EXHIBITION

MOVING IMAGINATION. New Independent Animation 

22.12.2017 - 25.03.2018

Arsenal, Kremlin 6, Nizhny Novgorod, Russia 

National Center for Contemporary Arts Volga-Vyatka region branch

Curators: Nadezhda Svirskaia, Eugene Strelkov

Coordinator: Anna Bolshem

Authors:

Ivan Maximov, Dmitry Geller, Svetlana Filippova, Irina Rubina, Angella Lipskaya, Konstantin Brilliantov, Natalia Ryss, Eugene Strelkov, Andrey Suzdalev, Sasha Svirsky, Boris Kazakov, Anna Budanova, Nadya Fedotova, Moving Pictures Studio

GRA-FI-KA. New Independent Animation 

03.04.2018 - 21.04.2018

SOLYANKA VPA, Moscow, Solyanka st. 1/2 b. 2

Curators: Nadezhda Svirskaia, Eugene Strelkov

Authors:

Konstantin Brilliantov, Anna Budanova, Dmitry Geller, Anton Dyakov, Ira Elshansky, Nadya Fedotova, Svetlana Filippova, Boris Kazakov, Angella Lipskaya, Ivan Maximov, Kate Mikheeva,

Irina Rubina, Natalia Ryss, Sasha Svirsky, Leonid Shmelkov, Eugene Strelkov, Andrey Suzdalev, Moving Pictures Studio

One of the trends of independent contemporary animation is that more and more directors also work as artists for their films. Their main focus is not storytelling. First and foremost, they strive to develop an original visual language. The visual solutions identify movement plasticity, the nature of the narrative, and may even influence the plot.

Our exhibition features authors of this kind. They are contemporary Russian film directors, whose films feature non-standard graphic and technical solutions. The exhibition presents 14 animated films and related materials, e.g. sketches, storyboards, drawings, animation frames, collages, photo documentation and more.

The possibilities of animation are unusually wide – it has amazing plasticity. Animation allows artists to apply and combine different techniques. It can serve as propaganda or become the mouthpiece of freedom and social criticism, destroy stereotypes, be provocative, educational or documentary. Authors can quote and recycle literature and art works, revitalize existing visual styles, or create new ones.

It's not that easy to make sense of different animation genres, given that they are easily mixed. Experts differentiate two main areas – commercial (applied) and independent animation. The exhibition participants work mainly with the second type of animation, and their art is limited only with a single factor – the boundaries of their own imagination.

Some of the exhibition participants started their carriers back in the USSR. Others are still undergraduates, but make films worthy of wide audience attention. Some of the authors did not study film directing, and came to animation through the search for artistic means. Others studied with such masters as Yu. Norshtein, F. Khitruk and E. Nazarov. All the works presented at the exhibition combine both high quality graphics and bold visual solutions.

The term 'animation' came from the French language and originally meant ‘liveliness’. The Soviet cinema used the term ‘image multiplication’ derived from the verb 'to multiply'. Some directors like Feodor Khitruk protested against this term, saying that it does not reflect the real task of the animator – endowing a picture with qualities that make the viewer believe the character is alive. To do this, apart from drawing an animator needs to know psychology, be observant and understand the principles of acting.

To achieve a smooth movement for one second of the cartoon, artist-animators need to make 12–25 final drawings. When a cartoon is rendered in a computer program, it does not make the director's job easier – the same number of pictures is required. Frames-drawings, sketches and storyboards presented at the exhibition are just a small part of the work that the film crew has to complete.

If we turn to the animation history and the moment when animation as a genre was as close as ever to contemporary art, we have to start with the Dadaists – and especially with such artists as Man Ray and Oskar Fischinger, whose search for the relationship between the musical rhythm and the image in the 1920-30s gave the world unique audiovisual works.

At about the same time, the enterprising producer Walt Disney found a format capable of yielding good dividends. Bright graphic hypertrophied animation of his studio became the standard for wide audiences and animation industry for several decades, and almost killed all the competitors. Hundreds of professionals worked painstakingly on Disney films, manufacturing a complex and expensive product, subordinated to strict standards. The desire to create a similar studio in the USSR was the reason to merge small experimental studios into a big one, implementing Disney method and abandoning all the previous achievements of recently born Soviet animation. Although these studios produced mainly propaganda films, they employed talented artists and many of their films had bright original graphic solutions, today undeservedly forgotten.

However, in the 1950s Zagreb animation school started to gain momentum. Zagreb artists did not try to copy the Disney style, but, on the contrary, abandoned multi-layered and realistic plans and preferred simple figurative solutions. The studios experimented with lines, textures and objects that did not require a huge team, but still captivated the viewer with expressive artistic solutions. This trend extended over the Eastern Europe, including the Soviet Union, where Soyuzmultfilm studio started experimenting with films’ visual stylistics in the 50s and 60s. Gradually, liberation spread all over the world, reaching America, where studios started to invite experts and teachers from Eastern Europe. Visual emancipation led to the emancipation of narrative. In socialist countries, film directors used metaphors to express their protest against the communist dictatorship, and these films’ audience was no longer children, but adults, mature spectators.

To be fair, it should be said that independent animators never stopped their experiments. They always continued to shoot low-budget films. One has to remember at least Norman McLaren, who tirelessly tried various techniques. Without limiting himself with formats and methods, he drew abstraction on film strip, shot stop-motion, and even created a soundtrack by drawing figures on the film’s audio track.

Undoubtedly, the advent of computer era served as a new impetus for the development of animation. The computer became a tool that performed a lot of technical functions which previously required dozens of specialists. However, artificial intelligence never replaced artists or directors.

Just recently the artist's role was considered secondary, as artists had to obey the will and vision of directors. Today international festivals screen films where the authors combine both functions. Many artists and film directors see animation primarily as a technical tool, like a brush or a pencil. It enables the artists to create their own canvases in motion, using a wide range of expressive possibilities.

Contemporary Russian animation is highly appreciated in the world of cinematography. Although short animated films that are released each year rarely reach the general public, Russian filmmakers regularly receive major awards from prestigious animation festivals.

The exhibition includes authors who dare to experiment, manage to find new ways and methods in animation, use artistic vision in their work, go beyond traditional methods, and surprise both the audiences and the colleagues.

Nadezhda Svirskaia

 curator of the project