31 October 2008

Early cinematic treats at Curzon Soho

Combining a love of early cinema and vaudeville, The Smoking Cabinet returns to the Curzon Soho this December with another packed programme of rare cinematic delights. Highlights include EA Dupont's Piccadilly (1929), Fatty Arbuckle and Buster Keaton in Coney Island (1917), and The Whirl of the Charleston (1927). Plus there will be performances and live music in the bar, which will be suitably themed to the evening's programme (they're promising to recreate a 1920s West End club and a Seaside Funfair).

Last year, I was party to performances by Bourgeois and Maurice and the Future Cinema dancers, and witnessed alongside the heart-breaking splendour of Blue Angel starring Marlene Dietrich, some of the most surreal shorts I've ever seen, including a woman teaching a spaceman how to charleston.

Catch The Smoking Cabinet, 12-14 December at Curzon Soho. Tickets are available from the Curzon Cinemas website.

30 October 2008

British Animation: The Channel 4 Factor

And here's a book we haven't got our hands on yet, but we're told it's in the post...Clare Kitson's British Animation: The Channel 4 Factor, published on 19 November. Pre order here.

Clare was Channel 4's animation commissioning editor from 1989 to 1999, and with the Arts Council's David Curtis, set up the Animate scheme. And the sample pages should really whet your appetite...it looks gorgeous.

Clare will be talking about the book..in person...at Encounters Festival at Watershed, Bristol, on Wednesday, 19 November.  And she's introducing a programme of Channel 4 films at Curzon Soho in London on Friday 5 December.

The still above...which you'll notice appropriately features a representation of a television set...is from Phil Mulloy's legendary Cowboys series - commissioned for Animate Year 1 (though I think it was called Animation Awards in the beginning).

And if you're the bookish type...have you bought The Animate Book yet?  If not.  Why not.

If you order The Animate Book from us before the end of the year, and quote 'blog' in the comments section, we'll throw in a free limited edition Animate t-shirt - tell us if you want an Al and Al or a Run Wrake design, male or female, small, medium or large...

Drawing and Animation

And just so we don't get accused of bandwagoning...we need to sneak announce that we're developing our own drawing and animation project with The Drawing Room. We'll be announcing new commissions and plans for a touring gallery exhibition in early 2009.

Olivia Plender, curator of, and artist featured in, their current exhibition, is The Guardian's Artist of the Week

Drawing for Animation

And just as Cornerhouse stages its drawing and animation show...the postman delivers a copy of Drawing for Animation - a new book by Paul Wells with Joanna Quinn and Les Mills.

Its part of the Basics Animation series from academic publisher AVA, and its approach is primarily to get across the fundamentals of drawing in relation to classical, drawn animation, and it does this very well - it's a well designed and lavishly illustrated publication, and as an 'introduction', its a comprehensive one.

Best for me though is how it manages to sneak in interesting and insightful snippets -  Joanna Quinn on 'learning to draw' is a delight, and commentaries on, for example, things like memory and perception come into play are thoughtful and engaging.

With profiles of key (no pun intended) figures, including Paul Driessen, Michael Dudok de Wit and Luis Cook, make it feel like something of an essential.

And that's not just because...in its graphic narrative section, it features a whole six pages on Animate's very own Francis, by Let Me Feel Your Finger First (image). See the film here. Read Esther Leslie's essay here.     

The Intertwining Line - new show at Cornerhouse, Manchester

The Intertwining Line - Drawing as a Subversive Art is a new exhibition running at Cornerhouse, Manchester, from 7 November 2008 - 11 January 2009. And it does more than the title exploring- "early and contemporary animation and its intertwined relationship with contemporary drawing."

The show includes artists we've heard of and already rate, like Melanie Jackson, and others we haven't heard of - so we'll be making the trip.

On Saturday, 8 November, there's a talk with the great Vera Neubauer (an Animate commissioned artist) and estimable Clare Kitson. And the brilliant Esther Leslie gives a talk on 13 November.

Image: Melanie Jackson, A Global Positioning System (though we don't know this is actually in the show...)

27 October 2008

Ben Rivers: At the Edge of the World

This was a clearly a hot ticket last night at the London Film Festival - with people like Maggie Ellis (Head of Production at Film London) and Simon Field (festival director and producer) in attendance. Quite right too. It's about time the Festival did more to champion distinctive and contemporary talent.

And Ben Rivers is a rare one, doggedly portrait-ing remote eccentrics. Film is clearly important - he talked about how he carries an arsenal of  lenses and film stocks, deciding only when in situation what would/must be appropriate. The commitment to celluloid seems to be both an aesthetic and pragmatic strategy - it is intrinsic to the artist's approach to the subject, but set against the immediacy that we know is possible with video, it's possibly a barrier too. Ben spends time with his subjects, but the apparatus of his production means he never gets too close. 

