Experimental Animation Symposium- Auckland University May 5 presentation " Animation Machines, Fabrics and Dynamic Experiences." Paul Fletcher
Welcome thank you for coming here and thank you to Miriam Harris for inviting me here and for all the work everyone involved has put into making this happen. Thank you also to VCA School of Film & Television University of melbourne for sponsoring me to get here-
This presentation will attempt to foreground the non and pre-verbal sensory experiences before abstract words are even found for them, and to create space for awareness of the constant interactive feedback loop of abstract impressions and narrative construction. Mechanically the presentation is just under 24 minutes in total leaving time for 6, 1 minute question and answers or a seemingly long awkward pause or time for some relaxing deep breaths!
On a practical level the 2 minute section coming up shortly, is a pre-prepared simulation of a chaotic live mix AND mini-archive of some of my enduring experimental quests between animation, abstraction, music and and narrative. On another level this is also something of a museum of now rare or technically obsolete formats like super8 and amiga and atari computers … Burger Hell was part of an episodic 20 minute film Virtual Shopper, made with an Amiga computer and a chunky ball bearing mouse when 256 colors and 400 meg hard drive was big news. The beautiful assemblage sculptures , which you may get a glimpse of are excerpts from my first ever live digital cinema performance in 2006, for Commonwealth Games Cultural festival , titled Dreamlake it was a collaboration with retired film props maker and sculptor Graeme Matthews- and is one of many attempted simulations of dream logic blending and morphing abstraction and narrative together- an area of exploration that Max Hattler more recently applied Marcuse concept of ‘heterogenia” to. Most of my films made since 2006 have been made directly via or heavily influenced by the process of creating and performing them as modular and semi-improvised films using custom made interfaces such as midi enabled vacuum cleaner, junk percussion or boring old functional but less gestural and theatrical basic laptop interface.
more recent experimental works have included the construction of a sculptural musical object made from a dead pear tree trunk and washing machine barrel, and associated projected animation. The most recent installation currently in development repsonds to the hand made re-purposed beach towel garments of Ella and Percy Grainger and uses a model ironing board and decorated washing machine as the display and interface..
“Drive to Work” which will appear near the end of the presentation started life as little experiments over many years and in 2017 created as a site specific installation for Zagreb Animafest at the Museum of Art MSU façade. River Gifts and Exchanges/Plant Communications were site specific installations installed last October for a national Australian conference Artlands held in Bendigo in which the assemblages and projections responded to an old stable space and carriageway walkway with river and plant based metaphors and associations.
Visual rhythm, hypnotic and hallucinatory abstract narrative is explored through experiments in my own take on “visual music” in styles from the poetic to the machinic and concerned with treating both image and sound as interacting instruments that are played. In all these experiments; It is considered that the human condition is based on story-telling to our own minds and to each other. In order to make our sense of our worlds we make narratives out of every event that has happened, is happening, or might happen sometime in the future. These works set out to create space within stories and even perhaps to create temporary freedom from stories and narration. Static, dualistic thinking may posit story and abstraction as if binary opposites but in these works they become interdependent dynamic partners.
Sonification. Sonification has been a popular technique from 20th Century composers such as Xenakis to contemporary scientists at NASA. The concept of Sonification centres around various approaches to creating sonic information from other information ,often scientific, numeric data but also for instance attempting to make audible sounds from other live data such as the inaudible sound of cells and microorganisms. In the Living Data exhibition projects lead by Animator and Researcher, Lisa Roberts, I was paired up with a Science Researcher, Jennifer Clarke for two exhibition projects in 2012 and ‘14. I was led to sonification at first quite simply because the most common communication of the science research was in data form- sea temperature changes and their effect on Macroalgae and their embryos for instance. This produced two works which you shortly see one very short excerpt of. Experiment/Example 1 Algae Data Music “Algae Data Music” ( P.Fletcher,J. Clark, 2015). was a sonification experiment mapping scientific data to sound. Data of sea temperature changes was translated into musical pitches and animation created in response to this music. The graphed data was rendered with a microtonal tuning involving a 1024 note scale . For me there is something about the unfamiliarity and overall impression of musical phrases that glide between microtonal pitches that seem otherworldly, and provide in this context an associative link with the underwater world of the ocean. Combined with this subtle drifting of pitch was a drifting in amplitude and spatial positioning in the stereo field giving something of the impression of tidal currents. Although I could not contribute any new findings to the science I did hope to create some simple time for calm reflection, imagination and wonder about the vast and vital still largely unfamiliar world of the oceanic ecosystems.
