animation six pack


I’ve got to give special thanks to my friend Jesse Garcia for turning me on to two (possibly three) of these videos, including the incredible Story from North America, a collaboration between Kirsten Lepore (animation) and Garrett Davis (animation and music).  What I love most about Story from North America is the way that it deals with so many of the tensions that are inherent in the Anglo-American temperament, including the inherited “thirst for blood” that comes along with the continent’s dark history of colonial settlement.  Lepore and Davis do a brilliant job of connecting this to a general tendency among Homo sapiens to demonize that which we don’t fully comprehend.  Once we overcome our inherited instinct of suspicion, however, we can potentially evolve and become fully human:  “Now you’re learning understanding / finally you’re becoming human!”

Bottle is a lovely work featuring the stop-motion magic of Lepore.  Like Story from North America, it also deals with the question of what it means to be human.  In Bottle, it’s the act of communication and sharing that defines what it means to be human: as the initially faceless protagonists exchange more and more, their human features become more pronounced.  Finally, however, their desire to be together becomes so strong that they transcend their human forms and dissolve away in the vastness of the sea.

This video, passed on to me by Darren Elliot (aka zombie polaroid), is a collaboration between animator Jim Le Fevre and DJ Malcolm Goldie.  The two of them have created something they call the Phonotrope, clearly a turntable rigged to function as a zoetrope.  What I love most about this video is the sheer joy it takes in the play of animation.  Here, animation itself becomes a form of life as the clay begins to wriggle in a dance of joyful, protean transformation.  (Please note that the video I posted is now no longer viewable without a password.  I found a similar test version, but I guess Jim Le Fevre doesn’t want the videos he posts to be embedded without his knowledge.  Boo for this Vimeo “Plus” anti-feature!)

Rabbit, by Run Wrake, is one of the most semiotically dense pieces of work that I’ve come across in a while, but at heart I think this is a video about capitalist exploitation and the violence of greed.  At first the girl in the video imagines a fur muff when she sees a rabbit running across a field (use value), but then when she and her brother cut the rabbit open a golden idol pops out.  The magical ability of the golden idol to transform one thing into another mirrors Marx’s account of the almost mystical ability of capitalism to transform use value into commodity value, “the fetishism of commodities.”  Once the girl and boy discover the magic of wealth generation they go to work exploiting the natural resources around them to generate as much capital as possible (the period of primitive accumulation).  However, in a moralizing return-of-the-repressed moment at the end of Rabbit, the violence that has gone into their wealth-generating enterprise comes back to haunt them in a most horrific manner.

This video by Beeple, aka Mike Winklemann, explores the tension between the beatific pleasure that we can derive from playing video games and the stark and bloody violence that goes hand in hand with so many of the games that we play ‘for fun.’  It asks us interesting questions about how we derive our enjoyment, and what the stakes of that enjoyment ultimately are.  What does it mean that we can look at an image of a cubic 8-bit character smiling while a knife is jammed into his head and blood spurts out, and laugh along with the childlike beeping of the soundtrack?  Does it matter that these are cubic, robotic images of people and not photorealistic?  Does it matter that no one is ‘really’ hurt because these are all inhabitants of Pattern + Grid World?  Are the images of violent and bloody decapitation and dismemberment in this video especially disturbing to watch after the horrible events in Arizona?  If so, why?  And shouldn’t these images always be equally as disturbing or innocent?  Is it okay to ironically enjoy, with a nod and a wink, a video called “Kill Your Co-Workers” when we know how common workplace shootings really are in the US?  Does the final addition of “(WITH KINDNESS)” mitigate these questions in any way?  Or does it simply add a layer of cynicism to the whole affair?  Answers due on Thursday.  Two double-spaced pages on A4 paper, please.

This final video, also by Beeple, is a gloriously enjoyable example of psychedelic art brut run at a manic beeptronic cadence.  I imagine that this must be something like the experience that bacteria would have if they were on LSD.  Please don’t watch if you are prone to seizures.


6 Responses to “animation six pack”

  1. Vimeo five – one! and I love the tag “fetishism of commodities”

    • 2 Trane DeVore

      The best part about Vimeo, other than the high quality of so many of the videos on offer, is that you don’t get those little horrible ads that blot out the bottom third of the screen that you get with YouTube. As for the “fetishism of commodities,” that comes straight from Marx. But I think you and I have our own particular, and fairly mutual, sets of personal commodity fetishes as well.

  2. And the lack of poorly written bigotry in the comments section.

    • 4 Trane DeVore

      I look at the YouTube comments section so rarely that I had almost forgotten that it exists. I wonder if there’s a way to turn it off? The only time I really think of it is occasionally when I have my students watch something on YouTube and I start noticing that a few of them have finished the video and are reading the comments. Oh well, I suppose that they’re all used to it from 2ちゃんねる.

  3. 5 anne

    hey, you know Flying Lotus is a Coltrane, right? one of the clan. he is still based in LA, i believe.

    • 6 Trane DeVore

      Actually, I had no idea! I’ve read a few articles on Flying Lotus, and listened to a bit of his work, but somehow the fact that he’s a Coltrane has always managed to elude me before now. I guess it’s time to pick up an album.

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