It’s “the Avant Garde, not the Avant Guard.”
The lovely and prolific Professor Jodie Mack– animator, filmmaker and artist- came to visit the university, direct from Dartmouth. She gave us a chronological overview of her art practice, and some interesting tidbits along the way. She referred to animation as the study of motion- anything moving in time, can qualify. Her realm is experimental animation, with animation as the “bastard child” of the art world, and experimental animation as the bastard child of animation. What a way with words!
Jodie mused on becoming an animator, asking “what is the entry point?” She came from a different perspective to the Disney inspired mainstream loving animators, instead inspired by experimental animator inspired such as Norman McLaren. But how to make a living as an experimental animator? A similar question to the one posed by sequential art practitioners, and artists of all streams across the globe.
Jodie went on to explore misconceptions of character vs experimental animation – representational vs abstract, narrative vs sensational, large teams vs independents. She stresses the idea of non-representational and abstract imagery as containing all the elements of representational images- the shapes, the movement, the colours- only in different forms.
- Abstraction as a pure, imaginative tool, a place of wonder and a space for invoking childlike expressions of joy.
- Abstraction as an undermined and undervalued commodity in the world of conscious public perceptions world-although, as Jodie pointed out, look in Ikea and at the interiors of most homes and you will find a smorgasbord of abstraction in domestic graphic design and decoration. How people fill their lives with these images and have a problem with seeing them as fine art.
- Abstraction as a stigmatised medium – we’ve all heard people say, and perhaps said ourselves, “my kid could paint that.”
- Abstract animation as found in fireworks, advertising and nature.
Jodie situated the origins of cinema within theatre and literature- drawing on codes and conventions that would make it easier to systematise (and make money from), and forming preconceptions in people’s minds that ‘This Is How Cinema Should Be’. So how do we ingest animation in a place outside of the cinema- for example, in a gallery? Are we just so used to seeing the patterns in an iTunes music visualiser that something is lost in the individual visual interpretation of music?
Jodie showed images from one of her art projects- NO kill shelter– with a collection of old monitors and televisions, decoupage wall-papered, playing abstract animations. A symphony of 4:3 screens now long obsolete and 3 year old iMacs, similarly no longer of value. Funnily, her goal was to make it look like a “psychedelic apple store”. Goal achieved.
This was followed with a screening of A Joy, with music by Four-Tet. There are a mass of interesting textures that become apparent by magnification of film under the scanner, giving this animation an extra degree of life. Jodie employs camera-less animation on 16mm film, the photo negatives exploring themes of memory. A Joy was apparently put together with stained glass contact paper from a deceased ladies’ house- what a joy indeed! I asked Jodie about how much work went into synchronising the animation to the music, and of course she spent a great deal of time timing it out. Of course, with the vibrance of imagery and fullness/complexity of her animations, the mind could no doubt pick out its own link between sound and images, regardless of planning.
I had to leave halfway through, however one quote remains with me.
“Through music, abstract, timeless worlds emerge.”