I’ve been jonesing to write a reflective post on this blog for the past two months. Seems like it’s been all action action action ever since the New Year turned! So let the rest of my to-do list be damned, and here we go…
Last week we had a great Kinetic Cinema program at Chez Bushwick. Doug Fox (blogger and founder of Great Dance and a budding animator himself) went above and beyond the curatorial call of duty to give us a real feast for the eyes with his survey of eighteen (yes 18!) dance and movement-based animations. Some how they all fit into a program that ran just over an hour long, and even more remarkable was the feeling that none of the selections dragged on too long. In fact, when Doug announced that he had one more piece in his cache, and asked us if we’d like to see it, the overwhelming response from the audience was yes! Like candy, we still wanted more, even though we were already stuffed.
The program was ordered in an abitrary manner, so we kind of ping-ponged around a bit in terms of types of animation and styles. One moment you were watching a 2-D, hand drawn animation made on the back of notepads (“Ballet Dancer Warm-ups“), and the next minute your seeing a slick 3-D animation for a champagne commercial (“Chandon-After Party“). Once you got used to the ala carte nature of the program, it was very enjoyable, but a bit of arrangement according to style, technique, or genre might have made it easier to absorb the visual imagery flying by.
In the q&a after the show, conversation got going right away about the difference between the commercial clips and the independently made animations. One woman who is an artist and film-maker felt like she could never afford the high-end equipment and resources necessary to make slick-looking work like some of the commercials. This statement was somewhat refuted however by another person’s observation that one of the most successful commercials in the program, Sneaux Shoes’ “Human Skateboard” was made with stop-motion animation techniques that anyone with a camera could do.
A choreographer in the audience also observed that the commercials, while having lots of money to play with, do not have the luxury of time that independent works do to unfold gradually. I liked this explanation of the time/money/quality conundrum that all artists wrestle with. Someone once told me that there are three things we all want: fast, cheap, and good, but we can only have two of them. Commercial work can be fast and good but it won’t be cheap. Independent work can be good and cheap but it won’t be fast. And all work can be made fast and cheap but it’s unlikely to be good.
Animation is interesting because one generally thinks of it as being painstakingly slow to produce. First it was hand-drawn frame by frame, now it can be made using computer programs, but the level of detail and depth required to make a believable moving figure is still extremely difficult and complex. It would seem that animation would be more time-consuming and expensive than other media art forms, and therefore a bit harder to enter into for the novice. This fact was not lost on the dancers in the room who were all inspired and fired up to work in animation. But how? It’s not like video where you can buy a cheap camera and just start shooting.
Doug informed us that most of the works on the program were conceived by the animators themselves. Erica Russell (“Feet of Song”) came from a dance background and later became an animator, but most of the others sought out dancers and choreographers to work with just for these projects. Other pieces just seemed to spring directly from the animator’s minds.
I would love to see more animators connect with dance artists and vice versa. There is so much interesting work being made these days with animation such as motion capture, and live motion imaging for performance (see Chunky Moves’ “Glow” and Recoil Performance Group’s “Body Navigation“). The possibilities for collaboration are rich and plentiful.
As for my favorite piece of the evening, it’s hard to pick just one, but I loved “En Tus Brazos” the most. The narrative was engrossing, the tango choreography and music was great, and the animated flights of fancy were wonderful. The audience made a collective and spontaneous exhale at the end and errupted in applause. There is nothing more satisifying than a story well-told with dynamic and expressive energy.
Check out Doug’s program guide on Great Dance for information and links to all the videos on his program.