I would like to see him take a turn from what's in danger of becoming a habitual choice of subject. There's a danger of teetering into bo-ho decadance - and sometimes the work feels not as detached as it might from the influence of early films by Andrew Kotting - rural eccentricity and feral ritual. Though that's probably to do with my taste, too. His editing feels both rigourous and loose at the same time, but his composition is emphatic - the camera may veer occasionally, but that's because it's searching something out. 

What abide are the films' many beautiful moments where subject and technique - textures and colours - are emphatically and breathtakingly engaged.

Image: Ah Liberty! (2008)

Fear(s) of the Dark

What with Halloween almost upon us, I recommend the wonderful Fear(s) of the Dark as a fright filled treat. A series of six short monochrome animations that each tells a very different nightmarish tale using a range of techniques from pencil drawing to abstracted shapes.

You might not be all that partial to every film, and you may find Bluth's offering particularly nasty (12A certification?!?), but the work of sci-fi cartoonist Charles Burns, French animator Marie Caillou and American illustrator Richard McGuire really shines out.

24 October 2008

Vote for The Black Dog

It's just come to our attention, thanks to Kate Stables at the Guardian Online that the Animate Projects commissioned film, The Black Dog's Progress, is up for an aniBoom Award.

If you're a fan of Stephen Irwin's wonderful film then show your support and rate the film on aniBoom.

Power to the Pixel

If anything could persuade the ICA of the "cultural urgency" of new media (see earlier post), the just happened Power to the Pixel conference could. There was a LOT to take in...and for the very first time, I think I will be checking out the conference archive...  

Most presentations confirmed that the only thing we can really predict about change is that it will happen, and if you were hoping for fail-safe models, you'd have gone home disappointed. Even utterly charming UK Film Council distribution supremo Pete Buckingham was engagingly frank about not having any answers just yet..and it's encouraging that he's working with Power to the Pixel's unassumingly brilliant founder/director Liz Rosenthal to at least try and work out what the questions are. Pete mentioned Chris 'Long Tail' Anderson's Why $0.00 is the Future article. 

M dot Strange - was an experience. And if there was a preponderance of Young Americans, then that's probably a question of cultural difference. Their initiative and strategic thinking was nevertheless provocative. 

Matt Hanson was his usual inspiring self, and one of the few presentations that offered some content - making astute connections across film, visual arts and commercial practice, and cinemas, galleries, online and public sites.

And I learned was sideloading means.  And it's not rude.

Image: M dot Strange - We are the Strange 

Jeffery Marzi website

Check out the official Jeffery Marzi website.

See the film here.

ICA London "lacks cultural urgency"

Bizarrely, just as Arts Council England prioritises digital opportunities, the ICA has announced that it's closing its Live and Media Arts Department because, in the opinion of ICA director Ekow Eshun, "the art form lacks depth and cultural urgency."

Now, if this is true, then he's missing the irony of the ICA having played a role in any shallowing, and merely displaying a knack for tactless blundering. But there's plenty of evidence to the contrary.  

And at Animate Projects we're proud and honoured to have been approached by (and to have commissioned) 'new media' types! Thomson and Craighead's Flat Earth subtly and engagingly makes propositions about the way the web influences how we 'construct' and communicate ideas of our personal selves in the new public space. They're currently showing in Untethered, at Eyebeam, New York, a show that is one Artforum current Critics' Picks. Maybe Ekow doesn't think Artforum is a good judge of cultural urgency. Maybe it isn't. Maybe Ekow doesn't read Artforum.

Semiconductor's Magnetic Movie has been seen by more than a million people across television and online. It's won awards all over and been bought by the Smithsonian.  And for our Stop. Watch. project, (touring now, online later in November), we co-commissioned (with RSA Arts and Ecology) fantastic short films by 'media' types Manu Luksch and Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries. 

Now...'new media artist' isn't a label we'd want to stick on anyone's lapel, but to say that artists who are working with new media - as material, subject, strategy - are, as a rule, "lacking urgency" strikes me as a bit of a silly, ignorant, and against the tide thing to say. He needs to stay home more.

Image: Young-Hae Change Heavy Industries

21 October 2008

Aurora! Aurora! Aurora!

Aurora 2008 takes place in Norwich from 12-16 November, and the programme is online now. Aurora really is an exceptional event - "uniquely artist-orientated and resolutely ambitious" - and Animate Projects is beyond proud to be its partner. The official 'live' premiere of the AnimateTV 2008 films is part of the festival - with all seven artists coming along. As well as screenings, there are installations (including a presentation of Emily Richardson's AnimateTV commission Cobra Mist), panels, and international guests - Robert Beavers, Barbara Sternberg, Michael Robinson and Patrick & Michele Bokanowski. We're looking forward to it a lot.

