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About the Writer


About the Writer

Digitalis: Algorithm of life is a powerful beat

Gary Thomas
The entire plant is toxic (including the roots and seeds), although the leaves of the upper stem are particularly potent, with just a nibble, being enough to potentially cause death. There have been instances of people confusing digitalis with the relatively harmless. Digitalis, Wikipedia contributors, Wikipedia, retrieved 1 December 2011, from 1 Animate began in 1990, commissioning artists and animators to make experimental films for television. It was one of several collaborations between the Arts Council and broadcasters as part of a strategy that aimed to lever additional financial support for ambitious projects and to enable the relatively vast television audience to readily engage with artists moving image. It was, crucially, about television as a primary form - not merely platform - for contemporary artists practice. Nowadays, exhorted to broadcast ourselves, the idea of television itself can seem quaint idea. Digital is as unwieldy a subject for discussion as writing or biological. Nevertheless, the institutions of support reduce debate to their reminders that digital media technologies are affecting every aspect of our society, economy and culture. In messages that themselves reach us by email. Interrupting our making and delivery of online purchases or attending James Wales personally appealing eyes. What this language of affect and impact betrays is how many of us in the arts and our arts institutions are playing catch up with the world. Digital doesnt simply affect the world. It is the world. The world is digital. And as with previous technological revolutions the printing press, the threshing machine, penicillin - nothing is the same as it ever was. Homer: Is this episode going on the air live? June Bellamy: No, Homer. Very few cartoons are broadcast live. Its a terrible strain on the animators wrists. The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show, The Simpsons, Season 8, Fox Network, 1997 The notion that live is primary still prevails, with media - broadcast, and now digital as carriers. Arts Council England asserts how digital technologies enable artists to connect with audiences in new ways, bringing them into a closer relationship with the arts and creating new ways for them to take part. In all the hoopla around digital relay of opera and Twitter feeds in theatres it would be wrong to confuse the live - cultural objects - with culture itself. Many of us are culturally engaged elsewhere. In places the live do not go and cannot reach. A generation doesnt riot because it cant sing in a choir. And the digital does depend on our reimagining what an arts experience can be - it can be an authentic arts experience in its own right. And the challenge for that art is to counter our acquiescence; to become celebrant not supplicant. 2 You are reading this. Either from the printed page (and if so, does this very act yet seem strange to you? If not, one day, it will.) Or from a screen. Just as text isnt speech and reading isnt listening, so these are different ways of reading, and the difference, inevitably, incurs a shift in meaning. The ways in which we compose and understand language depends on circumstance. Platform circumscribes text and we write and read differently accordingly. So much irony lost in email translation. Animated moving image is ubiquitous now, on public and personal screens - new digital spaces that are very different to the traditions of cinema or television. Screen size, devices that we hold in our hand, the choice of what, where and when we view these are all elements that contribute to new modes and forms of expression and receipt. 3 Artists have always explored and interrogated technologies and animation is at the forefront of creative and technological digital innovation. In the spirit of the pioneering project Container Ship (cship.e-2. org, 1998), and its proposition of internet specific art, Digitalis set out as a tentative exploration of digital circumstance as material and site for experimental animation practice, and the inherent shifts in practice and engagement as the work that artists make responds to shifts technologies. Artists make work in, for, and about these new digital contexts and Digitalis offers pause to reflect on making and engaging with art in digital spaces. Digitalis Commissions The Digitalis Commissions are four films selected from an open call for short films that explored and interrogated the digital as texture, material and site for artistic practice. Proposals were considered by a Jury comprising of: Abigail Addison, Assistant Director, Animate Projects; Nick Bradshaw, Web Editor, Sight & Sound Magazine; Susan Collins, artist and Director of the Slade School of Fine Art; Gary Thomas, Director, Animate Projects; and Sarah Williams, Coordinator, Jerwood Visual Arts. The selected artists are: Adam Butcher, Lizzie Hughes, James Lowne and Matilda Tristram. The films premiered at BFI Southbank on 14 December 2011. They can be seen online at and are available to download through iTunes. Animate OPEN Digitalis The Animate OPEN: Digitalis is Animates

Gary Thomas is Director of Animate Projects

Digitalis: Electro Reflections

Nick Bradshaw
William Gibson, as ever, puts it best: The prefix cyber is going the way of electro. The digital world that just a few years ago seemed so brave and new will soon be or is? such a commonplace that it wont bear mention, just as we take for granted modern lifes electrical infrastructure. Digital will be the default modes of movie production, distribution and exhibition, but more than that, its voracious appetite for simulating all the techniques and qualities of the analogue from the celluloid look on down will leave precious little to contrast between the two modes. Or so Im increasingly convinced. Perhaps the subtleties of pencil and paper are still not replicable, but I wouldnt be surprised. Still, the light of strangeness has not yet dimmed on the digital revolution; and as I watched James Lownes Someone behind the door knocks at irregular intervals (and speculated on the outcome of his Digitalis Commission, Our relationships will become radiant), it seemed that there was still something unexpected, or counterintuitive, about the notion of contemplative or meditative art in the digital space. Isnt digital about artifice, reconfiguration, alchemy, commotion, whisper our prejudices? Isnt the internet, the acme of the digital, one big distraction system? (Yes, but only because its an expression of the human id.) Isnt it those ruminants of the cinema Nathaniel Dorsky, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Bla Tarr, Lisandro Alonso, you name them whove clung on longest to celluloid, with its Bazinian indexical relationship to a world bigger and wilder than the artists palette? Yes, but even then Im reminded of those who have crossed the floor: American landscape artist James Benning, say, who recently retired his 16mm camera for HD video. His first video feature Ruhr, though a typically ultra-minimalist single-shot contemplation of a factory at sunset, saw him immediately take up digitals offer of invisible, DIY image manipulation: the movies condensation of two hours worth of colour changes into one hour-long shot makes Ruhr the most spartan instance of digital animation I know. (Im also minded to propose the elided frog symphony at the end of Abbas Kiarostamis Five Dedicated to Ozu as a comparable case of extreme-minimalist pixilation, but perhaps thats pushing the point too far.) Of Animates Digitalis commissions, Lizzie Hughess Fountain (zoom) seems to promise a variation on this long-take manipulated-photography theme, with its slow zoom and trompe loeil focus sounding echoes of both Michael Snows Wavelength and Hitchcocks famous dolly zoom in Vertigo.[1] Of course, animation doesnt have to claim a photographic relationship with the world in order to create a space for contemplation, as many Animate commissions down the years have demonstrated. But those animations that are explicitly digital? Of the works selected for the Animate OPEN: Digitalis exhibition, Max Hattlers conveyor-belt enterthe-void visions 1923 aka Heaven and 1925 aka Hell could be classed as trance films (an equal but opposite state to contemplation?). Edwin Rostrons Visions of the Invertebrate certainly conjures a meditative, immersive space somewhere in the back zones of our mind, speaking directly to the world of concepts and the subconscious. Most pertinent, Joe Hardys visually minimalist, aurally evocative Cassette Tape: Side A opens up acres of thought time over its 15-minute span. Its striking, though, how many of these films Cassette Tape, David Theobalds Workers Playtime (a TV for our robot colleagues), Phil Coys eleven seconds of paradise (2010) (flash-frame images of paradise grabbed from the internet) hark back to earlier iterations of technology itself. Can digital animation look beyond its own means? James Lownes two projects seem

Nick Bradshaw is a writer and journalist and Web Editor at Sight & Sound magazine. He was a member of the selection jury for the Digitalis Commissions.

