Thursday, July 29, 2010

Animation Deviation (part 2)

Simon Payne, Neil Henderson and Jennifer Nightingale are all lecturers at ARU in Cambridge, and their work is tremendous, each in different ways. Simon Payne's paper was called 'Smooth movement, Frenetic Motion and Flicker', and I would have thought his talk was exciting even if we didn't enjoy marital relations. He showed clips from 'Radio Dynamics' by Oscar Fischinger (1942), 'C-Trend' by Woody Vasulka (1974), 'Peace, Mandala/End War' by Paul Sharits (1993) and David Larcher's 'Ich Tank' (1983/97), in the context of those 3 different ways in which experimental 
video makers 
 structures. Then Neil Henderson showed his 16mm film 'Candle' in which movement is created by a chemical process; the 3 minute film is the record of a polaroid photograph appearing from nothing, presented in reverse. It's clever of course, but it's extremely exciting to see the projector projecting the image of a light source that is denied the movement that is expected, I didn't even blink because I didn't want to miss the incremental change when it came, so different to those that Simon mentioned, and I could see that other people felt the same. Neil's made other clever things, one of which is 
 five super

projectors from 2002. I think I saw this at the 297 Gallery in 2002. Each 
played a 
frame. Each projector played at it's own speed so there's a great deal of suspense, the light finally arrived but then it signaled the end of the film. Anyway, there's no website for Neil, nothing, so you just have to see if you can catch him showing something sometime. Jennifer Nightingale's work is also thoughtful and thought provoking because the movement in her films is not just or even mechanical but often created by a gesture. In her film 'Pinhole Film No. 1' Jennifer has made a pinhole for the supereight cartridge itself and advanced the film by using a hairgrip, so there is a regular flare of light that is the extended exposure created when Jennifer's hand turns back to revolve the hairgrip again. In her 'Knitting Films' the frames are created from stitches, either the movement of her hand pulling the wool to create a new stitch, or her use of a pattern for a fairisle jersey to dictate the content of each frame. Jenny spoke so well and had some lovely slides to make her process clear, I'm afraid I havn't.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Spellbound breaks out of the bathroom...

and into the bedroom. This week I almost became overwhelmed by tissue paper tigers and was really grateful to Emily Tracy and Wendy Scott from the Skids (pictured with her special scissors) for stepping in and helping me cut some out. I've been making the last of 4 small animations for a DVD that will go with K T Tunstall's lovely new album called Tiger Suit, which will be out in September.
The last part of the project was a splendid day at Fonic doing the sound effects. I quite cleaned them out of chocolate biscuits because I was quite tired.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Esther Leslie

Animation Deviation was organised by Vicky Smith at UWE. There was a smaller turnout than Edinburgh, which was puzzling because it was also excellent. It was opened by a keynote from Esther Leslie, who was so bright, in every way, and talking about lightness as well. Her keynote was a perfect following Animation Evolution I won’t be able to do it justice here because she sort of flies around, but it all makes perfect sense in the end. She mused on liquid crystal displays and the way that the screen collaborates in sort of petrifying or embedding the animation within it’s make-up because there are no flickers or frames, just on and off, lightness and darkness, what she referred to as petrified unrest. That was very interesting to think about because in animation there is much focus on the continuous. She talked about John Gerrard’s animated scenes, it’s the first time I have thought about the way that pig effluent might be animated. Then she talked about saccadian vision; our eyes don’t really look at things smoothly, we scan things more like the second hand of a clock, so what we see is a series of fixed pictures, with the odd blink in there too. Then how did she get on to metamorphosis and Grandville (Jean Isidore Gerard, 1803-46) and the frog he kept on his desk, Mr Cryptogame (see illus.) and the creative possibilities of the wobble or tremble in nanotechnology? This is a layman’s report, I didn't promise anything more.
More later.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Animation Evolution