( @ 2:45 we will now watch an excerpt of Algae Data)
Experiment/Example 2 We Notice Raindrops We Notice Raindrops as they Fall, a collaboration with composer, Mark Pollard, is titled to instill its intention to being present in a shared experience. Its starting point began more or less simultaneously from natural phenomena, captured as visual photographic and audio recording data. The material data of this piece consisted of, a recording of light rain on a pavement, and a photograph of droplets of water on a spider’s web. This material was treated as data to be transposed and translated through artistic reconstruction. A strong connection to the sound and image origins was used a starting point but various aesthetic choices were made with the intention to provoke and evoke, an unusual close up perspective of time and space, such as imagining being inside a raindrop looking out.
( @ 4:4 we will now watch an excerpt of we notice raindrops) [After this excerpt stillphotos of tree bark- spoken into diffraction and diffusion as follows: ]
Experiment/Example 3 Diffraction and Diffusion Diffraction and Diffusion , was a collaboration with composer Anthony Lyons. This piece used two close up photographs of small section of tree bark as visual data to make a model of a landscape of indeterminate scale, that could be animated and virtually traversed. For Anthony the music was constructed in a similar manner of digital manipulations and overlays in this case sparse fragments and fragmentation of field recordings and piano.
Visual Music. The Cellular machines that make our consciousness. Another recurring direction for the quest to foreground immediacy and a perhaps not so delicate, balance between chaos and control, is an exploration of the machinic and the machine in Visual Music. In the early days of music video and well before I-tunes Visualisers as such existed, William Moritz was rightly concerned way back in 1986 about Visual Music being reduced to a dull machine enabled delusion of anything resembling artistic sensitivity and expression. ( Moritz 1986 “Towards an Aesthetics of Visual Music”) I hope to not be trapped in a “delusion of technology” as Moritz aptly labelled it. Part of my solution for this is to acknowledge and sometimes even foreground the prevalence of machines in our lives. Like the Futurist’s back in the early 20th Century I still have a fascination with the increasing power and speed of machines and there is no point hiding that I am only able to create the type of material that I do with the help of modern machines. However I feel it is just as important to make the links between these machines and processes to the more organic actual life sustaining complex systems that surround us and support us and these machines.
Experiment/Example 4 Machine Me Machine Me is a recent construction of audiovisual patterns built up in a cellular/iterative manner. The excerpt to be shown, transitions from more organic and symmetrical mirroring patterns to more machine like grids. These grid patterns are stacked on top of each other, in a perhaps ‘artless’ machine- or organic?, like mess. These blocks of patterns are then overlaid on top each other again to make a complex network or city like pattern of patterns. The sound is a combination of literal machine sound- the synthesis of the visual shapes also producing basic oscillator tones and repeating pulses and allegedly aesthetically chosen accompanying or contrasting sounds, rhythms and the minutest of melodic fragments. I find the machine is perhaps relevant to me as a contemporary sublime; at once efficient, fascinating, spectacular and full of still untapped potential as well as potentially threatening or at the very least annoying in its un-bending and unresponsive repetition.
I think it is important to have an awareness that the wonderful machines we have made, cannot exist above, beyond or without the environment around us. Simply, the organic is not so separate from the inorganic. Most of our great inventions have their inspiration or in many cases are complete models of processes found in nature . According to recent science( eg. Damasio et al) our very consciousness comes from complex networks of “embodied cognition” a dynamic state of being powered by lower level machine mechanisms of cellular organisms that make our bodies. (screening material until last four minutes - @ 16:45 first large sun like image)
Claudia Gorbman,in her book Unheard Melodies, writes that in our mother’s wombs we are born into a“sonorous envelope” an “auditory imaginary” and that these “primary experiences of sound may account for the characteristics of depth and inwardness, and of an ineffable, preverbal attachment to music.”
In the tool box of visual music composition techniques there is plenty of room for not only treating music and image as equally important, and not only meandering along together as if following the path of a river as Oscar Fischinger once wrote..but also counterposing , contradicting, anempathic, simultaneous and parallel tracks of audio, music, image and motion information and exchange. To borrow from Goddard, the idea of sound and image that have convergences rather than necessarily or always direct synchronisation is pertinent here.
Art making and watching is about asking questions and this is an aspect that highlights a connection with science.. I aim to elicit a participatory mode of observing and appreciating questions as possibly endless sources of investigation and imagination rather than quick fix simple answers. The journey, and even sidetracks along the way, are often how you find any answers at all and trusting our intuition and spontaneity, our subconscious and pre-reflective senses can often find those lost keys once we give up the demand and imagined need to consciously know exactly why and where the keys are before we have found them!
Matthew Zapruder in “Why Poetry” states “ the increasing pervasiveness of connective technology has made the contemplative, speculative, drifting yet attentive awareness … never more rare and necessary.” Like Zapruder beautifully writes of poetry, I would like to think that all Art including Animation and Visual Music can have the agency to be helping us all to, “Carve out a space for imagination like a nature reserve in our minds.”