Sam Rolfes continues to catapult us through a lysergic landscape in which the worlds of Lady Gaga and Matthew Dear collide.
For our third session with Sam Rolfes’ bizarre VR experience, the artist takes a more hands-on approach, finally making an appearance as he guides us through two unmistakeable music videos bringing Lady Gaga & BLACKPINK’s ‘Sour Candy’ and Matthew Dear’s ‘Bunny’s Dream’ to life.
In both these pieces Rolfes utilises digital puppetry to command a menagerie of creatures ripped straight from an acid-tinged JRPG, using nothing but motion controllers and impressive hand-eye coordination to move deftly through fantasy landscapes, working through stomach-churning airborne choreography made possible by the alien shapes Rolfes brings into being with his 3D animation.
For ‘Sour Candy’, Rolfes designed Lady Gaga and each of the four members of BLACKPINK what he describes as a “sugar-shell seraphim” avatar, which he claims he discovered “mid-training deep in a metachromatic well”. Each resplendent with “umbra-dentata and sacred floral garments”, the seraphim stand in as “vessels for each artist’s creative spirit” as they move around an environment that is equal parts Kid Icarus, Panzer Dragoon and Bayonetta.
Modelling their movements on bioluminescent sea creatures, Rolfes’ creations are miniature case studies in form defining function, their design dictating their movement as they flow through the environment. The virtual choreography on display is also testament to the digital puppetry skills of Team Rolfes, with the BLACKPINK avatars controlled two at a time by one performer with a motion controller in each hand and the Lady Gaga avatar piloted solo by another.
It is this focus on fluid movement that drives Team Rolfes’ application of puppetry in their video works, allowing them to populate them with unearthly characters that are at once unearthly and organic. In ‘Bunny’s Dream’, a one-take “Dream Playthrough” for Matthew Dear, Sam Rolfes conducts a surreal game of cat and mouse between a grotesque, tendrilled beast and its adorable prey.
In this way Rolfes is able to bring an intimate, improvisational energy to his intricately rendered digital worlds. Using digital puppetry he adds another dimension of personality to his creations while evolving the possibilities for what is achievable with his unique hybrid physical performances.
For more information about Sam Rolfes and his work you can follow him on Instagram.