Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Experimental Animation: Animate Projects Online Exhibition

Animate Projects is a Britsh-based website that supports the production and exhibition of artists' animation by commissioning new work and exhibiting films online and on digital platforms.  They also present short essays on some of the work that they exhibit online, so below I have matched recent videos and essays and their links. a rose colored forest (Edwina Ashton, UK, 2011,4 minutes)
Animate Projects synopsis: …in a rose columned forest is inspired by the books of Edmund and Philip Gosse. Edmund Gosse’s memoir (1907), Father and Son is an account of the childhood he spent with his father, Philip Henry Gosse, the Victorian marine biologist and prolific author. Reading this book led Edwina Ashton to Philip Gosse’s extraordinary scientific writings and illustrations, especially: The Ocean, Evenings at the Microscope, and The British Sea Anemones and Corals. Animate Projects link.

The supplemental essay on the film is by Ingrid Swenson.  The film provides an interesting juxtaposition between the deceptively simple image track a text-dense soundtrack, each of them providing a series of vivid images to contemplate.  While the images at first seem to simply represent scientific data, they soon pick up the connotation of memory and nostalgia. When the narration finally describes a specific image in detail, the effect is quite jarring and somehow moving, as we seem to share the experience of discovery with the narrator.

Figment (Hiraki Sawa, UK, 2011, 10 minutes)
Synopsis by Dale Berning: A boy closes his eyes for 25 minutes and wakes up with the world gone from behind his thoughts. His language slips and shifts, he tastes orange juice without knowing anymore to describe it as sour, he likes numbers but cannot put names to faces. His room is filled with a thousand records and many more. He sees the records, unable to listen. He can't see the floor, has never seen the floor beneath them, wouldn't recognise it if he met it in the street. He meets people in the street and his only option is to trust that they know him when they say they do. His records become opaque, circular slabs of the unknown and the unknowing. A fog of landscapes without contours, without borders, that can only be read by touching. To move forward he must step out, one foot then the other, and believe that he is indeed moving. His mind like an emptied lake, the sky welling upward and outward, unable to contain the depth of it all, the bottomless, fathomless wealth of the things he lost in his sleep. Animate Projects link.

The supplemental essay about Figment is by Coline Milliard. While the synopsis above attempts to describe the film more literally, I think it might be best to engage it as a series of motifs that repeat with very interesting variations.  For example, the concentric circles at some times connote sound waves or ripples, but variations suggest radar screens and music box discs.  These, in turn, can connect to the many records mentioned above, even when we don't see them as spinning circles.  The soundtrack also offers some interesting motifs with various repetitive sounds that at first just seem to irritate but eventually pick up the association with a record skipping.  The film also features a great grainy texture that gives the film a tactile feeling that connects to some of the more visceral sounds and images.

Horse Glue (Stephen Irwin, UK, 2010, 7 minutes)
Animate Projects synopsis: When two films, Horse and Glue, unfold together within the same space, their narratives become intertwined. Horse is a miniature war film that follows a frightened soldier after a bloody battle in which he was the lone survivor. Glue tells the story of a child left to fend for himself in the woods, and is loosely based on The Babes in the Wood folktale.  The stories mix together and the following story is told: a young boy is abandoned in the woods by his father and encounters a murderous child. He is surrounded by a miniature war, puzzled by the actions of a lone, insane soldier and experiences his own mental breakdown. Animate Projects link.

The supplemental essay on Horse Glue is by Angela Kingston.   Again while the synopsis attempts to describe the juxtaposition between Horse and Glue in a more literal and linear manner, I think what makes the film special is the ways in which the films are combined and juxtaposed in terms of visual style.  In the credit sequence the films are juxtaposed through simple cross cutting, but as the film progresses the juxtapositions are achieved through superimpositions and variable-sized screens, producing layers of imagery.  The obvious differences in technique in the two films begins to blur as images and characters begin to echo and resonate with each other.  The tone of the film is pretty bleak and might turn some viewers off, but the film also has an undeniable energy and a strong sense of play. 

Finding the Telepathic Cinema of Manchuria (David Blair, UK, 2010, 10 minutes)
Animate Projects synopsis: A short film which takes the viewer in media res to the discovery of the telepathic cinema of Manchuria, and the reconstruction of its most famous production, a doomed movie known as The Lost Tribes. Animate Projects link.

The supplemental essay on the film is by Emily McMehen.  This is probably best described as a found footage film with an incidental amount of computer animation.  It creates a very dense but lively alternative universe that is a mashup of elements from global politics and cinema history.  The more you know about the the economic and technological history of the cinema, the more you will get out of the transformations in the narrative.  At the same time I'm confident that I'm also missing many direct and indirect references and allusions in the film.  The overwhelming effect is not unlike Craig Baldwin's fake alternative histories like Tribulation 99, and at some point one does suffer from a bit of information overload.  And the density of the information does at times distract you from the genuinely clever use of the found images and footage (I particularly liked the juxtaposition of different images of the same locations).  But the effect is never completely alienating, perhaps because the tone is always kept suspiciously pleasant and calming.

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