Mar 31, 2010

Len Lye (Brought to you by Parcel Post)

I was going to write about Norman McLaren but it seems a lot of people already have, so I looked into Len Lye's work more thoroughly. The piece that caught my attention the most was a scratch film called Free Radicals. Simple lines on the film dance to tribal music from the Bagirmi tribe of Africa, and give the illusion of moving in 3D space. His inventive way of showing rotations of flat lines is so convincing, I went to wikipedia to make sure that this was indeed scratch on film. The movement to the music fits perfectly and showcases his true talent of illustrating music and creating art that dances to a rhythm.

Free Radicals

Another work I enjoyed was Rainbow Dance, where he uses the Gasparcolor process. Rainbow Dance, Lye's second film (viewed publicly) is a colorful display of a sillouette man dancing with an umbrella in the rain, with an ever changing background. Towards the end of the film when the music finishes, a narrator advertises the Post Office Savings Bank, as well as an incomprehensible slogan for it. The same kind of ending is seen in his other work, A Colour Box, with Cheaper Parcel Post. Since Lye was funded by these companies, they had to be included somewhere. In A Colour Box the insertion of Cheaper Parcel Post is seemingly unnoticeable since it moves with the music and doesnt break from the overall feel of the piece, which to me makes him all the more talented. Even in films today the advertisers are all to obvious to the audience with no subtlety and often remove the audience from the film

A Colour Box

Rainbow Dance


by Ryan


While Norman McLaren's work was utterly tasteful, I feel that Brakhage displayed an elegance rarely seen. One might say McLaren is to Mozart as Brakhage is to Beethoven. I want to know: is this why McLaren found such embrace in Canada, and Brakhage found such solitude in the States?

His work may be criticized as scientific, but his transcendence of inherent distinctions between art and science is exciting, even today. And what continues to be exciting is the anti-materialism of his work...

I was very centered on the American abstract expressionist movement. I was always interested in ineffable shapes that, if you were going to name them, would be biological rather than mathematical: shapes related to nerves, to cells, to the honeycomb of the bones, to the synapse system in the brain. Whether they were conscious of it or not, the abstract expressionists were always painting closed-eye vision, and I wanted to include that in film, since my impulse always was to include everything that you might see within the possibilities of filmmaking: closed-eye vision, daydreams, nightdreams, and so on.

And while anti-materialism is an aspect of all abstract work, it is interesting to consider the commodification of abstract expressionist paintings in contrast to Brakhage's struggle to find an audience.

Brakhage's work started out as (gorgeous) documentation - he abhorred the term abstract; but it applies to his films. I guess I say that because abstraction requires commitment of its audience, which is certainly true of his work. His compositions came to be based on light acting as a musical score in itself. His images immediately call to mind the sound of Cecil Taylor.

I feel Brakhage's distance from symbolism is what continues to make his films brilliant. And though this strays from the realm of animation, how could I discuss Brakhage without touching on Window Water Baby Moving? On further tangent, Brakhage and Bill Viola make an interesting comparison.

Only a ghost film could possibly break through thought-bonds of language and exist as, say, movement haunt, tone-texture haunt, ineffable-haunt. The sense of such a film might naturally exist within the spectator, very like the kind of passing image which prompts dreams that cannot be verbalized to one's breakfast companion or psychoanalyst. Such a film might eventually prompt whole new ways of recollection that are essentially free from language?indeed might prompt whole new definitions of what "language" might eventually come to un-nouned, non-dichotomous series of light-glyphs available for arrangements of cathectic exchanges which directly reflect each person's synapsing inner nervous system.

Fred Camper said, "A narrative film creates an arc of expectation that sets up conflicts and tensions the viewer expects to have resolved — or at least, lead to some form of conclusion. Brakhage's films are organized according to a precisely opposite principle. There is no overarching or predictable form; his emphasis is on each instant of perception. One way he achieves this emphasis is by organizing his films around unpredictable changes in composition, subject-matter, and rhythm: each small pattern that a film sets up is violated just at the moment when you think you have finally apprehended it. The process of viewing a Brakhage film becomes part of the film's subject; in answer to the passivity encouraged by a mainstream commercial narrative movie, Brakhage requests active participation. Relaxing one's perceptions when the lights dim, as many movie viewers are accustomed to doing, won't work here: one must learn to see faster, more precisely, and more deeply."

Brakhage enabled this to exist.

A few of his films, which total at least four hundred (though the quality is... that of youtube, there is something to be gained from observing the timing and spacing of color and gesture):

Glaze of Cathexis (1990)

Dante's Quartet (1987)

Cat's Cradle (1959)

post by eli

Mary Ellen Bute & Seeing Sound

Kool Kat Mary Ellen!

Being the only female animator on the list of people we could pick to write about, I thought Mary Ellen Bute would be a really great and fascinating person to look into. Born in 1906, Bute was a pioneer of "visual music" and abstract animation, making a series of films which she referred to as "Seeing Sound." Earlier on, she studied painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of Art, where she realized that although she enjoyed painting, it was too restricting for the kind of art she wanted to make. She later started to embrace the potential of light, which compelled her to travel to Europe and assist the color-organ inventor Thomas Wilfred. This led her to study the electronic transformation of acoustic into optical signals with Leon Theremin in 1931, along with the mathematical concepts of composition with Joseph Schillinger. She then realized that film was the right medium for her, which led her to create "Rhythm in Light," which was screened at the Radio City Music Hall and is believed to have most likely been the first abstract film to have been shown publicly. Unfortunately, "Rhythm in Light" has not been uploaded onto the internet for me to post here.

