There are no accidents: Lorem Ipsum architecture and more

Rear Window time-lapse, a beautifully stitched-together mosaic of the events from the film, a digital homage to the art of soundstage construction and filming (via MetaFilter). A search for more specifics on the original Hitchcock soundstage pointed us to the work of Marialuisa Pacini, who built this set model for an adaptation of Rear Window set in modern London. There’s also Stephen Jacobs’ The Wrong House: The Architecture of Alfred Hitchcock, which includes a plan and section of the Jeffries apartment complex. The IMDB has some filming trivia: ‘The apartment-courtyard set measured 98 feet wide, 185 feet long and 40 feet high, and consisted of 31 apartments, eight of which were completely furnished. The courtyard was set 20 to 30 feet below stage level, and some of the buildings were the equivalent of five or six stories high.’ Also: ‘During the month-long shoot Georgine Darcy, who played “Miss Torso”, “lived” in her apartment all day, relaxing between takes as if really at home.’ The film also featured diegetic cinematography.


Enter the New Aesthetic, imagery designed for the digital era: ‘Some architects can look at a building and tell you which version of autodesk was used to create it. The world is defined by our visualisations of it. (Someone who makes such things told me: what they put in, even as place-holders, always ends up getting built. Lorem Ipsum architecture.)’ Bruce Sterling has some thoughts on this, including the acknowledgement that this movement is unashamedly contemporary: ‘Look at those images objectively. Scarcely one of the real things in there would have made any sense to anyone in 1982, or even in 1992. People of those times would not have known what they were seeing with those New Aesthetic images. It’s the news, and it’s the truth.’ But there’s more:

First, the New Aesthetic is a gaudy, network-assembled heap. It’s made of digitized jackstraws that were swept up by a generational sensibility. The products of a “collective intelligence” rarely make much coherent sense. It was grand work to find and assemble this New Aesthetic wunderkammer, but a heap of eye-catching curiosities don’t constitute a compelling worldview. Look at all of them: Information visualization. Satellite views. Parametric architecture. Surveillance cameras. Digital image processing. Data-mashed video frames. Glitches and corruption artifacts. Voxelated 3D pixels in real-world geometries. Dazzle camou. Augments. Render ghosts. And, last and least, nostalgic retro 8bit graphics from the 1980s.

Sterling ‘nitpicks’ his way through the tropes of the genre – ‘Dazzle camouflage has nothing to do with “machine vision.” … Glitches and corruption artifacts aren’t “machine vision,” either… Satellite views are not new, but as old as the Space Age… “Render ghosts” are not “ghostly.” … Finally, retro ’80s graphics are sentimental fluff for modern adults who grew up in front of 1980s game-console machines’ – concluding that the NA is ‘a typical avant-garde art movement that has arisen within a modern network society’.


It is about our human reaction to machine-generated imagery, rather than the idea that machines are in some way creating and guiding this aesthetic. Our reaction to these forms of machine-age imagery is shaded by nostalgia for the impossibility of artificial intelligence. One day, someone will remake Rear Window as if it were an 8-bit game (we know, it already happened with There Will Be Blood) and the result will inspire and delight but ultimately just celebrate our attachment to the past and our endless nostalgia for the limitations of technology. We are enabling machines to emote in quasi-human ways, because that is how we want machines to be. These fictions serve our purposes.

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One Response to There are no accidents: Lorem Ipsum architecture and more

  1. Pingback: Rear Window: dissecting and recreating a movie’s scenario : socks-studio

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