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I Do Not Want To Think About Factories So Big That Their Scale Is Physically Sickening

12:00 PM EST on December 13, 2023

Paul Chadeisson has long been one of my favourite artists working in and around video games, having most recently lent his talents to stuff like Cyberpunk 2077 and the upcoming Homeworld 3.

The latter is particularly appropriate, because over the years Chadeisson has emerged as the internet's premiere "guy who draws ships that are too big". Whether on projects like Homeworld 3 or just for fun, every time I see a new Paul Chadeisson piece, it's usually some kind of ship that's bigger than anything I've ever seen in real life, emerging from a base or factory that's even bigger, and whose scale is so immense that I start to get a little queasy thinking about it.

Have you ever been in the presence of a truly huge ship? I used to live in Sydney and so would see them all the time. One day the world's largest passenger liner would pull into Circular Quay, the week after a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier would appear hulking from beyond the heads and lurch to the docks. To see ships this big from a distance is impressive, but to walk right up to them would sometimes mess me up.

The thought of all that steel, all that work, all that volume and weight, all in one place–it was enough to give me equal amounts of admiration and terror smashing into one another, to have me feeling like it was all a bit much. I'm not quite at the level of having megalophobia--a real thing--but this is the general ballpark I'm working within whenever I'm around Very Huge Things.

I'm clearly not the only person on the planet who feels this way, because Chadeisson has just released an animated video that's all about them, for better and worse. This is Solstice 5, a new short he directed, and it's all about a future alien world where humanity has built automated factories so immense and complicated that even when abandoned they just keep on doing what they were programmed to do.

Which is to eat up an entire planet, turning its resources into--admittedly very cool--titanic warships for a struggle that is no longer being fought. Now those ships are just piling up, and nobody can (or will) turn off the factories.

If there's one thing good science fiction can do, it's deal in scale. The universe is a limitless place, and a short like this takes our existing, terrestrial ideas of construction, need, systems and ultimately waste and turns them into a looping infinity mirror, a horrific Solitaire victory screen. It packs a surprising amount of punch for something that's ostensibly just about showing off some cool, Big Ships.

"Seeing what humanity builds is getting always bigger and bigger, I feel like in a far-flung future, everything will look bigger than what we can currently imagine!", Chadeisson tells me. "I am not necessarily interested in doing things just to be big, but at the appropriate scale for its time and setting!"

Solstice 5 took Chadeisson and his team around a year to put together, and was mostly a labour of love done in everyone's spare time. "I think what we are doing as a species is as wonderful and inspiring as it is scary", he says. "I just wonder if we go to new planets, do we want to act the same way as we are on Earth? Or is it an opportunity to act in a different, and much better way?"

"Bringing some automated factories to life was the perfect opportunity to show something so powerful and so efficient becoming totally absurd when we lose control and can't stop it" he says. "It was a great challenge to infuse this film with amazement and total absurdity. Those carriers, meticulously crafted using cutting-edge technologies, now rendered utterly useless upon completion, forever remaining curious monuments in the landscape."

While he's long been sketching out big ships and installations like this, Solstice 5 is a more cohesive, narrative-driven project than I'm used to seeing from his personal work. I asked Chadeisson if it was something he'd like to expand on in the future.

"Yes, the goal is to expand this universe, every subject on the short could be much more developed. This short film is like a sketch that needs to be refined! There are so many ideas I could not bring to this film, but we are currently writing many more stories!"

You can see some of Chadeisson's work for this short, along with some other stuff for projects like Apple's Foundation, at his ArtStation page.

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