Mary Ellen Bute embraced classical music in particular by juxtaposing famous compositions with entrancing "lights and shadows, growing lines and forms, [and] deepening colors and tones," creating intense and wonderful visual experiences that were synchronized to feel as though you could see the music (

An interesting piece I found on her work was this short documentary about her, which notably describes her films as "unjustly ignored." Along with talking about her work and her life, it additionally shows clips of her films, including live action work with a young Christopher Walken, ha.

The thing this documentary lacks, though, is a discussion on how Bute approached and created her work. She first refined her black and white film technique in which she would sometimes take drawn images with filmed pictures and multiply them to distort their appearance and enhance the light and shadow. Later, with her husband Ted Nemeth, she started creating her visual music films to synchronize musical compositions with animated imagery. She used early color film systems and quickly began utilizing hand drawn animation and superimposition. Bute, along with Norman McLaren and Hy Hirsh Bute were some of the first filmmakers to truly explore electronic imagery, as early as the beginning of the 1950s. By using oscilloscope patterns, she felt as though she had become the closest to visually representing music onto film.

Collaboration with Norman McLaren:

Later film, "Finnegan's Wake," which combined live action with animated techniques. It won the "best debut" award at the 1965 Cannes Film Festival:


Larry Jordan: Animator/Human

I was completely taken aback by the beauty of Duo Concertantes by Larry Jordan. According to scientific studies performed in Switzerland by "top men," the film was animated entirely with cut-outs of steel engravings, a mind blogging achievement, considering the fluidity and intricacy of movement throughout the film's length. And, holy shit, did it look good on 16mm.

Given the film's placement in history, I found the subject matter to be surprising. Made in an era defined by abstract expressionism, political activism, the experimentation of French New Wave cinema, and drawing influences from surrealist photomontage and the playful language of Dada, who would have thought that an experimental animation such as Duo Concertantes would focus on more innocent subjects, like spiritual rebirth, instead of trying to instill in its viewers the tenets of some ridiculous Grand Marxist Narrative? Lots and lots of words in that sentence. But it is this attraction to innocence and non-theistic sacral narratives that makes Larry Jordan such an interesting filmmaker and separates his work from the heavy handed manifestos of his peers. And thank GOD he didn't turn into one of those drug dropping "I just want to make things that look cool and sound kinda funny" self-proclaimed synaesthete hippies that monopolized experimental film making in the 60's.

On a slightly related note, Len Lye did not produce a single film in the 60's. What.

Moving forward, and transforming rapidly into biography mode with incredible precision, Larry Jordan was born in the year of our Lord, 1933, made his first film in 1952, has been living and working in the Bay Area of San Francisco since 1955 and is, surprisingly, still not dead. He has made both live-action and animated films, and was good friends with Stan Brakhage, whose shadow is dark and all-encompassing.

To my knowledge, these are the film's of Jordan's in which Brakhage has appeared:

Trumpit, 1955
The One Romantic Adventure of Edward, 1956

To my knowledge, these are the films whose founding ideas Jordan ripped off of Brakhage:

Hymn In Praise Of The Sun, 1960, in which Jordan "celebrates" his daughter's birth.

Larry Jordan, throughout his career, has produced 40 short animated and live-action films, as well as 3 feature length films. He received a Guggenheim Award in 1970, has been invited to show his work at the Cannes Film Festival, and is currently the chairman of the film department at the San Francisco Art Institute.

Jordan's masterwork is considered, by many, to be Sophie's Place (1986). The film was produced over five years, and utilizes Jordan's characteristic style of cut-out animation. All of the cut-outs were hand-painted by Jordan. The film was animated straight ahead, beneath the camera, and was done without any planning, whatsoever.

Oh, and apparently I lied about the whole "avoidance of Marxist Narrative" thing. Supposedly, Sophie's Place makes satire of the Academy with it's use of Classical imagery. This seems odd, as Larry Jordan is not French, and nobody cares about the Academy anymore. Although, I'm sure that somewhere, in a mass grave beneath une Grande Avenue, Courbet has finally stopped spinning.

Larry Jordan shares his name with Michael Jordan's brother and some dude that directs concert videos, making him very hard to find on both Wikipedia and IMDB.

Here's a very special list of his films:


Len Lye- Most Unboring Person Ever- Amanda Bonaiuto

Len Lye(1901-1980) was a New Zealand born artist dedicated to motion.

Len Lye found a way to answer the question of creating a 1:1 relationship using visuals and motion. He Pioneered many methods of direct filmmaking, or camera-less animation by painting and carving directly onto film. This discovery or invention has been inspirational for many artists, namely Norman Mclaren. People often confused the works of Mclaren and Lye because of their similar techniques, however they were good friends and always spoke generously about each others work.
Len Lye was all about creating "new forms" of art and avoiding falling into the category of traditional art making. Lye seemed to possess a sense of movement far beyond most artists, which allowed him to "compose motion" and ultimately come to a cross roads between traditional art making and experimental art making. Lye's need for alternate forms of creating is what lead to his inventing camera-less animation and using film to work on directly, as if it were a pen and paper.
We see this technique used in "A Colour Box"(1935)---

Animation today can be examined as a medium used for experimentation and could even be considered radical. Animation is the inventors medium and this type of thinking is reflected in Len Lye's work. Len Lye believed "There has never been a great film unless it was created in the spirit of the experimental film-maker. All great films contribute something original in manner or treatment". Discovering that films could be made by painting or scratching into film was a big deal because of creative solutions but also because it meant less money to be spent and no need to purchase a film camera.

