REPUBLIC began as a simple idea – a square in an unnamed city built in Unity3D populated by citizens and law enforcement. It was spurred on by recent BLM protests and an old project I had postponed a year ago and was supposed to have a vibrant color scheme like the previous works, but I eventually decided to go with the black and white thermal imaging used in drone and UAV footage. The figures were originally more detailed but I found this generic and uninteresting, so I swapped to a low poly abstracted figure set
I then moved on to multiple camera programming in unity, as I had the idea for multiple angles of the main square showing different narratives. Things could appear normal and then show police brutality, which was to be the main feature. After researching more about the effects of government and police surveillance and the poor detection and mismatching of black faces by facial recognition software (which the Met police currently use) I began working with a more surveillance based approach. Scenes were added featuring a CCTV room, drone footage as well as a screen tapped into someone’s front facing phone camera as well as what they were doing on their phone. Officers (named OPS) were added, and a helmet cam and body cam were added to guarding and patrolling personnel, as well as one which had been disabled remotely or by an officer (something that happens frequently in the US). Additionally scenes were added to hint at future developments when REPUBLIC was updated, such as a maintenance tunnel.
The citizens were given an AI pathfinding system that allowed them to randomly select places to walk to in and around the city square. The OPS had predetermined pathing. Occasionally there were pathfinding bugs in which the citizens would get stuck on a single corner but I simply reset the program. One of the main aspects of REPUBLIC was the fact that some citizens did not show up clearly on all of the cameras. In the scenery, most individuals are white hot, while some around the edges of the square and moving around were a more muted grey that blended in more with the background, further embedding the facial recognition issues above.
When the project was ready it was streamed live on Twitchfor 2 hours, moving between different camera perspectives in real time, to cement the artwork as a live piece rather than a prerecorded video. People commented and asked questions in twitch chat, and I decided to answer them in real time in order to have an active dialogue about the work and themes alongside the work. I plan to stream it again when more locations, objects and potentially animals are added. It will also be part of an upcoming film anthology project.