The Festival Guide can be downloaded here.

The image is one of four by photographer Edgar Martins, commissioned by Aurora 2008. 

15 October 2008

Collaborative filmmaking

On Channel 4's 3 Minute Wonders this week, to coincide with Frieze Art Fair, Frieze has assembled edited highlights of the entries for Frieze Film 2008. A collaborative film project that invited artists to upload their own and appropriated material to YouTube using Cormac McCarthy's The Road as inspiration. To create your own version of Road Movie, Frieze suggests that the user browses through all 40 entries on the Frieze Film 2008 channel on YouTube.

If you're interested in contributing to an open source film yourself then here are two examples that have recently caught my attention:

The trailer above shows a selection of entries received so far for Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated, a 'mass collaborative animation' that invites collaborators to submit animations/illustrations based on the original masterpiece by George A. Romero. The materials will then be compiled to work alongside the original soundtrack and will be distributed both online and by DVD. You've got until 15 December if you feel inspired to join in.

Or for something more ambitious, why not look at A Swarm of Angels project, started by Matt Hanson, founder of onedotzero, which aspires to be the world’s first internet-funded, crewed and distributed feature film. With over 1,000 contributors since 2006, the projects uses Creative Commons license to allow others to download, share, and remix the original media made for any non-commercial purposes. There are currently two scripts in development, if you're interested in joining the swarm and adding your voice then join here.

9 October 2008

Bill Domonkos on Lumen Eclipse

This month's online show at Lumen Eclipse features the gorgeous work of experimental filmmaker Bill Domonkos.

Appropriating material from archives and the internet, combined with animation and live action, Domonkos creates sublime and visceral films. I particularly like The Fine Art of Poisoning which is a dark melodramatic tale using Victorian drawings and a macabre soundtrack.

Bill Domonkos is an American artist who studied painting and video art at the Cleveland Institute of Art, before turning to computer animation in the 1990s. He has directed music videos, worked in the gaming industry and designed interactive projects.

'The extraordinary thing about cinema is it’s ability to suggest the ineffable—something that cannot or should not be expressed in words, but only hinted at through sounds and images. It is this elusive quality that informs my work. ' Bill Domonkos

Image: The Fine Art of Poisoning, Bill Domonkos

Optimism in Conneticut

If I was anywhere near Westport, Conneticut, USA, I'd be heading over to the Westport Arts Centre to see Optimism, a show curated by Michael Connor (on until 30 November 2008). It feels about as timely as an exhibition could. And it includes, and reminded me of, one of my favourite works - two short films by Walid Raad, part of The Atlas Group Archive. I think I saw them first at the Documenta 11 (the one before last). I couldn't believe what I was seeing. The Bachar Tapes are especially audacious and provocative, and a rare example of political art that packs its punches on both counts. And though it may be fiction, it's nevertheless a truth...   Miraculous Beginnings - the film showing as part of the Optimism show is more on the wry side - fleeting images that are beautiful and poignant, and if you can't get to Westport, then see it here

The Lament of Images, by Alfredo Jaar, was at Documenta 11 too - and that's where the image comes from. And I'm afraid it's the punchline.

Meanwhile..between Westport and New York City lies New Rochelle. And that reminds me of the film Rochelle Rochelle in Seinfeld: "A young girl's strange erotic journey from Milan to Minsk."  

We recommend...Dryden Goodwin at The Photographers' Gallery, London

Dryden made Flight for Animate. His show of photographs and drawings (and combinations) - Cast - is  at The Photographers' Gallery in London until 16 November 2008. Jonathan Jones blogged very nicely about it in The Guardian:

If you think there's no imagination, soul or talent in contemporary British art, this journey through the streets of London will make you change your mind.

Gary Leib rocks

If you happen to find yourself hanging out by the Wonderwall at the Wonder Room in Selfridges, London (which is a favourite spot for us all at AP), you can check out Filminute 2008. Or you could just visit the Filminute website. Either way, our favourite by a long chalk, especially in these times of financial crisis, is Gary Leib's Wall Street

It deserves at least three-quarters of a trillion votes (geddit?!).

1 October 2008

The Black Dog's Progress nominated for Public Realm showcase

We are very pleased to see that Stephen Irwin's The Black Dog's Progress has been nominated by Angela Kingston for Axis' Art in the Public Realm showcase. The Public Realm programme "advocates for diverse visual arts practice within the public realm", and it is great to see broadcast/online artist's film - being taken seriously as something that's a) art and b) available to the public in public/accessible space. There's a lovely review by Angela too.

Angela curated a gallery show The Animators a couple of years ago. And she's interviewed for a LUX vodcast.