EF-4: Riots

The fourth story in Energy Flow turns fragmented memories of the London Riots into digital paintings.

Over the last few years our world has been shaken up with the London Riots, Arab Spring, Occupy Movement and protests across Europe. Established systems that were a fixed part of our world view, be it the financial system and its absurd concept of infinite growth, or the polictical order in the Arabic countries, are failing, turned upside down or are coming to a halt.

For FIELD, the London Riots that happened right at our doorstep in 2011, have become a symbol for this feeling of uncertainty, unrest and forceful change. The pictures of looting and violence shocked and fascinated a global internet audience, and showed a rift of British society divided in two.

In the year since the riots started in north London, many people, media and enquiries have stated that the riots were indeed a spontaneous expression of social injustice and a lack of belonging, not just "common or garden thieving, robbing and looting" (David Cameron).

More than making a political statement, the animations of EF-4: Riots aim to capture the ambiguity of fear and excitement. The anarchy, chaos and uncertainty of the moment of change, that can topple in either direction - into violence and desctruction, or into political change and a different future.

Hackney, August 2011


As different as the motivations and justifications of those involved might be, the visual patterns of protests and riots across the world are surprisingly similar.

The web and social media have not only played a major part in bringing these events to the fore, but have allowed a global audience to closely observe unfiltered content, like never before. The masses of pictures from the news and internet have been burned into our memories, and become a part of our shared visual culture.

Clashes during Occupy Oakland, Nov 2011
Dec 2012 Time Magazine cover by Shepard Fairey
Protests on Tahrir Square, Egypt

Find out more in the Reading the Riots documentary from The Guardian

Technical Approach

To recreate scenes from the riots, we used online videos shot on mobile phones as references for composition and camera animation. Key movements and gestures were recorded with motion capture technology, and brought them together in 3D crowd animations.

Preview of 3D model and motion

Fragmented Visual Memories

For the partial reveal of the figures, we used a technique that mimicks the process of depth-sensing cameras like LIDAR technology or the Kinect sensor: 3D contours and features are mapped by projecting light into the scene and measuring the distance to each projected point. The sides turned away from the light source, turning the realistic movements into fragmented visual memories.

Environment model and lighting
Light projection revealing partial figures

Read more on EF-4: Riots at The Creators Project

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