Free Radicals(1958)
Len Lye wasn't interested in representing actual objects in his films, but rather representing motion through "pure figures", meaning shapes, lines, and color which possess the rhythm of the film. Lye was fascinated with waves, forms, and color from a young age; he simply had an eye for motion.


John Whitney

Whitney's interest in spirituality through meditation and music is clear in his 1975 vibrant and hypnotizing animation, "Arabesque". His use of iconography, colors, music, rhythm and repetition work together to create a powerful and experimental animation piece.
I was fascinated by the complexity of the computer graphics that Whitney was experimenting with. They were considered to be on the cutting edge at the time the animation was produced and Whitney is often referred to as the "father of computer graphics". In "Arabesque", Whitney used digital processes as opposed to his previous work created by an analogue computer that he himself developed. (The analogue computer process sounds incredible! He combined machinery that originally used to be an antiaircraft gun director into a 12 foot, brilliant monstrosity.) He created "Arabesque" with financial support from the NEA and also with full endorsement of the computer giant, IBM.
I was also struck by the iconography he uses to create a mandala-like visual experience. As the title suggests, he uses repetitive geometrical elements that form fanciful yet relatively simple patterns. Arabesques are an frequently used motifs in Islamic art and convey spirituality. The whole can be broken down into smaller geometric forms, such as squares and circles or plant forms that are all deeply entrenched in symbolism: unity, equality, nature, etc.
Not only was Whitney pushing the limits in terms of the visual language that he used, but maybe more importantly, he legitimized the computer as a medium for art. Besides using computer graphics, Whitney also weaved the enthralling music composed by the Iranian-American Santur master and composer, Manoochehr Sadeghi together with the visuals, creating a mesmerizing and powerful whole.
John Whitney was a pioneering experimental animator, who really helped to establish computer graphics as a legitimate art form and who successfully combined cutting edge technology, science, music and spirituality in his work.

Posted by Eszter

Harry Smith and William S. Burroughs

William S. Burroughs has been a major inspiration for me for a long time, and I've read his works extensively, as well as books about him. Much like Burroughs, Harry Smith was a truly innovative artist whose talent and vision transcended the era of the 50's and 60's. In many senses, Burroughs' "cut-up" style of writing seems almost seamlessly matched to Smith's early abstract animations.

Honestly, I only just recently realized that Harry Smith the experimental filmmaker/animator is also the same Harry Smith who frequently shows up with people like Burroughs and Paul Bowles and Allen Ginsberg in countless drug-and-booze influenced stories from the Beat Era. To make it even more suspicious, he's also the same Harry Smith who compiled the Anthology of American Folk Music in the early '50's, which went on to inspire a new era of folk musicians, including Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. At various points and places in his life he was also known as a painter and a sort-of new age philosopher.

(Okay, wait a minute ... Doesn't it sound like one person couldn't really have done all this stuff in one life? Plus, isn't it kinda suspicious that his name is so ordinary that it doesn't even sound like a name? Harry Smith? That's like naming your dog "Fido", or your cat "Whiskers". "Harry Smith" might be an animator, but he might just as well be a group or a collective of "Harry Smiths". I think somebody should do a really thorough investigation into this.)

Anyway, "Harry Smith's" early abstract animations are still highly influential. Performers like Deerhoof and Philip Glass have used his films in their shows.

And like Burroughs, his intelligence and style were far ahead of his time; this sucked for him 'cuz he wound up being wicked poor and fucked-up for a while, but it's awesome for the later generations of artists that discovered his work and were profoundly inspired by it.

Also: despite his wide and varied body of work, Smith had a bizarrely self-destructive side. He was known, at times, to purposely destroy his own paintings and films. On top of that, he often continued to edit his films long after they had been "finished". Ultimately, this made compiling his films really difficult for archivists and fans.

Here is one of his early abstract animations:

Ummm ... I just thought of something as I was watching that. It's got nothing to do with Harry Smith, but it does have a lot to do with squares and shapes and stuff. It's a film by Co Hodemann called "Tchou-Tchou". It's great and fun and also scary:

Also, for a really deeply incisive first-hand account of what Harry Smith was like as a person, here's an interview with Allen Ginsberg about him:

