Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Power of Mr Christie's Love

How fast the year has gone, it's LIAF again already.

Last night was the opening night.  I especially enjoyed seeing Don Hertzfeldt's Wisdom Teeth (2010) followed by the world premiere of  Phil Mulloy's 2nd feature in the Christies Trilogy Dead but Not Buried (2011).  Two fearless, industrious and single-minded animators who know how to take an idea to it's conclusion and then many, many frames beyond.  In the case of Wisdom Teeth, the action of pulling a friends stitch out of his swollen mouth stretched to five glorious minutes, whilst Phil Mulloy has used a bare 108 drawings to create his 80 minute feature film Dead but not Buried. I didn't miss the other 119,892, the characters were each properly described with just 9 drawings made on a tablet, all close ups, some from the front and some from the side.  It was only Tina that we saw in long shot, and that was necessary to illustrate the results of her encounter with sharks in the Pacific ocean.  In keeping with the spare imagery, the dialogue is read by the computer, the limitations of which provide a great deal of humour.  The film has quite a traditional narrative structure, a quest and a denouement in a (very) dark cave in which the bad guys fight each other to the death about who is going to bring peace and love into the world.  The journey is dark but transformative for all and even angry little Terry has an epiphany. It's really great, see it as soon as you can, infact see anything of Phil Mulloy's and in the meantime LIAF is on all week at the Barbican.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Fun, fun, innocent fun?

Of course it's good that the Guardian's art critic Jonathan Jones has reviewed the Barbican's Watch me Move show but I wish he'd spent a big longer in there and engaged with the work as he might have with any other art form.
(I'm going to resist posting a comment on the Guardian blog)(I am)

Monday, August 22, 2011

What's going on here?

The ins and outs of my vampire story are still lost on the small people who pop in and out of my studio, so I'm doing some work to clarify the narrative today. It involves swapping frames around here and there but also I'm adding guide music and sounds today.  I've found some lively Balkan folk music to give me a flavour, here at the comprehensive Dunav resource. (The Frombald story is Serbian.)  I've also been experimenting with printing in two colours and making fades with the rubber stamps by not visiting the ink pad between impressions.  The technique creates an eye-wateringly frenzied pace, so I have to think of ways that I can slow it down, or make little breaks without loss of vitality.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


A traumatic incident occurs in my film:

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Here are some villagers and Frombald in the hotel dining room from yesterday.  I'm printing them onto 35mm film and then scanning them one by one.  I've had some help digitising them from a very talented young animator  Isabel Garrett.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Robert Breer and Everything Goes

I was very sorry to hear that Robert Breer died yesterday.  What a wonderful artist he was.  (Here is a link to a good article in the NY Times.)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Coq au Vin on the menu

Here we all are in Cinema 2 at the Barbican last night.  From right to left Chris Shepherd, Tim Webb, Stuart Hilton, me and Adam Pugh, skillfully guiding the discussion.  Gary Thomas had asked us to chose an influential film to accompany the screening of our Animate films, it was a peachy opportunity.  I chose Al Sens's The See Hear Talk Think Dream and Act Film (1965), which I've never had the chance to see, but reading about the special 'spit' technique that he employed certainly made me think that animation could be for me too back in 1996.  In answer to my request Gary said "What!?" (which meant the film was too long).  In the end I chose Jeff Keen's thrilling trilogy of films Cineblatz, White Lite and Marvo Movie from 1967/8.

Here is the full list of films shown:
Dad's Dead by Chris Shepherd, 2002
15th February by Tim Webb, 1995
The Emperor by Elizabeth Hobbs, 2001
Save me by Stuart Hilton, 1994
Home Road Movies by Robert Bradbrook, 2002 (Chris's choice)
A Man and His Dog Out for Air by Robert Breer, 1958 (Stuart's choice)
Particles in Space by Len Lye, 1979 (Stuart's choice)
Cineblatz, White Lite, Marvo Movie by Jeff Keen, 1967/8 (Mine)

We were missing Swankmajer's The Last Trick, which was chosen by Tim, but not available on the night.

Adam asked us to reflect on our Animate commissions and to assess it's impact on our careers.  For me it was fascinating to hear  how the others felt about and tackled their films.  The reflections became melancholy in the light of the present lack of funding for animated shorts, especially funding like Animate! which allowed so much freedom.  However we were forgetting that Jeff Keen, Len Lye and Robert Breer are all independent artists with 40 years of productivity each.  That's one of the reasons that Jeff Keen is an inspiration to me, as well as the fact that he makes work with what he has to hand, and that his works are gleefully anarchic and quite mysterious.  One of my favourite moments was when Chris Shepherd was talking about the appreciation of independent animated short films.  Imagine you have Burger and chips every day, then one day you find Coq au Vin on the menu.  Try it, you might even like it! 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Animate Projects

On Thursday night I'm going to be going to the Barbican for a night with Animate Projects.  Gary Thomas is going to be doing a gallery talk at 6.30pm focusing on experimental animation and the Animate scheme, then there is a panel talk at 7.30pm in Cinema 2 led by Adam Pugh with Stuart Hilton, Tim Webb, Chris Shepherd and me.  Gary asked us to choose an influential film to show alongside one of our Animate pieces.  I'll let you know how I get on or maybe see you there.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Bobby Breer and Bobby Boo

We also went to a beautiful quaker chapel, with Bobby Boo.

Robert Breer and Everything Goes

Robert Breer's work seemed very well placed at Baltic.  It's a friendly gallery and the work is being enjoyed not just by the visitors.  The gallery attendants also seemed to take great pleasure in the work on the 4th floor, often having to don white gloves and attend to the motorised float sculptures as they  occasionally got into difficulties bumbling independently and imperceptibly to and fro.  
On the 3rd floor there was a 16mm projection of REcreation  on a loop in a black box in the centre of the gallery.   I always wondered whether what Noel Burch is saying makes sense, and I think the answer is both not quite, and perfectly, within the context of the film.  It seems that Breer made the work, showed it to Burch, who went away and wrote a nonsense poem, with puns that refer to the images, that Breer recorded and edited to the image.  It's only a minute long and it has a perfect tension, I often hold my breath for most of the film.  Outside the black box the individual frames are set behind some plexiglass, I had to count the frames to make sure they were all there but then I really appreciated the linear illustration of the work.  I'm not sure why they had been blown up to 35mm though. There are 2 mutoscopes from the 1960's, I wonder what they would have looked like in revolution, one of them was 3D with two eyesights and two sets of paper in circulation.   The flip books were equally tantalising, you can get a little look inside some of them on the link to gb agency if you click on drawings and paintings.

Another highlight for me was seeing the A5 index cards that he works upon, showing small sequences from Fuji, 66, and 69.  The colours were still extremely vivid in the frames from Fuji, where the colour is mostly spray painted.  The cards elegantly illustrate his simple technique and the spareness of his imagery, but it's within the camera that he creates the extraordinary and magical associations. 
The animations were shown in pairs in boxes around the edge of the 4th floor and on monitors on the 3rd.  I've seen the films quite a few times and sometimes with the man himself and his brilliant stories, but a full retrospective would be good now, a Breer immersion in the dark of the cinema really swills out the brain like a tonic.