White Elephant: Origin

by

Each year, Southern Africa’s Kalahari Desert hosts the largest collective land migration on Earth as the Okavango River becomes a vast, inland delta. The afresh flooded swamps welcome an array of intercontinental species to Botswana, none traveling farther than the elephant. Their journey is of epic proportions; for hundreds of miles, spanning several weeks at the peak of dry season, elephants in Africa are on an urgent quest for water. The heat can be insatiable. The dust swirling across the desert floor can shield stragglers from the herd. More than ever the young and the fatigued are in severe risk of dehydration and of being separated from the matriarchs ― the leading elders who’ve journeyed the great plains in many dry seasons before.

Okavango Delta, Botswana [Landsat 8 Map] (c) Descartes Labs, 2017

© Descartes Labs, Landsat 8 Map | Okavango Delta, Botswana

The Beginning.

For me (Dane), this all began in the lead up to an international baccalaureate (IB) fine art show in 2007 with a series of wildlife studies. In 2010, a study of elephants reappeared in an animated short ― a student animation at Carleton University that was originally titled “White Elephants” and was produced from concept to composite in the single university term. In short: it was rough animation, however, I had now worked through the many technical challenges of the animation pipeline for games and cinematics; and even better, I had gained an appreciation for its freedom to design and tell stories.

[Archives] (c) Dane Aleksander, 2010

© Dane Aleksander, Art of White Elephant (2010)

This independent project stirred in the background of industry experience animating and designing for augmented reality (AR) apps for a few years thereafter. At night a script was revised, rewritten and redesigned to explore a new found interactive capacity of storytelling in AR in the mid 2010s and in a way that may serve the experience of the story. The decision: to give the viewer the empowerment that is inherent in AR, was designed to impart a sense of responsibility to the viewer unto the story and, more specifically, unto the subject of the story ― the elephant. This required that, first, the animation be dissected into clips of different lengths and sizes that may then be developed within the framework of an interactive app, with the added advantage of accessibility as well as an unambiguous revenue stream for wildlife. All revenue from the app is to be directed into wildlife conservation parks and projects on the ground in Africa.

The goal of this project (in progress) in its various artistic media has always been to present a unique interaction with a moment in the life of an African elephant, which may then extend the viewer’s sense of responsibility to the fate of the animal in the wild. This is art of a truly magnificent animal that really exists in the world, today, and may not for much longer. This is not Pokemon; this is a picture of the fishing pond before it was drained and replaced by the arcade that Satoshi Tajiri then visited in its stead; this is an image of the country-side before the city blossomed ― the inspiration for a world of creatures as a consolation prize for the landscape where Tajiri had earlier prowled for insects. This is art to promote appreciation for, and awareness of, wildlife that has no voice to protect its wilderness. And this is art to thank you for being here at the beginning.

Family [Art of White Elephant] (c) Dane Aleksander, 2010Horizon [Art of White Elephant] (c) Dane Aleksander, 2010

© Dane Aleksander, Art of White Elephant (2010)


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