first online exhibition selected from an open call for submissions by a Jury comprising Francesca Gavin, writer, curator and Visual Arts Editor at Dazed & Confused; Rebecca Shatwell, Director, AV Festival; Gary Thomas, Director, Animate Projects; and artist and music video director, David Wilson. Works by 11 UK-were selected from more than 200 works submitted. The Jury focused on the Digitalis theme - considering how works explored digital technology and ideas of the digital, and their appropriateness to online exhibition and engagement. The artists are: AL and AL, Tony Comley, Phil Coy, Kristian de la Riva, Joe Hardy, Max Hattler, James Lowne, Rob Munday, Noriko Okaku, Edwin Rostron, and David Theobald. The Jury Prize was awarded to James Lowne for his film Someone behind the door knocks at irregular intervals. Joe Hardy and Kristian de la Riva were also awarded Special Mentions. Max Hattler won the Audience Prize. All the films can be seen at, along with interviews with the artists and background production materials. This newspaper includes information about the films and artists in the Digitalis programme, along with commissioned texts about the films and related themes. There are two Digitalis Discussion events a screening and panel at BFI Southbank in December 2011 and a symposium at London College of Communication in 2012. The Digitalis Commissions are supported by the Jerwood Charitable Foundation. Digitalis is supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England. Please share your thoughts on the digital with us at digitalisdiscussion

to come closest to striving for an answer, even as they wear their digital means on their sleeve. Someone behind the door knocks at irregular intervals is both a portrait of contemplation and an inducement to it. As I write, Our relationships will become radiant awaits inspection, but I remember its proposal sketching the eerie incongruity of a confab of (opaque but presumably powerful) executives within a solitary building inside a nature reserve a contrast that conjures all manner of salient thoughts about the current ways of the world, from its twisted power relations and environmental segregation to the motif of separation and isolation that may or may not implicate the brave new digital world itself. Could it be self-reflexive and more? [1]

Digitalis Commissions




Our relationships will become radiant

James Lowne

853 2011

Images were sourced, then reframed and repainted onto new backgrounds to develop scenes. Characters modelled and animated in 3D software and edited on the computer with analogue treated ambient sound.

Three narratives unfold together. Inside a vast nature reserve sits a solitary building, a caf, where an important meeting is being held by executives. Outside in the park, the collective singular lounge about wearing fancy garments. Images are exchanged, participation simulated: the interminable present. Meanwhile, the dormant wildlife fades away.

James Lowne is an artist based in London. He completed a BA in Fine Art at Central Saint Martins in 2000. After this he focused on making music in solo projects and collaboratively with other musicians, recording and occasionally performing live. During this period he also continued drawing as his main artistic practice. He has worked commercially in postproduction, learning about editing, computer animation and 3D rendering. James has exhibited drawings as well as animation and film in London.

Our relationships will become radiant (storyboard), James Lowne

Digitalis: Where did the idea for the film come from? James: It is part of an ongoing exploration of themes that Im concerned with around advertising and corporate film - which use conventions from cinema. They have generated their own aesthetic over time, now completely mastered into this perfect mode of dialogue with the consumers. It is fascinating that you can make something thats incredibly engaging but empty of any substance or soul or anything like that. Its almost like a complete non-art form. So is your film criticism or a celebration? Id say it would have to be both. Because its a critical celebration! In your proposal you used the term

collective singular viewing.. Well, I write a lot and I like the free association of putting words together when Im thinking of ideas or if Im reading. So the collective singular was just two words that came up, with me thinking about how we consume lots of image based information and how as entertainment - traditional entertainment, cinematic entertainment we would review collectively, and an audience response - a group of people - would be quite important. Whereas now we watch things on the internet, our iPhones and stuff, sort of locked on. But connected to sort of a matrix of other people - because you dont necessarily feel like youre on your own. You feel in some way you might be connected with others, as long as its

active; as long as your laptops on, as long as your iPod is on. The film has three narratives strands, yes? Possibly more. One of the ideas is having people who are connected to a network, with a central mechanism of people who might be making decisions and might be running things, but they themselves are all also part of the network. And then the relationship of all of them inside nature. There was a script on your storyboard, but theres no dialogue in the film. When I write the script, I like to have a story in my head to help me to understand what the characters are doing and why they were doing it. So Id write down what they say. People are speaking in the film but you dont hear what theyre saying.

I like that effect. Has the internet enabled you to develop your work? Yes, definitely. I like accident and mistakes. The digital tools of production dictate its aesthetic and theyre generally all geared to getting things perfect and slick. So I like trying to find accidents within the 3D software - not trying to force or manufacture one, but trying to work in a process that Im not necessarily brilliant. The process allows accidents to happen and I think they can become an interesting part of the work, just as in painting, music or performance, anything I guess you can have accidental occurrences that become an interesting part of the work.

Digitalis Commissions




Five Year Plan

Matilda Tristram

228 2011

Actors read an informal script based on the emoji. I made a rough audio edit then drew scenes and characters to go with it using corresponding emoji as digital paintbrushes. After animating the shape of the characters on an iPad app called Animation HD, I traced over each frame on the iPad screen using cellophane and a china marker. Then, I retraced that using emoji in an iPad app called Sticker Doodle, taking a screengrab each time to use for the final animation, which was put together in After Effects.

Five Year Plan is an abstract comedy for devices such as iPhones or iPads, using emoji (Japanese text message character pictures) as material with which to draw. It is an appreciation of the arbitrary nature of symbols in apps like emoji, where you can find such things as an egg, a shit, a syringe, a sun, a puppy, an old man, a palm tree or a saxophone in one category to punctuate text message conversations. The script is based on a selection of symbols; it is an attempt to connect them, and to celebrate the unpredictable, hilarious, moving and complicated nature of communication and understanding.

Matilda Tristram graduated with an MA Animation from the Royal College of Art in 2008. She has worked as an animation director on music videos and online virals and as a scriptwriter and developer for Ragdoll Productions, on BAFTA award nominated Dipdap and The Adventures of Abney and Teal. Her own films continue to screen at festivals internationally. In 2011 she produced a 76 page anthology of her collected comics. Im interested in what people criticise modern digital technology for (particularly mobile phones): Corrupting the English language, shortening our attention span, hindering our capacity to remember etc. In response to that, I think there is a creative, playful sort of new digital realism emerging that makes use of the strange limits that mobile technology provides.

Five Year Plan (background material), Matilda Tristram

Digitalis: How did you start working in animation? Matilda: I studied illustration, but what I always liked about animation was that you could write the story, be involved with actors and the theatricality. And I like being in control of the idea and making it - the sound and everything that you need to create a universe. Why is humour important to your work? Humour is one of the most important things to me generally, in my work and in my life. And I think you can find humour in really surprising and unlikely places. Could you explain a bit about the emoji/emoticons you use?

Emoticons are those little tiny pictures and symbols that people use to put in text messages to each other. I started off by trying to write a script based on what the pictures are, a little bit like playing consequences. So choose a fairly random selection of the symbols and try and think of a way to link them together, with dialogue. Id never really worked with an iPad before and when I first got one I imagined that all of the Apps would be brilliant and thered be loads of things that would be really great to paint and draw with and really good to animate with. And I was quite surprised when I started downloading how rubbish loads of them

are, how ugly they are, how pointless they are. But thats kind of what I love about it. I dont want to imply that iPads are rubbish! I just want to show that you can use Apps in ways other than what they were designed for. You can have the best, most amazing equipment and still make the most empty, pointless, stupid film, and thats what Im sort of trying to poke fun at maybe. How else do you engage with the digital? Well obviously I use computers for all my projects to put them together. Its not that I dont like using digital things but that I dont think they should be the only thing that attracts you to a project.

