This class was all about the other side of animation history, the side often looked over since the people involved in it were not 100% a part of the studio system that had taken over most animations.
This class was about the independent animators that experimented to expand the definition of what the cinema was. They were making non-objective art that related to fine art and expression than just pure storytelling.
The First video we watched was Walter Ruttmann’s Lichtspeil Opus I
His work along with many other experimental animators (which I will talk about in a bit) payed homage to art history and the fine art being created during their time. The movements in art played a definite role to help shape the break from tradition these animators did. Surrealism, Dada, Futurist, and Abstract expressionism all lead way to true expression of the animator and just pure experimentation.
Walter’s work was about pure movement of shapes, lights and shadow to the synchronization of music, which is called Synesthesia. It’s the connection of imagery to music, the idea of having an animation be a expression of the musical note and having that musical note represented in a visual form. The work of
This topic of music and animation synchronization lead to talk of music videos which have a much longer history than the start of the MTV and rock bands. In fact our class discussed how MTV took a lot of material from independent animators and tried to package it as something new, and ended up turning all of this experimental animations expressing thought into a commodity.
But we then shifted gears (kinda) and watched some pieces by Hans Richter:
And Ghosts for Breakfast
With these Hans was really showing movement in his work and how the juxtaposing of images one after another effected the content and meaning an audience saw in the final combination of all those images. This is seen clearly in Ghost for Breakfast where the film is more of a collage of surrealist imagery that together combine to sort of build a narrative around “ghostly” acts. The collaging of imagery really made the audience find relationships between the images within the context of the video and forces them to view an image in a new way in relation to the images around it.
In Rhythm 23 Hans was doing about the same thing Walter was doing, trying to show visual interpretations of music through form and movement, but he tackled it in his own way. With these very abstract images each frame is like an abstract painting, a new way of expressing the self and letting the pure idea emerge from the self.
This idea of a Non-objective structure to animation was continued by the work of Viking Eggeling:
We watched Symphonie Diagonale
In this piece Viking is using shapes that can not be recognized, he is deconstructing the sounds of music into shapes. Like Walter and Hans he is using the music as the driving force of the film’s motion and slight narrative. Although he is playing with the audience’s expectation of a film to tell a story. Why does a film have to tell a narrative story when it can show expression through shape, form, color and motion? The states were really to blame for turning animation into a comity, they wanted consumers for a product. In Europe the focus on animation was not so much consumerist, but more geared towards expression of one’s self and to be involved more so with the fine art world.
Yet what these independent animators were always doing was experimenting, which brings me to the next figure-head we talked about, Len Lye.
In Len’s works he is experimenting by scratching, coloring and messing around on actual film. He was the sort of start of motion graphics by his commercials and personal work. His use of color and form appealed to the senses and his animations often had a slight narrative form.
We watched a TV Interview with him from 1960 and he was deadly serious of his craft and it shows throughout his work and personal attitude. What must be said about Len is that he truly pushed capturing motion and form through his animations.
The main titles of Scott Pilgrim VS The World pay homage to him:
The next big figure head we talked about was Oskar Fischinger:
Here is a link to his works
He often stated that music was itself abstract so his abstract animations used that structure in order to give something to the audience that they could hold on to and associate with. Music was a way in which the medium could communicate through. Much of his work also associates with his personal beliefs in buddist mediation and study.
Compostion in Blue really shows the integration of music and image in a sort of abstract dance. They play off of one another while still standing strong on their own.
With Oskar he really wanted movement to be seen and expressed in his work.
The last player we talked about was Norman McLaren, who I have a personal love and appreciation for. His capturing of movement, his experimentation to capture the sensations of the mind and to actually dive into
We watched a documentary of his life and work, which really showed how much of a bad-ass this guy was. He animated directly onto film, to stop the separation the animation had from the camera. Not to mention that it was all timed to music to once again (like Oskar) use that music as a way to get the audience on board with the movement and abstractness of the animation.
What I really love about Norman McLaren is how much of his personal self is seen in his piece’s. His work was made around the time of Freud and the Surrealist’s so he used animation as a tool to dive into the inner sanctum of his mind and unconscious. The frame by frame add on animation he did really helped that journey and it showed his true following of thought.