Mothlight-Bryan DiBlasi

Although I enjoy much cameraless animation, I can never really get into Stan Brakhages “Mothlight” (1963). There is no denying that an ungodly amount of time, focus, care, and precision went into this film. There is no denying that the film you see running right before your very eyes is in fact quite beautiful and outlandishly creative. For me, I can never get into the rhythm of the film. It moves too fast while lacking the rhythm. I have seen the film many times now (both outside my film class and several times in it) and I always reach the same conclusion. When watching the film at home on the computer, I constantly second guess my conclusion. This is because when it is paused it is easier to admire. While watching the film on my computer this time, my Internet connection started to go in and out. This made the film unintentionally pause and unpause on its own, creating its own unique rhythm. Then, I started to intentionally pause and unpause the computer to make my own rhythm, which I thought actually enhanced the film (rhythm wise). But when I would let the film play at its intended speed again, I felt it lacked something (rhythm wise). I believe other Stan Brakhage camraless animation films (e.g. “Water for Maya”, ”Glaze of Cathexis”,etc…) demonstrate his mastery in the camraless animation field, but in “Mothlight” he missed the boat with rhythm. I recently watched some (on recommendation from my film instructor) of David Gattens “What the water Said”. In this film, David Gatten “placed unexposed rolls of film in crab traps in the Atlantic Ocean off the South Carolina coast. The resulting sounds and images were produced by the physical and chemical interactions between the film's emulsion and the surrounding salt water, sand, rocks, crabs, fish and underwater creatures.” I believe that that this is a film, which is a prime example of what camraless animation can achieve both rhythmically and also in the entire realm of visual music. “Mothlight” is close, but I still feel lacks rhythmically.

Brief look at the life and influences of Oskar Fischinger

It was difficult to find any films of Oskar Fischinger, since the Fischinger Trust seems to have removed most of them. Among the exceptions, you can see his influence as it appears in the opening sequence of Disney's Fantasia. After his decision to part ways with Disney the abstraction in his work was altered to more representational and illustrative of classical music in the works: the bows of the string section and the strings dance with the music in certain parts of the film excerpt.

He was introduced to art at a very early age when living in Gelnhausen, Germany. As the middle child in his family he was less pressured to follow up the the work of maintaining the household and the family drugstore and so he was able to dedicate more time to his education and to enjoy leisure activities. One such activity was guiding the painters which came into his town on the train, to the most picturesque locations where they would be able to paint. In this way Fischinger was able to earn some pocket money and sketch in the company of artists. When he eventually moved out of Gelnhause, he apprenticed worked in the business of organ making and later in design. He was deemed undernourished to fight in the 1st world war and landed a job working in the drafting of tools.
His work in animation must have begun early in his life as he had an animation studio by the age of 22. At the age of 35 he was screening in cinemas and posing a threat to the Nazi's concept of pure art. His work shows his familiarity to experimental animator Walter Ruttmann, who preceeded him in his abstract shapes and dancing geometric forms. Ruttmann, however, was ready and willing to transform his work to promote the Nazi ideology. He became the assistant to the director Leni Riefenstahl in the propagandistic film "The Triumph of the Will" (1935). Fischinger's expressions of life through the relationship of music and colorful shapes became unacceptable under that regime, and so, Fischinger eventually moved to America and built a work relationship with Paramount Pictures and Disney. He also released his film "An Optical Poem" through MGM. Despite the rather unfair agreements he had with the American studios (The contract that Fischinger signed with MGM called for him to deliver a completed negative, and he was to bear all of the production costs out of his agreed upon fee, which was only $11,000.) he still remained in America until his death in 1967.


Multiplane Camera: Tips and Techniques-Bryan DiBlasi

This truly is an incredible machine. Not to mention, a truly incredible machine for its time as well. Watching this, kind of makes you have mixed feelings about the innovations in both animation and film today. On one hand (in the digital age) its great that we are able to accomplish so much, and things (via digital) are much easier and even more readily available for both professional and amateur animators and filmmakers alike. On the other hand, you lose the true “art” in it all. The time and minds it must have taken to accomplish each great step in the medium is staggering to me. However, with each passing year when multiplane cameras, and optical printers, etc… all fall out of favor and are updated, these innovators now seem to have more in common with magicians than animators and filmmakers.

Jumping-Bryan DiBlasi

Although we didn’t get to it in class, I really enjoyed the film “Jumping”. This was the first Osamu Tezuka film I’d seen (aside from the “Astro Boy” stuff), and my favorite of his thus far. I just thought that the idea behind the story and the way he executed it was a very unique one. After I saw this, I looked up his film “Metropolis”, which I also enjoyed. I had read that he got the idea for the film from looking at a movie poster of Fritz Langs “Metropolis”(1927). This was what had attracted me to the film in the first place; me being a big fan of the German Expressionist Movement. Although, Osamu Tezuka claims to have never have seen the film himself; only the poster.

Song of the South-Bryan DiBlasi

This film might be the most offensive out of all the “War, Propaganda & Picturing the Other” list of films that we watched in class. Right off the bat, with the old black man teaching all the white kids about the stories of the south “in his old-timey way”. It’s blatantly racist, and would never have been made today. It reminded me of something I read recently about some Hindus accusing Nina Paleys film “Sita Sings the Blues” of being blatantly offensive towards Hindus; saying that “Any white person doing a project like this is by definition racist”. Although, I suppose that from a strict Hindu extremists point of view, I can see what there’re saying, their argument doesn’t hold up much water against what “Song of the South” did.

Popeye the Sailor Meets Sinbad the Sailor-Bryan DiBlasi

I remember seeing this on television when I was younger. It screened with “Popeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba’s Forty Thieves” and “Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp”. At the time I didn’t know they were all part of the 3 “Popeye Color Features” for Fleischer Studios. I liked them when I saw them then, and I still do today. Maybe it’s just simple nostalgia but I just really like it. And it was the first color Popeye, which is cool. Plus, I read an interview with the comedian Sinbad recently, and he said he choose his name because of this cartoon he saw as a child. So, that’s cool too…I guess…

The Adventures of Prince Achmed-Bryan DiBlasi

This is a film that thoroughly impresses more and more with each subsequent viewing. The care and precision that must have gone into each well thought out shot is mind blowing; a true gem in the silhouette animation genre. I find myself returning to this particular film often, with my ventures into the world of silhouette animation in my stop motion animation class. It really is a perfect template for inspiration in that genre. Although simple in idea, this kind of animation still triumphs over much of the mainstream animation of today.