The internet has influenced my work. I like how quickly you can see things on the internet and how many people can see your work who might not see it otherwise and how you can sort of bypass distributors, galleries. You can just show your work so easily. Obviously I love YouTube, but most of my ideas come from real life and not from the internet. And all of my films are on the internet and I think a lot of people are reluctant to put their work on the internet in case people rip it off and or in case they dont know where it ends up being shown. But I think its more important for people to see it and if somebody rips it off then you can just do something else.

Digitalis Commissions




Bradley Manning Had Secrets

Adam Butcher

530 2011
Dialogue from Bradley Manning chatlogs, released by Voice Actors Danny Mahoney Angus Dunican Film Crew Alisdair Cairns Alec Milne Animation Ben Claxton Adam Butcher Original Soundtrack Blair Mowat

I filmed a lot of live action footage, edited together a live action cut of the film, then rendered out the whole timeline scene-byscene at a very low resolution, to create the individual shots to rotoscope. The lowresolution ensured that everything had the lo-fi pixelly look. Id specifically select which element to draw over, such as body shape. Working with Ben Claxton, wed outline in a bright green colour, then, in After Effects, key out everything but the green.

The story of Bradley Manning, not as a Wikileaks hacktivist, but as a young American soldier simultaneously going through a crisis-of-conscious and a crisisof-gender-identity. Using Adrian Lamos chat logs of instant messenger conversations held with Bradley, the film explores issues of personal and political secrets, digital identity and alienation.

Adam Butcher has been writing and directing since 2006. His work often combines filmmaking techniques, colliding live action, miniatures, puppetry, handdrawn and computer animation. His first short, Arcadia, a drama set in a cardboard alternate universe, won a Filmstock Audience Award and a Screentest Technical Achievement Award. His second short, Internet Story, spins a narrative from online screengrabs and digital animations, and has played across Europe and was a viral hit on its release. After reading an article about the Bradley Manning chat logs in The Atlantic, I tracked and read them in their entirety from Wired. com. There was a lot of material in there, and I had to cut so much out. I took the dialogue from the chat logs word-for-word, cut bits out, moved sections around to create a five minute script.

Top row: Bradley Manning Had Secrets, Adam Butcher. Bottom row: Bradley Manning Had Secrets (script), Adam Butcher

Digitalis: What inspired the film? Adam: I read an article on a blog that drew on the chat logs - showing these quite poetic things going on with Bradley Manning commenting on personal issues, but linking them almost subconsciously to political issues. So ideas of personal change and political change and political and personal secrets - there was this whole unknown story that was fascinating to me. And when I read the chat logs in their entirety I felt like Id got in to this paranoid hacker world but also in to the trans-gender world.

I felt very sympathetic towards Bradley, and that people would feel that same sympathy if I told that story. I dont think the film is an out and out political film. I think its a human story, and I avoid making any clear cut statements about Bradleys actions and Wikileaks actions. Your previous film Internet Story also played with ideas around this kind of internet treasure hunt - what is it about data and stuff that interests you? We use the internet day to day but its

actually very complicated in terms of its relation to human interaction. I am interested in exploring the idea that we feel connected on the internet and yet were not. Theres this inherent uncanny loneliness to the internet where you feel like youre talking to someone but no ones actually listening. And we can adopt identities so easily - which is fascinating in the context of Bradley Mannings gender identity, but also in the context of not being able to tell what a person is really like or what their motivations are because you dont see them face to

face - you just have a text based interaction. But I think equally it has these amazing capabilities - via the internet I feel a human connection with Bradley Manning that I probably wouldnt have known otherwise. What impact does the digital have on your work? It has just opened up everything. And I think it forms my style as a filmmaker in that Im always trying different styles of animation and mixed media and things - that opportunity to experiment. A lot of the time things that I like come from mistakes.

Digitalis Commissions






Fountain (zoom)
Lizzie Hughes

230 loop 2011

A slow zooming shot of a particularly exuberant fountain was filmed beginning from the far distance and stopping when it reached full frame, before immediately zooming back out again. The resulting footage was divided into still frames, then each of these images was digitally manipulated so that the size of the fountain within the frame of the screen remains constant for the duration of the film. In the studio just over 140 seconds of film was broken down into 3,700 frames. Each of these was then enlarged so that whilst the quality of the image was changing the size of the image remained constant from frame to frame. As the image began to recede, for the first few seconds enlarging it by a minute percentage produced an image that was easy to judge as identical to its neighbour but as the fountain became little more than a handful of pixels in the centre of the screen the lack of information made the transition more of a stutter chosen by an estimated aesthetic judgement. A dark, almost binary image gives way to an elaborate structure bathed in summer light that slowly yields to its source.

A slow zooming shot of an especially exuberant fountain is digitally manipulated, frame-by-frame, so that the size of the fountain within the frame of the screen remains a disorientating constant for the duration of the film.

Lizzie Hughes was born and grew up in Anglesey, North Wales. In 1993 she moved to London and in 2002 graduated from the Slade School of Fine Art with an MFA, having completed her BA at the same college in 1997. In 2010 she completed a five year residency at the ACME Fire Station Building in London. In 2012 she will be curating The Present is a Point Just Passed at The Stephen Lawrence Gallery, Greenwich University. Recent exhibitions include Concrete Poetry at the Hayward Gallery and the solo exhibition Video Works at Broadway Media Centre, Nottingham. Aside from her studio practice, she has undertaken residencies and commissions which have taken her work into a broad public realm. Her work includes installation, sound, text and video works.

Fountain (zoom) (production stills), Lizzie Hughes

Digitalis: How did you start working in moving image? Lizzie: I studied sculpture and while I made a couple of films while I was at college, I had no real interest in filmmaking as such. I think the ideas always come first in a work and then I find the best way of working through that. Sometimes thats a film. When I was at school I painted and drew a lot, and gradually realised I was not very good at painting and thought Id give sculpture a go. And then gradually realised I wasnt very good at making things either, from a technical point of view!

I realised I wasnt interested in object making per se. It was more the actual business of what it was to make art that interested me. And that then opened lots of different avenues in terms of what the final product could be. How important is digital to your work? Digital made filmmaking much more accessible to me. I dont come from a background of crafting with film; digital meant that I didnt have to go through that huge process of learning how to work with 16mm and all that sort of complicated stuff that really is a craft.

It was sort of fairly cheap and available, but also, I could manipulate what I was doing very easily too. Suddenly you had a camera and you could just film something quickly and on the spot, working quickly and intuitively. The internet kind of made it all possible really. I am completely self-taught. I will have an idea and I will want to find some way to make that possible. So you have this incredibly complicated software but you can Google and ask questions and find somebody who is very skilled without having to have a full gamut of knowledge yourself.

You can quickly problem solve. It just makes everything possible. Did you design this film in mind of how it will be viewed? Yes. Its quite a short film and it should really be viewed kind of on a loop. Its got this sort of sense of breathing in and breathing out, I think through watching it over an extended period of time you gradually work out whats happening within the image. And get a sense of location within that. The quiet, private space of a smartphone or an iPad gives you that closeness to the image that I think makes it a different viewing experience.