I've been to Edinburgh for the Society for Animation Studies 22nd Annual Conference. In return for my train ticket I had a small role in a panel about the legacy of Norman McLaren as a previous recipient of the McLaren Award for my film Sawney Beane. The other panellists were Karl McGee, archivist from University of Stirling, and keeper of an archive of McLaren’s letters home, busy animator Iain Gardner and Alan Mason from the animation department at ECA. We were masterfully guided through it all by Jonny Murray also from ECA. It was maybe a little bit long up there on the stage, or did it just feel that way? I think we unanimously agreed that McLaren needed to be feted in Scotland for the centenary of his birth in 2014 and that he was a true pioneer whose huge body of work engendered much gladness. Some interesting observations cropped up about whether it would belittle McLaren to bring him home or make much of his Scottish ness though Iain Gardner has plans to organise a proper celebration and his background would help find money this. Other points that we touched upon were how to introduce him to students (screen often) and how to keep his sensibilities alive at a time where there are many pressures on young animators

The question of McLaren-like innovation was also posed elegantly by Clare Kitson in her keynote presentation. Her talk contextualised Channel 4’s golden years of animation within the current economic climate. She made the observation that short films that she had seen recently on the festival circuit showed great technical proficiency, but were often indulgent and too long with a certain lack of rigour in the ideas department. She offered a possible explanation that creating animations in the bedroom denies the creators the development structure of a studio and constructive feedback from commissioners and producers. I think this applies especially in the creation of narrative works and I can see the truth in that being a bathroom animator myself. Something that cropped up quite a bit was that current students felt a great pressure to make work for the existing market and this never leads to anything unexpected, innovation is necessarily ahead of public taste. Clare was optimistic about opportunities available with the expansion of broadcasting platforms and development of technology however felt that women directors were falling away from the field, maybe due to this expansion and the emphasis on the development of CGI, games and the production of feature films where women are definitely not so visible. In her period at Channel 4, submissions and commissions had been equally weighted between the genders, so if there are less women directors, it would be a grave backward step.
Obviously Clare could offer no solution, not being culture secretary or a wealthy philanthropist but Joan Ashworth from the RCA said that she felt there was a will to protect the creative industries from the predicted cuts because they are probably our greatest export. I hope that’s the case.

In the single day between the panel and Clare Kitson was a potential of 24 papers of which it was only possible to choose 9. Each person has 20 minutes and they presented in 3’s. I expect this is routine conference structure, I’ll have to go to a second conference before I know for sure. The short presentation time is useful if the presentation is slightly impenetrable but frustrating if the material is engaging and obviously it's often the case that two good things are on concurrently. I especially enjoyed Edwin Carel’s presentation on Chris Marker’s nine lives. Chris Marker prefers to refer to himself as a cobbler but he is known by others as an author, activist, filmmaker, photographer, critic, media artist, poet, journalist and cat lover (is that nine?). Carel’s talk gave us plenty of food for thought which needs cobbling together in the brain because I still need to make the connection between the animated cat named Guilliame, second life and the interval.

The very engaging David Williams showed a film that he had made called Going to the Dogs, I felt that he had the ability to whoop everyone up and it would have been nice to have heard more from him. Lastly I thought Irina Chiaburu was very interesting on the subject of In the World of Fables by Andrei Khrzhanovsky (1973). She described ways in which the authors of this subversive film found ways to escape censorship in the era of Brezhnev. The presentations and discussions will go on until Sunday, I'm sorry to miss the rest, I bet it will be great.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Waddington Air Show

Animation Evolution & Animation Deviation

There are two conferences about animation coming up in quick succession and I'm lucky enough to be going to both of them. Animation Evolution will take me home to Edinburgh College of Art. I'm joining a panel discussion on the legacy of Norman McLaren. It will be exciting to talk about him in Scotland because he isn't really whooped up as much as he bloody should be, so the whooping starts on friday and I shall let you know how it goes. Next week is Animation Deviation organised by Vicky Smith at UWE. I'm taking my pad and pencil and will make a small report on my return.