Feline Follies-Bryan DiBlasi

I’m interested about what the reaction was like for this film back in 1919. Personally, I found the film very funny and enjoyed the overall layout of it. It had a nice cross-section of both text and animation going on throughout it. I could only imagine the outcry there would be in today’s society if this were something that just came out. People today would be outraged by a cartoon cat “taking the gas pipe” because of his bastard kittens. The FCC or MPAA would be all over Pat Sullivan. It would be featured every night for weeks on Bill O’Reilly or Glenn Beck (avoiding real news, as usual), talking about how its things like this that destroys the ideals of yesterday and youth of today. Maybe we all could learn something from the people of 1919.

Le Voyage dans la lune-Bryan DiBlasi

This was the first time I had seen this film in its entirety. Before, I had only seen brief clips such as the famous scene with the ship flying into the moons eye. I can only imagine how blown away people must have been back in 1902. For this time period, those people being able to see such brilliant animation mixed with a live action film must have been amazing. I like this film in particular because they didn’t just let the film revolve around the animation techniques; it had a good story as well. Although, films such as “Gertie the Dinosaur” are great achievements in the world of animation and film, it lacked a little in story (e.g. move your left leg, take a drink of water, etc…). I like when films show excellence in all areas, rather than just one strong suit. Watching this, was also the first time I realized that the music video for the Smashing Pumpkins’ “Tonight, Tonight” is a direct reference to Méliès’ film. Another plus.

More Norman (Taylor)

So, one of my favorite things about Norman McLaren's work, is his ability to reach the widest possible audience and appeal to many different people and cultures. One of the ways he accomplished this, was through the avoidance of language. Aside from credits and occasional onomatopoeia, McLaren tried to keep his films free from the exclusivity involved with language***. He realized that everyone in the world had the ability to create a relationship between sound and vision, whether it was a narrative film ("A Chairy Tale") or more of an abstract statement ("Lines Horizontal"); language was not needed to get a point across for someone as visually innovative as Norman McLaren. Even in his short "Opening Speech" which was for the first Montreal Internation Film Festival, McLaren never said anything more than "Madames est Messeurs" before his microphone developed it's own agenda... : ]
***(discluding the commissioned pieces he did specifically for television spots, like "La Merde".)

McLaren was in a never-ending state of evolution and experimentation.
From creating an audio soundtrack by scratching directly onto the optical track....


To exercising a beautiful eye for surreal imagery....

"A Phantasy"

McLaren tried everything he was able to.

The work he produced in his 40 years with the NFB ranges from Canadian
public service announcements to "Keep Your Mouth Shut" (to stop people
from gossiping during WWII), to creating incredibly complex abstract
animations that are the perfect synthesis of sound and vision.
Bow down.

Norman McLaren-Amelia D.

Surprise, surprise, I'm doing my post about Norman McLaren. But can you blame me? The man was awesome. "Begone Dull Care" was one of the first films we watched in Animation 1, and it was leading us into one of our very first in class assignments, which was drawing directly onto film and then projecting it with some random Garage Band music in the background.
McLaren's work is intriguing, beautiful, and intelligent. His usage of various mediums is always fascinating to watch, especially in pieces like Pas De Deux and Neighbours. An article by Robert Koehler on states "Never mind that no other Canadian filmmaker has come within a light year of receiving such an elaborately presented, meticulously realized, and exhaustively presented survey (58 films, 15 original short documentaries, two complete film portraits, several excerpts from other nonfiction profiles, numerous retrieved fragments of unfinished or lost films, one audio sampling, and two films that amount to workshops on animation basics); no filmmaker anywhere else has either."
The way he makes his artwork sync up with music is also something extravagant. Think of how much patience went in to making something like "Begone Dull Care" or "Boogie Doodle".
It's very synesthetic (is that a word? whatever) in the ways that it correlates music and sound to images. Different beats and pitches get different doodles or splashes of ink. It lets the viewer escape into all the different abstractions and it is very absorbing. I find it very similar to that of Kandinsky, with his synesthesia inspired drawings based off of music.
With a piece like "Pas de Deux", the use of optical printing makes something like a simple ballet performance look like something that is almost other worldly, and in "Neighbours" the use of stop motion animation adds an air of whimsy to a very serious subject.
My ramblings don't do this fellow justice. He was an amazing and inspiring artist.

Mar 26, 2010

NY MoMA shows!

It's Spring break (hallelujah) and I'm in NYC doing the museum and gallery thang. Today, the MoMA! And do you know what? The biggest thrill was finding out that I actually DO have a perky benefit from working at the SMFA. The fact that I am employed by the MFA gets me into all of these museums for FREEEEEEEE!!! hot diggity dawg!

The MoMA shows that we managed: William Kentridge, Marina Abromavic, and Tim Burton.