About the Writer


About the Writer


Emma Geliot

Digitalis: Heart medicine for the mind

Emma Geliot is a freelance arts journalist, deputy editor of blown magazine (www. and blogs about contemporary art in Wales at emmagelit. and at

Digitalis ubiquitous? Ramblings of a self-confessed digital native

Max Hattler

Max Hattler is a moving image artist. His films 1923 aka Heaven and 1925 aka Hell were selected for the Animate OPEN Digitalis exhibition, and won the Animate OPEN Audience Prize.

There is something special about moving image presented for the intimacy of online viewing. In the cinema or gallery theres an emotional shared experience. But squatting over the computer screen, pixels dancing into your eyes - and your eyes only, it seems - theres a direct one-to-one conversation. And the selected entries for the Animate OPEN: Digitalis exhibition have resulted in some surprising dialogues. The call for works wasnt restricted by theme, simply inviting submissions that were designed to embrace or challenge digital technologies. This made for a richly diverse selection of offerings. From Heaven and Hell to a lemon with legs; from stopframe to 3D and 3D rendering; hi-tech, lo-tech; gentle observation to full-on mutilation; gloss and grain; poetry and prose; sonic thrum to stretched cassette tape organ playing. Its all in the mix of this bakers dozen (well...11 and a diptych). An Open exhibition is, by definition, not a curated selection, but in watching this selection with a view to try to assess what they might say about animation, they can be clustered into loose thematic bundles. Dreams; memory; streams of consciousness; flights of fancy

Dreams - the subconscious and what if?s - are fertile ground for the animator. Edwin Rostrons Visions of the Invertebrate falls into the stream-of-consciousness camp. A deceptively simple line and colour animation, with a muted voiceover, its like snatches of a dream. Noriko Okakus Allegory of Mrs Triangle nods to Max Ernst and to Terry Gilliams early Monty Python animations, on its strange and colourful story-less journey. Someone behind the door knocks at irregular intervals, by James Lowne conversely creates threads of narrative without words. In using 3D rendering Lowne deliberately subverts the potential perfection of that process, introducing a drawn element that matches the dream-like sequences and music. The past, the future A 15 minute animation of a cassette player, running a stretched tape of organ music, doesnt sound promising. But Joe Hardys Cassette Tape: Side A is strangely compelling as the animated tape counter rolls in real time. Background, domestic noises add to the sense that this is a real experience. Hand-drawn in loving monochromatic detail, it provokes wistfulness. David Theobolds Workers Playtime, featuring the BBC tune used to galvanise the factory workforces of the 40s and 50s, rethinks the world of work.

Theobold has re-imagined those 1950s factory workers as a solitary robot, playing keepy-uppy with three balloons (keep an eye on the blue one). Life, the Universe and Everything The beginning of the World and subsequent events, is told in a perfect conjunction of image, poetry and music in Tony Comleys VERSE. And at the end of the world, a lemon with legs, half a cat and a short-lived onion are the survivors of Armageddon in Rob Mundays Teddy Goldblatt. Their increasingly bizarre story is narrated in a reassuring voice that is somewhere between Oliver Postgate and a 1970s public information film. Max Hattler goes beyond the world with twin pieces, 1923 aka Heaven and 1925 aka Hell, using outsider artist Augustin Lesages paintings A symbolic Composition of the Spiritual World,(1923 and 1925) as their starting point. However, the technically polished, mirror animations seem worlds away from the visionary artists obsessively detailed paintings. On the small screen 1925 aka Hell seems to be more Dantes circles of Hell-ish, than 1923 aka Heaven is Heavenly, but a big screen might change this. Phil Coys eleven seconds of paradise (2010) is a re-examination of the images thrown up in a web search of the term

paradise, first explored in 2000. 275 images flash by at 25fps, creating a strange subliminal after burn. Guns and Gore Now, some of the above works stray into this category too both Lowne and Okakus films feature axes but the weaponry isnt wielded. Nor is it in AL and ALs 3D Anaglyph Avatar loops, where guns and grenades spin harmlessly, glossily, like new cars at a motor show, while a skeletal biped is showered by pink triangles. So far, so miles away from computer game gore fests. However, for the squeamish and easily-upsettable, Kristian de la Rivas CUT is possibly the most disturbing of all. As the lone, linedrawn character (repeat while watching: its just a line, its just a line) carries out acts of extreme self-harm, a feeling of distress at this dispassionate damage translates into the unanswerable question: Why? And what does this Animation OPEN selection tell us about the current state of animation in a digital age? That the hand-drawn/hand-made is still alive and well, and that digital technologies can be exploited and subverted to make creative conversations. And that these conversations can happen online.

To write about the digital space as a site for artistic production in the 21st century is a bit like writing about the analogue space as a site for artistic production in the 19th century: its a no-brainer. Or is it? Today, the digital is dominant, its ubiquitous. Your dad is on Facebook, your mum in on eBay, and granny is checking out Smartphones and social media are all-pervasive. Revolutions might not be televised, but are tweeted instead at least for now. When visiting art galleries, it is easy to forget which decade, or indeed which century we live in. Most contemporary art still revolves around painting and sculpture - formats that sell. Video art, whether analogue or digital, is twitching, half-alive, on a monitor in the corner. Most art that truly embraces the digital largely remains confined to the fringes. Digital technology has always played a pivotal role in my own artistic development. Getting my first computer in the early 1990s, I saw the technology mature as I myself was coming of age. Games such as Great Giana Sisters and Leisure Suit Larry were a first attraction, quickly complemented by 8-bit soft pornographic images purveyed on 3inch floppy disks by a sweaty classmate

of my elder cousin. But soon, paint and animation programs, sound editing software and music production packages started arriving on those disks too. And it wasnt before long I found myself spending days on end trying to figure out these new arrivals. Soon, the computer had taken over as a tool from all other artistic pursuits, replacing pencil and brush, pen and paper, camera, violin, guitar and drum set. I was growing up a digital native. Software tends to be based on analogue equivalents. Video editing software resembles a Steenbeck film editing table; paint packages emulate paints, brushes and paper types; music programs emulate analogue instruments, synths, and sequencers, and so on. But software is also always ordered by the logic of the code, and by the thinking of software developers whose medium is code. The computer itself, of course, doesnt distinguish between media. It processes and applies its calculations according to whatever it is being fed. It is this underlying equality of media that excites me about making work in the digital age. It relates directly to my own artistic practice, rooted in the experience of growing up with computers and

exploring different software packages playing with them as if they were games irrespective of medium. Sound, music, still and moving image - all media are interacted with through a series of similar interfaces and operations: cutting and slicing, copy-paste, layering, keyframing, effects and transitions, additions and multiplications. All media can be worked with simultaneously, equally, as they are essentially reduced to maths. Theres an almost spiritual quality to it, as all becomes zeroes and ones. Pure data. The immaterial nature of the digital realm, importantly, allows for endless nonlinear editing and experimentation without signal loss or cost implications. Digital, therefore, ultimately also contains an element of democratisation. Im not sure if Marx would agree, but I think it is fair to say that through computing, access to the means of production has opened up. Almost anyone, at least in the so-called developed world, can buy a computer and find the software powerful enough to create moving image works, which previously would have required roomfuls of prohibitively expensive film stock, assistants and equipment. All hail to computers, then, as I am fairly certain that I would not have taken up film in Oskar Fischingers time.

