Private Project

Morning Glory

Morning Glory is a single channel video that takes the viewer on a journey into the heart of a single morning glory flower. The piece starts with a view of the entire flower against the back drop of a flower bed. As the camera moves deeper into the interior a strange world is revealed in which the internal structures of the flower appear to take on a life of their own. Eventually one of these reveals a scene within a scene - the viewer enters a picturesque landscape as depicted on a decorative plate.

The plate is the result of multiple generations of interpretation and appropriation, stretching from the 18th century, when the plate was manufactured by Josiah Wedgwood (one of the pioneers of mass-production), back into the 17th century, from which it takes its imagery. As such the plate presents a condensation of a century long conversation of images and ideas about landscape, travel and exoticism. The camera moves into what appears to be a bucolic European scene in which shepherds tend their flock, rendered in the style of Claude Lorraine the great neo-classical landscape painter of the 17th century. In keeping with this tradition the plate presents a contemporary European landscape re-imagined in terms of an idealized version of classical antiquity. However, unlike the paintings it was based on, this image is rendered entirely in shades of blue, the most well known style of Wedgwood porcelain. The fashion for blue and white ceramics in Europe originated with the first large scale importation of fine porcelain from china by the Dutch East India company, the world’s first multinational corporation, which was founded in 1603, one year after the birth of Claude Lorraine. The soundtrack to Morning Glory incorporates a passacaglia for solo lute written by the 17th Century composer Heinz Biber, also a contemporary of Claude and the Dutch East India Company. One hundred years later it was Wedgwood who perfected the techniques that would allow blue and white porcelain to be manufactured relatively cheaply for the European market. The complex history of the plate is hinted at as the camera moves into the scene to reveal a second, secret landscape. As the layers of the image part and pass away we are taken back through the various stages of cross-fertilization that went into its creation, until we find the Eastern landscape hidden within the Western. This journey down into the heart of a flower has taken us all the way through the earth, as the child’s fantasy would have it, we have traveled through the planet from Europe to China.

  • Stephen Hilyard
  • Project Type:
    Animation, Experimental, Short
  • Genres:
  • Runtime:
    3 minutes 6 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    September 1, 2008
  • Production Budget:
    1 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Shooting Format:
    Digital Animation
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Stephen Hilyard

Stephen Hilyard is an artist and Professor of Digital Arts at the University of Wisconsin Madison. He creates artwork in a wide range of media both digital and traditional. A common theme in his work is the paradoxical nature of our impulse towards the profound – at once both sincere at an emotional level whilst remaining in every way mediated by our culture. In particular his work deals with the sublime experience and often presents nature and landscape as digitally manipulated simulacra. His art projects have involved travel to a number of remote locations, including diving in a frigid Icelandic lake and a number of expeditions to Svalbard international territory in the high Arctic.

Hilyard was born in Britain, where he trained to be an architect. He subsequently supported himself by working as an architect while developing a career as an artist. After traveling and living in Africa for several years he moved to San Francisco, where he continued to make art, specializing in sculpture. During this time he worked as a professional sculptor in a fine art bronze foundry before moving to Los Angeles to study at the University of Southern California. After receiving his M.F.A. he worked for two years for Peter Carlson & Co., a company that specializes in large scale fine art fabrication, where he helped create work for Jeff Koons and Claes Oldenburg. As a design engineer for the company he started working with digital drafting programs and 3D modeling applications. He began to use computers in his own art practice soon after this. From 1999 to 2004 he taught Sculpture and 3D Digital Media at the University of Minnesota Duluth. In 2004 he accepted his current position at the University of Wisconsin Madison where he specializes in teaching digital media. Hilyard’s work has been exhibited internationally, including galleries in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle, Minneapolis, London, Berlin, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Dubai, Sao Paulo, Riga, Perth and Sydney. Hilyard’s practice has been supported by grants and fellowships from The Huntington Library, The Harpo Foundation, The American Scandinavian Foundation, The McKnight Foundation, The Wisconsin Arts Board and the Minnesota State Arts Board.

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Director Statement

My work deals with the power of ideas, and ideals. I am particularly interested in a range of concepts that might best be described as “the profound”. My work identifies our various understandings of the profound as ideals. As ideals they are necessarily unachievable. Never the less we continue to strive for experiences of the impossible profound - such concepts as The Sublime, The Divine or True Love. For me there is something tragic in this yearning for unpresentable concepts, maybe even pathetic, but there is also something heroic in the fact that, in the face of inevitable failure, we continue to live our lives and build our worlds according to these ideals, we continue to believe. Time and again we return to a re-affirmation of the profound. The artist and the mountaineer and the lover all know this.
I believe that the key to understanding the inevitable frustration of our impulse towards the profound is the essentially subjective nature of all experience, even the most apparently profound and absolute. This underlying subtext of an internalized world model leads me to create work that aspires to the condition of a perfect simulation, without fully achieving it - subtle clues as to the synthetic nature of the final product must remain. In this I have found the computer to be a particularly appropriate tool for art making. My interest in digital media remains focused on its ever-growing capabilities to simulate the world around us, not as it is - but as we wish it to be. The subsequent undermining of our traditional concepts of reality and reliability are at the center of my work.
Ultimately, my work is designed to remind the viewer that she is in the presence of artifice - that this work is attempting to present something of a profound nature, but that it is failing because of its connections to the concrete. In this the viewer might recognize her own condition.