You MUST get here to see the shows! The Kentridge show is very well done and inspiring, and covers the significant aspects of his career as a fine artist involved in mark and image making, and using animation to bring his ideas a time-based facet. It was satisfying to see his growth and discoveries, his enthusiasm and passions, fixations and frustrations.

(by the way, I got yelled at a lot for taking pictures, which I wasn't supposed to do.)

Marina Abromavic's on-going live performance allows current visitors to participate with her, in this re-creation of previous performance piece. The visitor is able to engage in this conceptual and active defining of space and narrative by their physical and mental presence in the space at the table with Marina. If they wait in line, they are allowed to take a seat across from her and become part of the work. The work is continuing, and days are counted in formal scratch marks on a nearby wall.

Last, some pictures from the Tim Burton exhibit. Anyone that is already a major fan will have lots to gush over, and plenty to learn about Burton's early years as a budding young artist. The exhibition is primarily involved in displaying his concept sketches, some storyboard work, hand-written notes, props, models, puppets, costumes, visual development work and films. Some beautiful maquettes of his fabulous creatures are from another extremely talented artist, Rick Heinrich.

post by <.: Lorelei :.>

Mar 24, 2010

LED Synch Strobe for Animation Device

Hooray! After a loooong time of trying to work out this challenge, I finally brought it all together. Here's a quick look at my set up for creating a synchronized LED strobe for my phenakistoscope wheel. The idea is to get an LED light to pulse on and off in relation to the sequence of animation frames. The wheel has slices along the perimeter which function as shutters when you use it to look at it in the mirror (normal way of observing a phenakistoscope). BUT! Now, you don't need the mirror, because the shutter system now becomes the on/off trigger, by opening and closing the visual connection between the infrared LED emitter and detector. Whoooohooo!!

brought to you by <.:: Lorelei ::.>

Mar 18, 2010

So after learning about Japanese animators, last week, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to geek out about one of my favorite anime films of all time. Luckily, it's also a historically significant one.

Directed by Katsuhiro Otomo and released in 1988, Akira is almost unanimously credited with having brought the anime style to the American main-stream. The movie follows the story of Tetsuo, a young hood who has similar brain waves to that of Akira, who is responsible for the destruction of the former Tokyo. I won't delve too far into the plot, as it's ridiculously complicated and has all sorts of sci-fi shit that I can't explain. Basically, Tetsuo is abducted by the government and must be rescued by his best friend, Kaneda. When Tetsuo learns of his own amazing powers he is heavily corrupted by them and rampages through Neo-Tokyo. Apparently, it's up to Kaneda to stop him...

The story of Akira is unique, but the setting and some of the characters were taken from a 2182 page manga of the same name, also created by Katsuhiro Otomo.

The production of Akira was so ambitious and had such a high budget that it ended up uniting several companies throughout Japan to form the Akira Committee. The Akira Committee consisted of publisher Kodansha Ltd., Mainichi Broadcasting System, Inc., Bandai Co., Ltd.,Hakuhodo Incorporated, distributor Toho Co., Ltd., Laserdisc Corporation, Sumitomo Corporation and animation producer Tokyo Movie Shinsha Co., Ltd.

The animation of Akira also marks a milestone for anime, as there was detailed lip-syncing throughout the film, and extremely fluid motion. A common shortcut in anime film-making is the lip-syncing, animators will often use just two or three cycling frames to show dialogue (this dates back even to Astro-Boy). The animators of Akira put a great deal of effort into fluidity which, in turn, helped to make the film palatable for American audiences.

Akira was almost entirely positively recieved by critics and viewers.

Mar 17, 2010

As I was looking on youtube for early Japanese animation, I came across a piece by Noburo Ofuji titled Mura Matsuri - Harvest Festival or the Village Festival. This animation is made in 1930 in Japan. Noburo was working with cutout and silhouette animation. He was a true master of the genre. It was exciting to see cutouts used in such creative and elaborate ways. It seems to me that he used a replacement technique to create the movement of the figures. It was also interesting to see the texture and the patterns of the paper as they weren't lit from behind to create a silhouette.
The animation is a two and a half minute short, musical piece. I was delighted to be able to look at it and recognize some of the possible influences. The most obvious one that comes to mind is the cutouts by Lotte Reiniger and Emile Kohl's morphs. (This is of course, just a guess, a connection that I saw, but I don't have any evidence that it is actually the case.) The "musical bouncing ball" invented and used by the Fleischer brothers in 1924 in their "Car-Tunes" series seems to have inspired the creators of this animation. They use a more intriguing version of the bouncing ball, where the ball transforms into the kanji characters as the music progresses. The letters bounce to the music and appear in sync with the rhythm of the music and morph into a human figure. I am not sure the audience was expected to sing along as they were with "Car-Tunes", but I found myself nodding my head to the music...

Posted by a very sleepy Eszter

Te Wei's watercolor animation- Yael

Two animations from Te Wei, including his first attempt at watercolor animation " where is my mama?" After seeing stunning examples of Te Wei's work in class I sought other works he has made. His backgrounds are exquisite and movements simple, but smooth. I feel that by modern day japanese animation has overshadowed the chinese animation industry. This lesson gave me great exposure to chinese animators, and I'm glad to have been introduced to the work of Te Wei !

Anime kicks Astro Boy!

