in here:)
Plus this Tweet... Edit: I located one more "Vulcan hand" ANSI and, despite belonging to the earlier Public Domain ANSI art tradition, opted to throw it in here where everyone else was drawing the shape also. "Spock's Adventure" by Michael Arnett:
This one situates Nimoy centrally surrounded by his castmates William Shatner and the late Deforest Kelley (or "Bones") in this monochrome ANSI, which placed 6th in the NVScene 2015 demoparty under the title "The Holy Trinity":
But TOS was not the only Star Trek, and these are not the only artscene Star Trek ANSIs! There is life beyond Spock! Puddlez of Nac, show us what you've got!
OK, I could tell you that everyone was drawing like that in July of 1995, but it'd be a dirty lie. But everyone had to start somewhere: the bottom rung of the underground artscene wasn't public domain, but sometimes it could be darned close! Now here's something you'll really like. In this piece, which hearkens back to the lower part of the Brunching Shuttlecocks' "Geek Hierarchy" chart, Haquisaq of that nifty computer art group I ran (and run again at present) called Mistigris drew a ... small but dense and complicated tableau, to serve the objectives of the weekly computer art improv competition known as the Blender (which, ahem, I have also revived), where participants were challenged to "blend" three disparate subjects into a unified whole under a strict time limit. On this occasion (which likely resulted in further such works potentially relevant to today's discussion, if only then-contest organizer Warpus hadn't gone AWOL without releasing the entries for this particular installment of the contest -- fie, Warpus! From Hell's heart I stab at thee!) the words to use included "starship", "walrus" and "industrial". Here Haquisaq has concocted a desperate pretense to merge the three elements into one indisputably Trek-y scene -- but hey, if Starfleet now has Klingons and androids under its umbrella, why not walrus-men? Perhaps they are capable of being elevated beyond the barbarism of the Tusken Raiders of Star Wars. (Or was that the place to make an Aqualish joke? OK, the moment has probably passed.)

It is worth noting, to establish just how impeccable Haquisaq's Trekker credentials are, that he has composed pop music in Klingon.

So here we are. It's come to this. Our survey has brought us from MiSTiGRiS all the way to RAiD -- two parties that haven't looked across the table at each other since they vied for domination of area code 604 in late 1994. (RAiD blinked first, for the record, even though in matters of ANSI they were arguably stronger. But I digress -- these contextual matters are of no interest to anyone other than myself, to whom they are endlessly fascinating.) Without further ado, here are two virtuous pieces by the bizarrely-named "Corn Dog": I'll warm you up with a pic of "Chief" Miles O'Brien, first Transporter Chief on the Enterprise-D in STTNG, then Chief Operations Officer aboard Deep Space 9, then... hero of Jon Adams' webcomic
Corn Dog Strikes Back with the ANSI subject everyone's been waiting for: Lieutenant Commander Deanna Troi, a lost opportunity for an artscene fixated on the Barbie bimbos of Image comics. An entire colour is reserved solely for the benefit of highlighting her cleavage! There's something a little "off" about the outlines here, especially around the lips, but ... I've said enough.
Now off we go, whisked forward in time to October of 1996, inside an RCA artpack, where Dry Ice has made a newschool ASCII of Captain Picard. Or, uh, caused to come into existence an ASCII of Captain Picard. I'm not here to ... well OK, hear me out: rendering 3D subjects in ASCII art is extremely difficult for a human to do (while when performed by a computer algorithm, the output contains telltale indications that it was untouched by human hands), and my only observation is that it is conspicuous that someone so good at executing this difficult 3D likeness in October of 1996 would have backslid so far as to have so much difficulty with relatively simpler 2D likenesses 5 months later in March of 1997. But it was released into the artscene, so here it is: a cautionary tale but a nice likeness.
This here is a depiction of the Enterprise-D from STTNG credited to StarLord of RCA -- the founder and leader of the same group that released the above ASCII art -- and it is a very frustrating piece for me to discuss because here again is a piece that purports to be something (hand-crafted, human-drawn ANSI art: "100% ORIGINAL PICTURE") that it is not. It is clearly and plainly output from some GIF2ANSI program, telegraphed by exclusive use of full-block characters with no appearance of the half-block characters essential to draw ANSI shapes with square rather than rectangular pixels. I'm sure he drew the header and footer fonts, but the filling in this sandwich is disappointing deception, bald-faced and red-handed. What is it about this Trek subject matter specifically that invites in so many would-be textmode art frauds and charlatans? It's really whipping me into a froth!
Here, I wasn't quite ready to skip past the end of STTNG yet, but circumstances have demanded we fast-forward to the DS9 era with this handy GIF2ANSI comparison piece conveniently released in the latest Blocktronics artpack, featuring Kirkman's (why yes, it is in reference to this context, thanks for asking!) machine-conversion of a picture of Science Officer Jadzia Dax (namesake of Kirkman's daughter! And you thought I was committed to my strange passions!) pitted against an artist's rendition of the same. (OK, and that artist also has a handle, and it is Filth. And Filth does very good work.) To an algorithm all details are equal, while an artist's eye is able to isolate and emphasize the elements the human mind rates as significant, producing a likeness with psychological content, not merely averaged picture cells. The difference is stark and the choice is clear: one of these is a work of art and one of them is a cruddy spreadsheet.
Everyone straight? OK? OK. So here we are, we've left behind TOS and TNG, and here we are in DS9. Deep Space 9. This is a related logo drawn by Access Denied from a 1465 Projekt (?) artpack -- not quite relevant, but not unrelated.
And the DS9 ANSI to beat really is The Extremist's picture of the Ferrengi businessman Quark, released in the Mistigris World Tour joint artpack with the Blade nation in December of 1996.
And though Star Trek trekked along, through Voyager and Enterprise, the underground artscene was dwindling away by the time they hit the airwaves, and as best as I can tell go completely unrepresented in the annals of the artscene. But I do have two more pieces for you. Like the final episode of STTNG, we'll wind the clock back and forth a bit: the first, not textmode at all but high resolution, comes from our kindred spirits in the Commodore 64 scene: this TOS picture of Kirk and Spock (from Star Trek: TMP Kirkman tells me) was drawn by Clone in 2007 and is a nice piece of work! (Star Trek has been a regular inspiration for other productions from our fellow travellers in the demoscene, which you can research on your own time, it's getting late here 8)
And saving the best for last, here is a masterful collaborative newschool ASCII (I know, you didn't get to see any of it until now, a real shame!) tribute to STTNG from memebers of Mimic, representing virtually all of the show's core cast members in an at turns hilarious, sassy and profane celebration of the sometimes inappropriate drives motivating the fans in their headcanon. That's all from me, and quite possibly the last word in Trek textmode art, so thanks for reading along. Beam me up, Scotty!

Showing I can't figure out how to quit while I'm ahead, here's a '90s piece of Trek hirez by Inferno from my own artgroup, Mistigris, I'd forgotten all about: