In one segment of Dario Solman's work, The Heart of Perspective, The Making of the Film, two robotic-looking block figures talk to one another.
"You can be me. I am in perspective. I am completely open for you to inhabit me," says one.
"Will I disappear?" asks the other.
"You're going to be me."
"Is that love?"
"Maybe. You are going to be me."
This type of cryptic, computer-generated animation acts as one medium for Solman. Others include sketches, drawings and storyboards but not actual film.
In fact, according to Solman, the titular "film" won't ever be completed. Solman says he's not interested in making a film, but in exploring the power that film has to envelop you, to provide a space in which you lose yourself.
Take, for instance, another illustration, in which a block man looks into something that could be a window, mirror or screen. Solman explains that in employing a possibly reflective image, he explores how in film, the viewer moves inside and outside the story.
"It's very intriguing to me how we get invested in theater, but it's a fiction," he says.
" ... If we get up to get popcorn and come back, we see the image for what it is: a projection in a dark room.
"These images," he adds, "are referring to the duality that we are sometimes in it and sometimes out of it."
Christopher Lynn, curator of the Gallery of Contemporary Art at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, says he'll project Solman's animations onto the gallery walls, which will transform the space into a theater, with several small shows running at once. He'll also hang the accompanying sketches, stills and storyboards throughout the gallery.
Pac-Man and the map
At Heart of Perspective's pre-show appetizer Feb. 7, Lynn projects elements of the production on a wall behind him. In one scene, a group of people who appear to have come from a video game swarm like ants to worship around the flat, outlined image of a large man drawn in sand. The small men appear without foreshortening, but still contain slight contours.
The two images appear incongruous, due to the differing perspectives and also the palette: Solman's drawn the worshippers in earth tones, like in contemporary war video games. The block man, on the other hand, appears as a charcoal sketch.
As the small men worship, a three-dimensional block man, drawn in perspective and colored in newsprint gray, floats down from the sky and lands on top of the sketch. The small men continue to worship until the block man turns bright red and appears to burn down to ash. Another, darker, flat image reappears in the sand.
Lynn explains that Solman is intrigued by two-dimensional representations of three-dimensional spaces like maps, for instance.
"In order to move through a map, the viewer has to imagine [himself] as two-dimensional," says Lynn. He notes, "Only Pac-Man can follow the blue line."
In an interview from his home in New York, Solman, 33, says when he trained as an artist, "We followed all these rules about how to make the drawing as realistic as possible with "perspective.'" (Take, for instance, railroad lines moving toward one another in a drawing to represent their movement away from the viewer.)
Solman says perspective was integrated into art during the Renaissance, where we, as humans, became preoccupied with humans as the center of the world.
Before that, there was the view of God being the absolute. olman provides the example of 15th-century Japanese art, wherein images are completely flat, or Medieval art, where the size of the figures don't indicate distance from a single viewer, but importance. In these images, Jesus was often the largest figure, regardless of distance.
In his UCCS-displayed work, Solman uses isometric projection which implies the viewer is a god-like figure to draw the little worshippers. Part of what he's trying to do, he says, is explore the notion that you can have a reality without "perspective."
"It's also a political comment," says Solman. "A perspective in politics is a window to another world, another ideology and beliefs.
"All these windows are interesting to me: How do we see things, how do we identify with them?"
Block man vs. God
Just as Pac-Man can inhabit a two-dimensional space in the video game, only the block man can inhabit the space in Solman's work. Solman says he first used the block men to explore the idea of a stand-in character for his storyboards, and what limitations are placed on a film when real people don't play the roles.
But the meaning of the block men has evolved since 2002, when Solman began working on the project. Within the world of the film, the block men can be "inhabited," as three-dimensional objects. Lynn sees the implications in the real world. As Lynn speaks, he projects on the wall behind him an image of the block men standing in for buildings in a cityscape.
"[That] characters can be inhabited by film actors [implies] these figures can be inhabited like buildings."
Block men can take on a variety of roles, with which Solman explores the possibility of film and the relationship between art and reality. Within the "pre-production" stills and work, the block men also act like characters, God-like idols and spacecraft.
The viewer has the luxury of seeing the block men through a point of view that the block man cannot access: from outside.
"Solman's figures," says Lynn, "are searching for perspective in life, [as in] meaning. But they're also searching for the third dimension."