Astro Boy or Tetsuwan Atomu recently received an unnecessary silver-screen facelift in the shape of it's first theatrical release, and although the new film proved to be quite the abomination, the revolutionary anime series on which it was based on is, sufficed to say, the polar opposite. Published in 1952, the manga cartoon which was quickly familiarized in the U.S. as Astroboy was originally broadcast on TVs across it's birthplace of Japan from 1963 to 1966 and experienced unanimous acclaim. However, this story about a lovable, world saving preteen robot did not officially premiere in United States until it was later developed into an evenhanded remake during the mid 80s. At which point, American audiences were equally captivated by it's unique premise, bizarre characters and stunning visuals. Unusually enough however, the show only lasted a mere two years before being cancelled by the networks and did not resurface again until yet another brief revamping in 2003. That of which turned out to be most unsatisfying to it's viewers both old and new as it was allegedly too dark a vision for the material.

The Birth of Anime-- stephen Bevilacqua

Astro boy launched a whole new style of animation that still as one the most popular genres of all time. upon becoming the first Japanese TV series centered a robotic boy that save humanity from chaos, Astro Boy also became history becoming the first anime series. The cartoon became so popular that it reached across the world that lead to a release in the U.S. making the first anime cartoon to be broadcast in America. creator Osamu Tazuka says his character

"he was drawing mainly for children, and one of the tasks was to take this format and this genre of entertainment for children and to expand it—to make it more accessible to older audiences, and gradually develop it as a full-fledged medium of expression. "

Nekojiru So-Amelia D.

"Nekojiru So", or "Cat Soup" is a weird, surreal, "Hello Kitty on Acid" straight to DVD anime film. It was released in 2001, and it's pretty much a mind trip. It has minimal dialogue, and what dialogue there is is gibberish and spoken in speech bubbles. The plot revolves around a brother cat (Nyaako) who goes on a long journey to the land of the dead to rescue his sister Nyaata's soul. Their journeys consist of (among other things) going to a circus where a magician turns words into objects, a BDSM-esque mouse, and lots of other neat things that only a Japanese studio could think up. I was randomly reminded of it when we watched the Japanese/Chinese animated shorts last week and I felt the need to share it with you all.
Anything I say won't really do it justice, so I suggest all of you see it if you haven't already.

Mar 14, 2010

Gestural Interactivity with Wii and Flash

I've gathered together the information and methods for how to use the Wii remote, an infrared LED light and an interactive Flash "game" environment. The goal was to be able to take Johnny Lee's "wiimote whiteboard" and LED finger sensor system and to figure out an interactive animation method using Flash. An important part of this is that I use a Mac, and it took another cool inventor, Uwe Schmidt,, to execute the Mac version of Lee's Wiimote script.

The Wii remote can be used as an infrared receiver, receiving information of the infrared LED when waved in front of it. The Wii-remote is then passing coordinate information to the Mac's operation of the cursor. The Flash environment in this situation is a published SWF file, and is using an invisible "rollover state" button that is using action script (AS 3) to call 3 external movie clips to load/play until the next one is called.

I'm a novice when it comes to action script, so I hunted around for examples and modified those. This is ugly as a sample- it's only intended to demonstrate the concept. How about outfitting some gloves with IR LEDs, and using this system for gesture - interactive games!

IMPORTANT: the Wii whiteboard interface allows you to select a mouse "identity" that will either just MOVE the cursor on the screen, or use it to MOVE AND CLICK. It also can read MULTIPLE infrared LEDs, which allows you to get more complex with selecting and manipulating objects on the screen (see either Johnny Lee's demo or the "glovedgame demo", links below.)

Good youtube video on making IR LED pen
about resistors
GLOVED GAME demo using same system
youtube video showing game glove and Wii cursor in "move/click" mode
Wii TABLE using projector/mirror/frosted glass

from Lorelei

Mar 11, 2010

Popeye Propaganda Cartoon

Still thinking about one of the Fleischer Brothers' most famous characters... although at this point, they no longer had their studio or any creative input towards their own creations. I found this Popeye anti-Hitler cartoon and thought it was interesting to not only note the different qualities of this animation without the Fleischer Brothers' influence, but to also compare this with the Disney and Looney Tunes propaganda films we viewed in class.

--Phylicia F.

%$#&ing Censors

There's nothing quite like watching Donald Duck report for duty for the Nazis. It's like if you saw Santa Claus hunting reindeer, it really does a number on your childhood memories. Just seeing a swastika on tv now a days is enough to get people rallying outside the studio doors, yet back then you could show Hitler and the Nazis, calling it "Education for Death." The more you see of the animated propaganda from the 20's and 30's, the more you understand why your grandparents would throw in subtle racist comments during family dinners. People complain about censorship, but looking at what cartoons were like with out it might change their minds.

Mar 10, 2010

William Kentridge: Five Themes

The William Kentridge show at the Moma doesn't have much to do with what we watched in class last week, but it was so great, I just have to mention it. I think most of us are familiar with his narrative charcoal animations, but the show at the MOMA brings together something like 7 huge rooms filled not only with his films, but also the giant drawings they were made from, and countless other pieces. The scope of his work is breathtaking, and his ability to glide from one medium to another without altering the authenticity of his vision is truly remarkable.