Thanks to another aspect of the digital, namely the internet, it is now easier than ever for artists to promote and distribute their digital artworks. Theres an endless Euros vs. eyeballs debate going on about the merits of artists putting their work online, and whilst Im undecided, I am putting my work up until Ive made up my mind. So far this has helped me to generate new commissions, exhibitions and invitations. But then again, I tend not to sell editions. Which brings us back to the gallery. After all, its they who like good old material objects.

Animate OPEN: Digitalis







Someone behind the door knocks at irregular intervals

James Lowne
* Jury Prize Winner

(455, 2010)

Julia spends the day at the leisure centre where she slips into a sombre reverie. As her thoughts continue she becomes aware of the possibility that perhaps she never came here at all. Outside in the sun, the stillness changes the road, its inherent notion of speed has dissipated, allowing the surface to be felt. The film suggests ideas of non-activity and meditation, memory and perception. It explores the relationship between contemplation and the act of looking.

James Lowne is an artist based in London. He completed a BA in Fine Art at Central Saint Martins in 2000. After this he focused on making music in solo projects and collaboratively with other musicians, recording and occasionally performing live. During this period he also continued drawing as his main artistic practice. He has worked commercially in post-production, learning about editing, computer animation and 3D rendering. James has exhibited drawings as well as animation and film in London.

1923 aka Heaven and 1925 aka Hell

Max Hattler
* Audience Prize Winner

(150, 2010) (136, 2010)

1923 aka Heaven and 1925 aka Hell are two animation loops directed by Max Hattler, inspired by the work of French outsider artist Augustin Lesage. The films are based on Lesages paintings, A symbolic Composition of the Spiritual World, from 1923 and 1925. Both films were created during 5 days in February 2010 with student animators and CG artists at The Animation Workshop in Viborg, Denmark.

Max Hattler was educated at Goldsmiths College and the Royal College of Art in London, graduating with an MA (RCA) in Animation in 2005. To date, he has made over 20 moving-image works, the most wellknown of which are Collision, Spin, Aanaatt, 1923 aka Heaven and 1925 aka Hell. His works have been shown at exhibitions and film festivals worldwide, winning awards at 700IS; Eksjo; KLIK; LIAF; LSFF; moves; Skepto; SLIFF; Videofestival Bochum; Videologia; the Visual Music Award, and others. Max is also active in the field of audiovisual performance and has worked with a wide range of music acts including Basement Jaxx, Diplo, Jemapur, Jovanotti and The Egg. Max currently teaches animation at Goldsmiths, while studying towards a Professional Doctorate in Fine Art at University of East London. He is represented by Partizan for commercial projects and by Cimatics agency for audiovisual performances.

Jury statement: It is a film that directly addresses the strangeness of the digital - it defies the pursuit of shiny perfection, and revels in the failings of its own digitally crafted construction. Its also beautifully, cinematically composed and engaging.

Animate OPEN: Digitalis







Kristian de la Riva

(308, 2009)

Drawn animation of a lone male characters attempts to cut away various body parts, using ever more extreme methods to do so. A distorted ode to relationships lost is hinted at within the work but the field of reference is expanded to incorporate the pain and humour implicit in an individuals day to day thoughts and routines.

Kristian de la Riva studied Fine Art at Nottingham Trent University and then at Central Saint Martins, London, graduating with an MA Fine Art in 2009. He has exhibited his work at Palais Paradiso, Amsterdam; Oriel Davies Gallery, Wales; New Contemporaries, Liverpool Biennial; ICA, London; and the Armoury Show, New York amongst others.

Workers Playtime
David Theobald

(310, 2011)

What do we mean by labour in the digital age? A contemporary reboot of the morale raising BBC radio show, Workers Playtime, which was broadcast from the factory floor throughout the 1940s and 1950s. The music used is Calling All Workers by Eric Coates which featured on the original show.

David Theobald originally trained as a chemical engineer, he pursued a career in finance for fifteen years, living both in New York and London. Nine years ago he decided to change profession and dedicate himself to becoming a full-time artist. Most recently, his main works have been animations structured from photographs, scanned images or single frames extracted from video footage, blending these together to create a familiar yet alien environment. These may be structured as conventional films or as continuous loops with no discernible beginning or end.

Allegory of Mrs. Triangle

Noriko Okaku * Special mention

(634, 2011)

An animated portrait of an imaginary character, Mrs. Triangle. The film is concerned with the complexity of one persona and the different aspects of personality. This is done with an abstract storyline, encouraging the audience to evoke new possibilities of understanding the work in their distinctive way. My work explores the variety, eclectic nature and strangeness underlying everyday things and actions.

Noriko Okaku studied at Chelsea College of Art and Design and the Royal College of Art, completing an MA in Animation in 2005. As well as animation, she works in installation and audio-visual performance. Her works have been shown internationally at Festival Images Contre Nature, France; Magmart International Videoart Festival, Italy; Garage Center for Contemporary Culture, Moscow, among others. Noriko has presented her audiovisual live performances internationally, most recently at Donaufestival, Austria; Anilogue, Hungary; the Museum of Image and Sound, Brazil; Circuito Off, Italy; Cimatics, Belgium; and the Design Museum, London. Noriko was awarded Becks Futures Student Prize, ICA, London in 2003 and Best Audiovisual Performance, International Videofestival Bochum, Germany in 2010.

Cassette Tape: Side A

Joe Hardy
(1504, 2011)

A TCM-848 plays a found cassette tape of an organist practising. Snippets of speech, shuffling and someone washing up in the kitchen all add to the atmosphere. The film is simultaneously nostalgic and mundane. The speed of the spooling tape and ratio of the counter are both reproduced faithfully.

Joe Hardy studied Fine Art (Time Based Art) at Sheffield Hallam University and he maintains an interest in emerging technologies. Much of his recent work has been animated short film pieces mixing hand-drawn imagery with digital animation techniques.

Teddy Goldblatt
Rob Munday

(934, 2010)

In a post-apocalyptic world a lemon called Teddy finds his legs.

Rob Munday is a filmmaker and writer living in London. He has made short films spanning many genres from experimental to romance, documentary to comedy, each time trying to create particular worlds that show how their characters think and feel. If there is such a thing as surreal truth then thats what hes looking for. His films have been shown in festivals around the world including The BFI London Film Festival and South By South West in Austin, Texas.

* Special mention

Animate OPEN: Digitalis







Visions of the Invertebrate

Edwin Rostron

(235, 2011)

A large mirror in a silent room where you know there is a presence. You look into it but there is nothing. The film concerns liminal states, marginal spaces, and the fringes of reality. In these places everyday objects take on peculiar, unknown qualities, shapes merge and recombine in a state of constant fluidity and strangers impart cryptic knowledge that we sense is somehow deeply important. The film explores such matters in the manner of the non-conscious mind with which they so strongly resonate. Visions of the Invertebrate is a collaboration between artist and animator Edwin Rostron and musician William Goddard AKA Supreme Vagabond Craftsman.

Edwin Rostron is an artist based in London. He studied Fine Art at Sheffield Hallam University and Animation at the Royal College of Art. His work is an attempt to visualise the realms of the unconscious and takes inspiration from a myriad of sources including alternative comics, Neo Romantic painters such as Paul Nash and Graham Sutherland, and the post-industrial landscape of North East England, where he grew up. His animations have been shown at festivals such as onedotzero, Pictoplasma and the Australian International Animation Festival.

