The digital age has given birth to a new reality: infinite screen time. Rather than experiencing the natural world around us, our intake of communication, ideas, visuals, and sounds is packaged via a series of zeros and ones, waiting neatly for us to consume. This screen-dependent existence is even more prevalent and maddening for the modern-day creative. Beyond entertainment, so many artists rely on screens for work — using digital tools to create more digital experiences that are designed to be digested through yet another screen. It creates a loop that at times feels paralyzing and inescapable.
As a VFX artist who creates simulated worlds, animator Liu Sha knows these feelings intimately. In her film “It Is My Fault,” she contemplates her relationship to the digital world by building an immersive experience for the audience. Instead of a traditional story line, Sha communicates her ideas with a unique mix of low-poly visuals and a pulsing 8-bit score, inspired by Playstation and Nintendo-era games. The result is an intense animated experience unlike anything I have ever seen.
This is an intense audio-visual animation that has the potential to trigger seizures for those with photosensitive epilepsy. Viewer discretion is advised.
Sha fills this surreal digital experience with familiar imagery from the creative field, like Wacom tablets and transparent grey-and-white-checkered backgrounds. As the film builds, the visuals turn grotesque and begin to match the quickening beat, resulting in a heightened panic that is familiar to anyone who has spent late nights in empty offices, staring at a glowing screen while racing against the clock and looming deadlines. Sha shares that she was interested in expressing a “kind of a pain, which is endlessly repeated and can’t be relieved by taking medicine. There is no way to get out of it.” The repetition of visuals and music builds to a tipping point, where neither the emotion nor the visuals can be sustained. What ensues is 20 seconds of digital chaos. And then the repetitive loop caves in on itself, letting up for a momentary sense of peace, before the loop inevitably begins again.
The maddening loop of “It Is My Fault” is an admittedly bleak metaphor for our ever-repeating digital lives. But if our everyday reality is almost entirely made up of digital experiences filled with emojis and on-screen entertainment, how much different are the simulated worlds created by VFX artists like Sha? Maybe she’s right. Maybe there really is no way to get out of it and it is our fault.
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