Animation and Contemporary Art

curated by Gerben SCHERMER and Yiorgos TSANGARIS
text Anet TER HORST

On the cutting edge of fine art and film, some remarkable animation installations have been created in recent years. These ingenious applications of animation involve new narrative practices and new ways of experiencing moving images. Cinematic freebooting is a condition for a flourishing film culture. A free use of the possibilities of animated film and spatial or performance art and their inspirational interplay yields a unique visual language and a unique presentation. 

Each artist tells a very own story, be it narrative or non-narrative, experimental, abstract or figurative. A multitude of materials and techniques have been used, from ink on (thin) paper to porcelain, woodcut, live-action footage and scratching on film. Animation and Contemporary Art suggests a unique frame of reference for audiences and professionals alike, meanwhile also drawing attention to the historic heritage of the animation film. 

Mr. Sea

China, 2014
Single-channel video installation and drawings, colour

Mr. Sea is based on a classic, mysterious story by Pu Song-Ling (1640-1715) from the Qing dynasty, with a particularly inventive application of traditional porcelain for which the Qing dynasty is renowned.
A curious scientist sets out to investigate a mysterious desert island in the South Chinese Sea. There, he comes across a prostitute and a snake. They get caught up in a repetitive pattern. The perfection of the glistening fragile porcelain in cool hues contrasts starkly with the bloody story.
The application of porcelain can be traced back to GENG Xue’s passion for classical Chinese art. As a traditional material, porcelain carries with it a long history of meanings. With this film installation, she creates a contemporary, new language for porcelain, by combining the brilliance of the material with cinematic elements like movement and light.

Scratch–2 – Polyphony of Flickers

Canada, 2019
Three-channel video installation

Pierre Hébert (Canada) has achieved an impressive track record as an animation filmmaker at the renowned National Film Board of Canada and as an independent artist. His films and multidisciplinary projects are experimentally oriented. Pierre Hébert is known for his technique of scratching animation directly on 16mm or 35mm black film and live scratched animation performances, together with a musician.
Scratch-2 is a meditation on time, both radically abstract and intensely material. Lines whirl across the screen, jerking and juddering. Loops of different lengths are endlessly running in a triptych in black and white. The result is a constant lag between the three components and a constant recomposition between the images and the sounds. Music: Malcolm Goldstein (violin) and John Heward (drums).

A Crow Has Been Calling for a Whole Day

China, 2016
Single-channel video installation and drawings, colour

LIU Yi (China) is a versatile young artist. She effortlessly moves between different art forms. She uses animation and live-action film, installation, painting, sculpture and other forms to find the most accurate way to transmit her art.
A Crow Has Been Calling for a Whole Day is a creative documentary in a combination of live action and animation, a gripping diary and travelogue of a trip the filmmaker made through India. Her impressions are deeply personal and in the hand-drawn animations her reflections sometimes are almost a dream, but also a bridge to reality. She tries to grasp India’s love and thoughts, the sentiments and everyday conditions and the experience of disease and death.

The Earthly Men

China 2018
Single-channel video installation and drawings, black and white

What is an earthly man? A flowing duckweed? A man without name or race? Or someone lonely and unlike you? — The person is you.
Philosophical inquiry into mankind, drawn on thin rice paper in different layers. Compassionate portrayal of the timeless and universal challenge for people to face the world and the clash between reality and imagination.

Deforming After Transforming

Estonia/Japan, 2021
Four-channel video installation and drawings (ink on Japanese paper, blue-black and white)

Fukumi NAKAZAWA is a Japanese visual artist who’s interested in body deformations caused by suspension and bondage. The drawings made during those sessions help her to create previously unseen human forms. In her works, people transform into tools in order to perform their everyday tasks. For them, it’s not only a question of obtaining a practical shape but it also contains pleasure. In this utopian world, humans become one with the objects of their own creation.
In Fukumi’s works animation never stands alone. The drawings made for every scene are glued together and put on display as artworks.

Stuart POUND
Sticky Pixels

Great Britain, 2019
Single-channel video installation, colour

Filmmaker and visual artist Stuart Pound (UK) has built an impressive body of works with short experimental films and installations, tirelessly investigating and nourishing the art of cinema.
Ironic and playful, he gives scenes from well-known live-action movies or found footage, for example, new connotations. By tilting scenes from science fiction or action movies and repeating them with slight shifts, the experience becomes semi-abstract and the perception turns rather alienating for the spectator. Music and poetry form a leitmotif in his work. Rosemary Norman has been collaborating with Stuart Pound since 1995. Her poems become the soundtrack, image, and sometimes both, and she has performed live with film.

Some Actions Which Haven’t Been Defined Yet in the Revolution

China, 2011
Single-channel video installation, colour

SUN Xun is one of the pioneers of the new generation of self-directed Chinese animation artists, reaping international fame with an impressive body of works. SUN Xun frequently works with drawings and paintings, but also combines these with text, woodcarving and objects to convey his stories. SUN Xun is fascinated by history and in particular by the way history and myths are handed down. History and time, fantasy and reality are recurring themes in his work, exploring social developments and revolutionary changes.
Some Actions Which Haven’t Been Defined Yet in the Revolution is an impressive animation in woodcuts, showing a strange day. An unidentified figure lives in a strange environment with surreal politics and ideological principles.

Winter in the Rainforest

Estonia/Mexico/Lithuania, 2019
Single-channel video installation, colour, porcelain puppets

Filmmaker and visual artist Anu-Laura TUTTELBERG (Estonia) regards stop-motion film as a concentration of time. She likes to bring out the characteristics of stop-motion technique, working with light and creating a new time.
With countless insect species, fish, birds and mammals and tens of thousands of plant species, the endless rainforest has a great biodiversity and a worldwide importance for climate control. The tropical rainforests of Mexico and Peru form an impressive backdrop for a story about magical creatures of porcelain that inhabit the wilderness of our dreams, day by day, year by year. The characteristics of porcelain, its fragile perfection, in combination with the overwhelming nature and the remarkable passage of time effectively deliver a poetic and universal story about life and death.