Anaglyph Avatar: I killed thousands of people last night and these are all the weapons I used & Pink Triangles (222, 2009)
AL and AL
(558, 2009)

In Pink Triangles a biped performs inside a simulation of the motion tracking studio in which the human performance was originally captured. The captured and translated human gestures and movement of the biped is cut with the biped running through a shower of pink triangles. In I killed thousands of people last night and these are all the weapons I used, a series of animated weapons are labelled with their value as though in an arms dealers showroom, or is it just a computer game waiting for the player to buy their munitions?

AL and AL began working together at Central Saint Martins art school in 1999. In 2001 they were awarded an ACME residency transforming a warehouse in East London into a blue screen special effects film studio. Their films have been shown around the world and exhibitions include FACT Liverpool and Rotterdam Film Festival. They have curated exhibitions at Metal, Hill Station in Liverpool and MuHKA Antwerp. They were awarded the Liverpool Art Prize in 2009 and in 2010 collaborated with composer Philip Glass and physicist Brian Greene on Icarus at the Edge of Time, premiered at the World Science Festival in New York and performed with a live orchestra.

eleven seconds of paradise (2010)

Phil Coy

(011, 2010)

275 thumbnail images collected from an internet search for paradise played at 25 frames per second. First made in 2000, the earlier version was exhibited in the Hayward Gallery touring exhibition Incommunicado. The 2010 version was made out of a curiosity to see how paradise had changed.

Phil Coy grew up in the West Midlands, Sussex and Norfolk and now lives and works in London. He studied Fine Art at Liverpool John Moores University and has a Post Diplme from Ecole des Beaux arts de Nantes. In 2000 he completed an MA at The Slade school of Fine Art. Exhibitions include Whitechapel Gallery; South London Gallery; Volt/USF Gallery Bergen, Norway; Artprojx Cinema at The Armory Show, New York; Whitstable Biennial and the National Glass Centre, Sunderland.

Tony Comley

(355, 2010)

A prose poem portrayal of the first ever love triangle.

Tony Comley is among other things, an Animator. He has made etchings cry for the BBC, Tube-maps moan for London Sinfonietta and Orange Juice explode for Warp Records. He is a Director with Sherbet, through which he won a British Animation Award and a workshop designer for the Tate Gallery and Aardman, through which he toured the UK in a transforming truck.



About the Writer


Analogous: Digital/Analogue Metaphors

Ele Carpenter

Ele Carpenter in an artist, writer and curator and lecturer in MFA Curating at Goldsmiths College, University of London. As the facilitator of the Open Source Embroidery project (BildMuseet Umea Sweden, 2009, Museum of Craft and Folk Art, San Francisco, 2010), Ele is currently facilitating the Embroidered Digital Commons a distributed embroidery exploring collective work and ownership 2008 2013.

To draw analogies between things is to identify similarities to help communicate meaning, often relying on anecdote, metaphor and poetic license to capture the essence of an idea or thing. But there are always problems of translation. When discussing our understanding of the world, the term analogue has become shorthand for anything not digital, and has become an analogy of its own. Digital has also become an analogy for anything requiring a computer. This essay starts to investigate some of the analogies of analogue and digital media to reveal some of the messy complexity of thinking about art and animation. The history of animation forms an archive of the relationship between the hand of the animator and the development of audio-visual technology. Here the animator, editor, artist, and producer utilise and shape their tools in ways which often reveal the process of making. From sand painting to early Eastern European animation, puppetry to anime, the stop-frame or storyboard of animation is altered frame-by-frame, pixel-by-pixel. But when we spot the puppeteers hands, or the blue pixel in the corner of the screen, are we any less entranced by the illusion? Or is this is the Brechtian method where the audience, able to acknowledge the theatre as artifice and their own role as the spectator, can then engage with the content of the play along with, rather than despite, its artifice? Here, like any successful artwork, form and content are precariously balanced to reveal an understanding of the physical material, the spatial concerns of the medium, and the complexity of meanings at play.

Animation can be drawn in a flickbook, photographed, filmed, or digitally created using software, or even working within the space of the internet where the network is both the site of production and distribution. But are these digital tools or spaces more or less hand-made or crafted than Geppettos puppetry workbench? Each generation learns to use its tools and machines with the knowledge of the past and anticipation of the future. But then the future arrives and we become dated: our style and syntax identified by a technical timestamp. Yet we have to continuously learn to use the aesthetic and software codes of the present if only to understand enough to reject them, but to do so knowingly. Its a constant catch-up with the next generation of early-adopters. But what about in-depth expertise in a particular set of tools? An artist can hone their skills to finely tune an instrument to achieve the desired effect, or push the technique to its limits, where the exploration of the medium is both the form and content of the work, in keeping with the Bauhaus mantra truth to materials. To understand the significance of digital/ analogue explorations in contemporary art, its useful to investigate the characteristics of the technological processes and the conceptual frameworks in which they operate. During March - April 2011, I hosted a discussion of Analogue/Digital Art on the Crumb New Media Curating email list that provided a snap-shot of current thinking. [1] The topic provoked intense debate about the distinctions between discreet units and continuous data flow on a metaphorical, quantum and philosophical

level which is pertinent for the conceptual context of artists film and video currently being made within the digital data-stream. On a more material basis, people reflected on the physical experience of making and the sensory experience of engaging with the analogue and digital world. The discussion also highlighted current concerns surrounding technological sustainability. Many of these ideas are pertinent to contemporary animation that explores tensions between digital and hand making using a range of media and tools. For arguments sake, lets start with a basic distinction between the two processes of producing and transmitting information: Very simply analogue is a continuous signal, like radio waves, or a dial which indicates the time on a clock. Small fluctuations in the signal are meaningful, but are also effected by white noise (like the static on the radio). Celluloid film is analogue because it records a continuous flow of light and images over time, whilst digital moving images are composed of on/off dots. Analogue signals are prone to interference, and copying them degrades the original. Analogue machines can be powered by electricity, hydraulic power or windup clockwork. Some say that analogue is the new digital[2] because its cool to know how things work, and to make hybrid digital-analogue contraptions. In contrast, digital is the way in which information or data is transmitted in digits. Digits are binary - you can count them on your fingers: zero/one or yes/no or on/off.[3] A punch card stores binary information through a sequence of holes. Digital information is encoded so both the sender and receiver

of digital information must speak the same language. Digital signals do not to suffer from interference, making the information error-free. This means you can make lots of digital copies and creativity is easily networked and distributed, so that the idea of owning an original becomes problematic. Examples of older digital systems include: an Abacus, Morse code and Braille. A modem translates analogue information into digital.[4] Although it is possible to map the characteristics of certain categories of technologies, the Crumb discussion revealed how the Analogue/Digital divide can be an arbitrary distinction on several levels. As human beings we experience the world through our analogue senses, however that information is created.[5] At the same time digital information exists in a constant data-stream, in which we are immersed. Charlie Gere points out that, ironically, it is often digital art that can be touched and interacted with, whilst more traditional material based art works are displayed in glass vitrines, or behind ropes, and cannot be touched. He concludes: Thus it can be suggested the work of art in the digital age can be thought of as a chiasmus in which the analogue work of art is distinguished by its digital discretion, whereas the digital work is characterized by its apparent analogue continuity.[6] This analogue experience of the world is tied to the desire for a more haptic form of working with computers evident in the digital-makers who are busy reverse engineering, innovating with the technology we already have, rather than chasing the latest upgrade. In the Crumb discussion, I wrote: Im interested in the physical, spatial, sculptural aspects

