Satellite image and elevation data used to model the site. Image by Paul Dolan; Satellite image taken from Google Maps


Spruce Pine, North Carolina

Spruce Pine, North Carolina is an online commission by UK artist Paul Dolan for Art Gene’s Digital U online exhibition.

This work was Paul’s first time working with a real location, a silicon mine at Spruce Pines, North Carolina, a major extraction-point for fine grade silicon, which is used in computer and mobile phone semi-conductors.

“Media technologies and algorithms profoundly alter many aspects of our lives, yet their complexity and scale conceal their relationship with the real world. We focus on the usage of media devices at the cost of understanding the ecological impact of how they are manufactured and eventually disposed of.”

Paul Dolan, 2018

Working from satellite elevation data and drone footage of the area, Paul recreates a fixed view of the mine using procedural modelling and visual effects techniques. The distant scale and resolution of the work invites comparisons between pixels on screen and the sand and rocks in the mine. Audio recorded on site anchors the scene in the real world, where insects, traffic and distant mining machinery can be heard.

“I often use incredibly slow movements as a tactic for moving the action of the image beyond human perception. It’s a way of making images that exist somewhere between the micro temporalities of digital technology and the unfathomably long timeframes of geology.”

Paul Dolan


Link to Artwork*


Digital Sculpturist

Paul Dolan uses a combination of video game and visual effects software to explore the points of contact between the natural and simulated world. In previous works such as Floating Point (2016) and Wireframe Valley (remade 2017) Dolan used real-time software to programme slowly degrading scenes of icebergs and vistas, which slowly reveal the underlying graphical wireframe components of the 3D models, revealing the underlying mechanics of digital representation.


Colouring the virtual terrain using images taken from a drone. Image by Paul Dolan. Drone footage by Tony Lee Glenn.


Trees and rocks scattered on the virtual Terrain using Houdini software. Image by Paul Dolan


Words from Curator

As the first artwork of Digital U: Extreme Views programme, Spruce Pine, North Carolina (2018) challenges the immaterial idea of the digital work and its technology. By inviting the viewer to contemplate the material origins of the technology around them, Dolan provides an insight to the changing landscape of our ecology.

I personally find the simple stillness of this moving image piece unsettling – as if something ominous was on the horizon. Yet at the same time I can’t help but find the environment beautiful because of its tranquillity.

Digital-U Guest Curator, Alejandro Ball


Paul Dolan (Bio)

Paul Dolan is an artist, animator and musician who lives and works in North East England. He is Senior Lecturer of Animation at Northumbria University and nearing completion of a PhD entitled In Silico: A practice-based exploration of computer-simulated contemporary art.


* This link takes you to a separate webpage. The webpage belongs to Paul Dolan and is his artist website.

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