Song of the Simple Minded-Amanda Bonaiuto

Through out the films screened in last weeks class we saw a re-occurring theme of racial stereo types. There are various opinions on this matter. One contemporary thought that people at the time didn't realize that this was insulting or racist in anyway. The perspective at the time essentially was racist; for that time, this mindset was common. People were not educated enough to realize this perspective because of its historical context. Others might say that these film studios knew what they were doing because it is so blatantly represented. They might have known that they were labeling races with symbols and actions, but they may have not considered this to be morally wrong, which in turn reveals ignorance.

If you look at Song of the South by Disney, you'll notice the expression of Uncle Remus eyes and oddly plastered smile. It seems as though most black characters were portrayed this way at that time, henceforth suggesting simplemindedness or stupidity. As though suggesting low intelligence. The reason they stereotyped Uncle Remus like that was to portray him as a servant. He has a "Hi, what can I do for you?" type of attitude.

I'm curious as to how this affected the general public at the time. I feel as though many Caucasian people were ignorant to the blatant racism because that way of representation was all they knew. They weren't a victim of racist terms or representations themselves; therefore it didn't affect them as it did the races being subjected to these symbols and jokes. Did children watching these cartoons become racist because of them or were they just interpreting them as happy, childhood stories?


"Ethnic cartoons of the 1930s and 1940s remain a problem for animators, critics and audiences." Charles Solomon, 1994

Have we talked about George Pal? Because we should. Born in Hungary in 1908, Pal moved to Germany in 1931 to head UFA's cartoon division - until Nazi investigation provoked him to leave, finding home in a number of countries before moving to the United States in 1939. At a time when cel animation dominated Hollywood, Pal was working in stop animation with deep, elaborate sets of glass and wood. Amazingly, the solid-wood characters living in these sets were designed to function much like Lotte Reiniger's paper cutouts. For instance, it was not unusual for one character to have twelve heads with different expressions.

The following are excerpts from Trouble in Watermelon Land: George Pal and the Little Jasper Cartoons, from which I paraphrased my information:

Time magazine wrote, "Jasper and the Watermelons is a new departure in the field of U.S. animated cartooning. . . . The method is similar to Disney's-with a carving knife substituted for a crayon."

Yet contemporary reviews of the Jasper series often reveal a jarring tension between the celebration of the visual style and the acceptance of the racist elements of a series about a little black boy who gets into all sorts of interviews during the 1940s, George Pal appears to hide behind naivete, claiming that as an immigrant, he was simply bringing to life a truly American black folk character, and harbored no racial prejudices himself. Gail Hickman's 1977 biography, The Films of George Pal, buys into this weak line of reasoning by claiming, "Pal, who had been raised in Europe and knew nothing of racism, could not understand what the problem was. To his way of thinking, little Jasper was 'the Huckleberry Finn' of American folklore." Obviously, this sort of defense sounds pretty hollow since Pal, who had seen the rise of Nazism firsthand, could hardly pretend to know nothing of racism and ethnic superiority.

*There are some parts of this article I must contend; the author eagerly accepts white appreciation of one aspect (black jazz and folk music) of a hugely diverse culture (black American) as a depiction of "authentic, contemporary black culture through its sounds." You can read it here:

Further complicating our historical impression of Puppetoons involving black characters is the fact, ac- knowledged by Ebony, that Pal always employed black actors for the voices: "Pal does not use, as other car- toonists do, white actors that talk 'like Negroes.' He employs the finest Negro talent available." Among Pal's actors were the African-American Shakespearean actor Roy Glenn, who provided Scarecrow's voice in the Jasper films, while black choirs like the Luvenia Nash Chorus provided the traditional songs, and a well- known array of black musicians was hired for the jazzy musical numbers. Dixie Wheeler's Georgia Minstrels, mentioned in Jasper's Minstrels, was even a real touring black musical group around the turn of the century that is recreated here with Pal's puppetoons. Pal in real life was quite a jazz and folk music fan, and while his images and plot devices remained too firmly rooted in racist stereotypes of the day, their blunt effects were partially undercut by the vital authenticity of the soundtracks, including dialogue, singing voices, and musical accompaniment. Unlike contemporary cartoons such as the famously insulting All This and Rabbit Stew (Warner Bros., 1941), in which Mel Blanc creates the voice of the rural black hick who gets outsmarted by his intended quarry, Bugs Bunny, Pal's cartoons featured authentic, contemporary black culture through its sounds.

Here, the author peculiarly accepts fascination with the other as an acceptable alternative to 'codes of respect':

How then should we historicize Pal's often embarrassing stories and begin better to understand the cultural functions of his Little Jasper series? Clearly, we need to investigate his negative representations more thoroughly, complicating rather than simply condemning their narrative functions. This reconsideration must allow for ambivalence, ambiguity, and multiple connotations as we realize that the more blatantly racist codification of Jasper's stereotypical world is routinely undercut by contradictory codes of respect for, or at least fascination with, contemporary aspects of African-American life and culture.

To conclude, I would like to state that Pal's cartoons, and too many like them, hold no respect for black American culture. They are white supremacist patriarchal capitalist fantasies. 'It is not uncommon for members of groups who are unaccustomed to being racialized in American terms - which includes both white Americans and newly arrived middle-class immigrants of all backgrounds - to equate freedom of expression with freedom from racial consciousness as a tactic of self-defense.' (Coco Fusco)

Art using stereotypes to explore the discourse of decolonization is no longer relevant. I urge everyone the move beyond that, while remaining race (class) conscious.

Post by Eli