of our work: the moments at which the relationship between digital and analogue become messy. On the one hand many people are so familiar with end-user tools, theres little understanding of the machine and its internal workings. In terms of art and curating - this discourse focuses on the nature of the image. On the other hand there seems to be a strong DIY/DIWO (Do It With Others - to quote Furtherfield[7]) / DIT (Do It Together - to quote action weaver Travis Meinolf[8]) movement to work collectively and make stuff. In this context making includes reverse engineering, upcycling, reuse, recycling, hacking, modifying, collage, remixing etc... all creative activities across craft, design, computing, and art. And these kinds of making involve a range of tools and processes from knitting needles to coding, online and located networks. Here the discourse focuses on the nature of the process. But of course both these areas of practice are inter-related, even if we think of one as fine, art, theoretical, critical, and the other as more hobbyist, amateur, folk, populist, etc.[9] So here Im trying to make a link, albeit a crude one, between analogue-digital hybridity and sustainability. Digital sustainability raises questions of longevity of digital formats, the limited resources we have to maintain and run them, and the consumption of natural resources used for building disposable computers. The builtin obsolescence of fast-upgrading formats of disposable goods is the cornerstone or default of free-market capitalism. Along with diminishing resources, crashing markets and deskilling, theres an increasing sense of being lost in an excess of digital information that is sliding out of view. At the same time, analogue formats are no longer seen as commercially viable,

and their machines and print facilities are being phased out.[10] Remarkably, in his Babel Fiche project artist Dave Griffiths is transferring digital video onto microfiche. Its a kind of reverse engineering the pixel back into a sequence of frames. The project imagines a future where anthropologists wont be able to access the moving images of the 21st Century. To anticipate the problem, Babel Fiche is transcribing digital film into still frames, printed onto colour microfiche film which can be viewed through an enlarger which magnifies the images. Microfiche is a photographic medium capable of lasting 500 years and simply requiring light and a lens to reveal its contents.[11] This is Steampunk at its best, using the historical imaginary to slide between time zones a Heath Robinson invention for a future where natural resources and electrical power may be limited, and digital formats outdated. Sean Cubitt describes the precariousness of extracting Lithium for batteries from the Salt Lakes in South America, and highlights the potential environmental degradation of indigenous land in Bolivia that will provide another 20 years of Lithium. Here traditional life is in danger of being lost in the face of modern progress, where the geopolitics of modernity is mapped by the flow of wealth. Cubitt expands on Charlie Geres post earlier in the crumb discussion: As Charlie observes, analog is invented by digital, in the same way tradition is invented by modernity - indigenous tradition by colonial modernization.[12] This process of modernity the naming of the other as old to differentiate the new and prioritise its development, is explored by Marshall Berman who traces the deep Faustian

metaphors of progress which have sustained industrial development from the medieval to the modern world.[13] Animation is traditionally an exploration of the handcrafted spaces between analogue and digital processes. But in the drive towards the digital future it is important that we dont construct a hierarchy of formats, that we value the hand-made and the coded, the analogue and the digital. This is essential if we are to move beyond the analogue as a digital special effect, and retain a deeper understanding of image making with a range of tools, spatial and aesthetic languages. Not simply as a new wave of nostalgia, nor just to conserve a century of moving images, but to enable us to use the tools of the future, understand their provenance and evolution, and re-invent them for our own use. From the perspective of the present, Babel Fiche is traditionally archiving a transient format which slows down the mode of capture, and viewing, to a more human analogue scale. In part, this is due to the accessibility of microfiche, in comparison to the complex programming languages of software, which are often proprietary and locked. The image printed on the microfiche is the image we view its not encoded in another format. For the artists and pro-sumers of the future, creating digital animation today is heavily reliant on end-user software, rather than learning the programming and coding skills to create their own syntax, aesthetics and forms. A return to learning computer programming and woodwork skills in schools could be the first step in enabling a generation to be digitally and analogically dextrous enough to create their own metaphors.

[1] Analogue/Digital Art discussion on the list hosted by CRUMB, University of Sunderland, UK, March-April, 2011. The list archive is available at: An edited transcript of the main threads will be available in a pdf on the Crumb website in 2012: [2] Analogue is the New Digital Curated by Simon Blackmore, Andrea Zapp. Madlab, Manchester 2010. [3] Charlie Gere, Re: [NEW-MEDIA-CURATING] Analogue/ Digital Art, 4 March, 2011, 12:51 Johannes E. Goebel, Re: [NEW-MEDIA-CURATING] Analogue/ Digital Art, 4 March 2011, 13:12 [4] Ele Carpenter, Re: [NEW-MEDIA-CURATING] Analogue/ Digital Art: March Theme. 1 March 2011, 20:34 [5] At the last mile, humans experience all media analogically. Analog light waves enter a physical eye, analog sound waves enter a physical ear, physical skin and muscles feel analog signals (heat, resistance). Whether Im listening to a digital CD or analog vinyl, both ultimately enter my ear analogically. Curt Cloninger. Re: [NEW-MEDIA-CURATING] Analogue/Digital Art, 6 March, 2011, 20:14 [6] Charlie Gere, [NEW-MEDIA-CURATING] Analogue/Digital Art. 4 March, 2011. 12:51 [7] [8] [9] Ele Carpenter, Re: [NEW-MEDIA-CURATING] Analogue/ Digital Art: 22 March, 22:29 [10] In March 2010, Soho Film Lab ceased to print 16mm film. It was the last professional lab providing this facility in the UK. See [11] [12] Sean Cubitt, Re: [NEW-MEDIA-CURATING] Analogue/ Digital, 6 March 2011 22:57 [13] Marshall Berman 2010. All that is Solid Melts Into Air. Verso: London / New York. Chapter 1, Goethes Faust: The Tragedy of Development p37-86


About the Writer


About the Writer


Second that emotion

Tim Shore

Tim Shore is an artist and teaches animation at London College of Communication.

Meat dress manifesto: On the contemporary irrelevance of contemporary art

Rosemary Heather
I happened to find myself in Grande Prairie, Alberta. I had never heard of the city before. In Canada most urban life hugs the border with the United States. Canadians commonly refer to this border by its latitude: the 49th parallel. Grande Prairie sits just north of the 55th parallel. If you were driving from Montana, it would take over 12 hours to get there. Call me ignorant of geography. I didnt know Canada had cities that far North. I live in Toronto - the centre of Canadas media universe - and it cares little about what happens in Grande Prairie; news emanating out from here barely mentions the place. For the people of Grande Prairie, Im sure the feeling is mutual. After all, Grande Prairie is booming. In part due to the dirty economics of the Tar Sands, Alberta is an exceedingly prosperous province. Driving the streets of Grande Prairie, you can draw a map of Globalisms franchising coordinates. Starbucks is one outlet we are happy to find. Good coffee is progress, says my companion. Context is everything. In the absence of better coffee, Starbucks is good. Like the prow of a ship breaking ice, Starbucks opens up new markets for capitalism while setting better standards for coffee taste. This is the progress we like, one that caters to our urbanite selves. We can thank the Tar Sands for this, along with its disastrous environmental effects. History is always experienced as a lived contradiction. At lunch, I read a BBC story on my phone about Lady Gaga. How does she do it? Various experts weigh in on the Gaga phenomenon. I dont doubt that, like Starbucks, Lady Gaga is popular in Grande Prairie. Shuttling through stations on the car radio I hear Bad Romance and then Classic Rock. I want to understand the changing landscape of mainstream culture. In Grande Prairie, I find myself in the changed landscape itself. To me, it looks like a city that has popped up overnight, the spores of Globalism taking root in the form of big box stores. Seeing duplicates of chains I know from elsewhere makes Grande Prairie a place I both can and can not recognize. Thriving, it still seems to barely exist. It is simulacral, to use that old word. At Starbucks I had picked up a flyer for a local historical society. This is what culture is in Grande Prairie, I think: Lady Gaga and historically-accurate reconstructed log cabins. Grande Prairie upends what I thought I knew about the world. Globalism redraws the map of the globe, and Gaga looms large on this horizon. At the 2010 MTV Music Video Awards, Gaga wore a meat dress. Thinking about this, I make the assumption it augurs something new. Not the meat dress itself that is an artwork made by Jana Sterbeck in 1987 but the meat dress as an object of mainstream consumption. Claiming to be an artist, Gaga uses the shock tactics of the avant-garde, but not to any avant-garde end. As John Ashbery wrote in 1968, the artist who wants to experiment [today]is now at the centre of a cheering crowd.[1] Gaga serves a structural purpose, not unlike that of Starbucks coffee. Writing about the Pepsi Corporation in the New Yorker, John Seabrook notes that Pepsi products have a dual nature. Every bag of Doritos offers flavour combinations that are the same every time, fused with something more abstract. As Seabrook says, PepsiCo grafts taste with desire.[2] The same could be said for any contemporary brand. In Gagas case, she embodies the culture social media makes. Gaga is the best example of its aspirational narrative: self-transformation is just a costume change away. This is why the music she makes can be merely adequate. Art and pop culture are like languages. The parts of speech remain the same, while meaning is generated through the logic of substitution. If historys substitutions always move from tragedy to farce, Gaga is definitely the farce. She wore the meat dress for the purposes of a photo op, nothing more. It was but a salvo in the arsenal of costumes changes she uses to keep her publicity machine churning. When Jana Sterbeck put the meat dress in an art gallery its point was decay. Not an irony for which Gaga can spare the time. To claim pop cultural novelty is new is merely to betray my own biases. I am naive like every Liberal Arts student. Study of the modernist canon defines the scope of my formal education.

Rosemary Heather is a writer and curator based in Toronto. She thanks Ann Dean for her comments on this text. She blogs at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams (1979) Dear Siri. Please hold my hand. Im mindful of the gap. I am worried by the smallest of gestures. Between my thumb and forefinger; my forefinger and my head; between the complex concatenation of my thumb, forefinger, middle finger, ring finger and the keyboard of my computer. Im worried about the greasy smears my ape like thumb leaves on the small, hard to hold, smartphone. By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes. Digitalis. Im trying on a poisonous glove for my dirty digits. I dont think it fits. The opposable has become disposable. Digital is poisonous for animation; it contains its end. Animation is about doing, it is haptic, tactile and textured. Its about getting your digits dirty. Animators often plead a special case for their discipline: that they should be treated differently because it takes so long, that it is arduous, boring and slow. But thats its USP: the iteration of repetitive and menial tasks, endlessly recycled, or at least remaking twelve times a second, is important. The dull labour of the craft

process allows us to recast making as mechanism and in so doing we become a worker. A robot, who, piecemeal, can become a dream machine. Using paper, pen, paint, sand, snot, and rot may be mundane, but careful making allows us to think differently. We are pioneers with time on our hands. We see the gaps. We dont need to let a computer do it quicker, quieter, effortlessly or better. We can fail at it and find something new and unexpected. We dont have to be new romantics enthusiastically embracing an authentic craft guild to do this right; we just have to work with the small things. Animation isnt about making, its about unmaking and not making dismantling the image in a playful, tactile and touching investigation, driven by a desire to expose and explore the mechanics of the movement. We are not interested in a one size fits all perfection, a hyper reality of perfect hair, water or fur. Binary bells and whistles, the wonderful things, are not appealing. Off and on and off and on again. An alternative altered state of an invisible perfectable future. The digital renders animation invisible; all trace elements of the material and its construction are lost, no longer visible but invisible and divisible by a machine. A void instead of a thing. On and off and gone again. Animation should be old, dusty, decrepit and broke. The bright white light of the

digital, all those twinkling zeros and ones, has already cast a strange glow upon the aged and infirm and forced a rethink about the value of making. Alan Turing proposed that the artificially intelligent will, eventually, write a sonnet, with all the letters and words in the right places. But he added, it will be a sonnet that is best appreciated by another machine that will admire its binary digits and their elaborate ordering, without having to read it or hear it. The digital isnt a tool: it is a new technology, where theoretical machines, not yet imagined, will talk to each other, without any need for all our fingers and thumbs.

Figuratively, modernism is reducible to clean lines and white spaces; pure abstraction and an absence of embellishment at one time signified a break from the past. Its a legacy that lives on in the white cube of contemporary art today. And seeing the world from inside the white cube nurtures certain assumptions about whats important. The problem modernism always had with kitsch is that it is not remarkable to be a fan and fans are what popular culture creates. Today, it is unremarkable to be on Facebook; most people participate in the new culture the digital era creates. At the same time, Facebook is not merely the contemporary version of an older form. Facebook, like the internet, is genuinely new, in the way that collage and television once were. This suggests that nowadays it is more notable to be on Facebook than it is to have an interest in modernism and contemporary art. In the popularity of Lady Gaga and of Facebook and Starbucks, we find the cultural formats of the modern eras irrelevance. Viewed from the perspective of Grand Prairie, Alberta, this becomes clear to me. Not the literal phenomenon of modernisms end, but rather the loss of its importance as a way to understand our culture.
[1] Bruce Altshuler, The Avant Garde in Exhibition: New Art in the 20th Century (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1994), 9. [2] fact_seabrook


Animate Projects
Animate Projects is the only agency in the UK dedicated to supporting experimental animation and advocating for the recognition of animation as an artform. We have an international reputation for the artistic quality of the work we support, and as the premier online resource of experimental animation. We promote public engagement with art and creativity, we nurture the talents of cutting edge artists, we aim to educate, and to inspire discussion and appreciation of contemporary animation practice. The Animate Collection is a unique resource of films, background materials, artist interviews and writing. Animate Projects is a space for creative risk, and where to encounter fresh narrative and aesthetic possibilities. A space for artists that explore new forms, tools and processes, creating spirited, radical art, and refreshing, extending and redefining animation. If you are interested in our work, we would be delighted to hear from you. Please email us at Gary Thomas, Director Abigail Addison, Assistant Director Tarnia Gracie, Marketing Assistant Animate Projects Limited is a registered charity and company limited by guarantee Registered company no 613397 / Registered charity no 1144291 / VAT reg. no. 907218728

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All the artists and writers Liz Barnsdale, Stuart Brown, Sebastian Buerkner, Benjamin Cook, Nisha Duggal, Olga Gribben, Hannah Kerr, Anna Mandlik, Shonagh Manson, Jon Opie, Caroline Smith Copyright: Animate Projects, artists and contributors, 2011 Design: Dave Gaskarth / Cover image: Sebastian Buerkner A limited edition print of Sebastian Buerkners Digitalis is available to buy from

The Digitalis Commissions are supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and by the Jerwood Charitable Foundation. The Jerwood Charitable Foundation is dedicated to imaginative and responsible revenue funding of the arts, supporting emerging artists to develop and grow at important stages in their careers. The Foundation works with artists across art forms, from dance and theatre to literature and music. It also supports and manages Jerwood Visual Arts; a year round contemporary gallery programme of awards, exhibitions and events at Jerwood Space which then tours nationally.