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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Logan sees the future, and is disappointed by the present

Student Logan Lape was recently on CNN international, talking about the iPad. He won a contest hosted by Gizmodo to visualize what the iPad might look like, long before it was actually released. Check out the video, in which he manages to give his dorm room a certain minimalist ambiance as a backdrop. I've heard rumor the satellite hookup consisted of little more than a can and a very long piece of string, though the details have yet to be confirmed.

Gyembo at Ghibli

Gyembo Gyeltshen, a student who took one of my animation classes, came by my office to show me some pictures he took over winter break. He was in Tokyo for a couple weeks, and visited the Ghibli museum -- Ghibli being the animation studio run by two of the greatest living animation directors, Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata. I talk about Miyazaki and show some of his work in most of my animation classes -- last semester, the advanced animation class went on a field trip to see "Ponyo" on the big screen. Gyembo wasn't allowed to take pictures inside the museum, but here are some of the shots he took outside, including a couple shots of a life-size replica of a robot from "Laputa: Castle in the Sky." I'm happy he gave me permission to share these on the blog.

I'll actually be giving a presentation on anime on March 23rd at SNC -- I'll put more info on the blog as the date approaches. In the meantime, here's a link to an article I wrote for Animation World Network when "Spirited Away" came out -- it remains my favorite of Miyazaki's films.

VIDEO DADA & YouTube as "Gallery"

This coming week is the last week to catch a show at UC Irvine that's featuring one of my pieces -- something I did for the YouTube Commentary Project. I very much wish I could make it down to see the show -- it sounds both fascinating and overwhelming.

Here's the press release on it:

UC Irvine, University Art Gallery / Room Gallery Presents:

An exhibition and project by Martha Gever

Opening Reception Thursday, January 7, 6-9 pm | UAG
January 7- February 6, 2010

VIDEO DADA: No repeat of history, not neo-Dada, but still wreaking havoc with conventional parameters of art. Nowadays inventive, intelligent, and aesthetically sophisticated videos can be seen far afield, outside traditional art venues like museums and galleries. And artists circulate their videos on a much wider scale than that achieved by any television network. VIDEO DADA asks how these changes complicate the conceptual and aesthetic contours of art. The exhibition features 300 plus videos — playing on eight screens — by individual artists and art collectives that circulate in the hurly-burly multiverse of the internet. Some serious, some humorous, and some both at once, these works exercise manifold strategies: absurd drama, wry animation, politically astute collage, wild performance, and uncategorizable others. Some play with music; some incorporate extraordinary written or spoken texts; some prefer silence and all the noise that offers. In sum, VIDEO DADA surveys the internet’s amalgamation of popular culture and art, calling into question the difference between the two.

And, yes, there may be echoes of Dada: “Dadaism was no ideological movement but an organic product that came into existence as a reaction against the cloud- cuckoo -land tendencies of so-called sacred art.... while military leaders painted in blood.” — George Grosz, 1924 .

Gever has written a thought-provoking essay for the exhibition, examining the qualities of YouTube as a sort of art-delivery mechanism (unfortunately, the essay isn't online). She has a clear eye for some of the cultural repercussions of YouTube, ranging from copyright struggles to contested notions of democratization to the elevation of amateurism beyond aesthetics into a kind of basic phenomenological fact. The essay is admirably free of the kind of blinkered utopianism that usually comes with technological appraisals -- without being closed off to some of the exciting possibilities bubbling up through the chaos of the new. I can't reduce the essay to a pithy one-liner, but she does have a good summing up of the biases of YouTube as a venue: "The non-hierarchical, uncurated organization of YouTube provides a fitting venue for videos that are fleeting, provisional, rowdy, rude, epigrammatic, overtly political, or otherwise unruly in the terms that govern more disciplined precints of art."

The show got a positive review in the OC Weekly -- here's a quote:

...The show is as stylistically and thematically diverse as it is sprawling, exploring such varied topics as sexuality, politics, drama, feminism, pop culture, animation, multiculturalism and comic relief—the sheer size of the exhibition speaks to the diversity of the medium.

Read the full review here.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Worst Museum Fears Realized

OH MY GOD! My worst fears! I think about this all the time when I am looking at a painting. If I accidentally had some sort of seizure and damaged a Van Gogh, would they sue me? Who would they take to the hospital first, me, or the painting? This actually happened on Friday at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. Read below.

Woman Collides with a Picasso (NY)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

And James Dean As Allen Ginsberg

I got a pleasant surprise about a month ago, clicking on an article at the NY Times, about the upcoming slate of movies at the 2010 Sundance Festival. The picture heading up the article featured James Franco staring down a typewriter page: he's playing Allen Ginsberg in "Howl," which will be making its debut at Sundance tonight. It's been getting some good anticipatory buzz, snagging the premiere Sundance slot. The movie focuses on the poem and obscenity trial that took place in the wake of its publication -- and the poem itself has been animated. I did some storyboarding for one of the animation sequences, riffing off an initial storyboard created by the main designer of the animation, Eric Drooker.

(photo from the NY Times)

It certainly wasn't your typical storyboarding job, trying to work out Ginsberg's charged, pseudo-free-associated patter into sequences of images. I worked on the third section of the poem, which is addressed directly to Carl Solomon, a fellow inmate with Ginsberg at the Columbia Psychiatric Institute (Ginsberg spent several months at the mental hospital). Here is an excerpt of that section:

I'm with you in Rockland
where we are great writers on the same dreadful
I'm with you in Rockland
where your condition has become serious and
is reported on the radio
I'm with you in Rockland
where the faculties of the skull no longer admit
the worms of the senses
I'm with you in Rockland
where you drink the tea of the breasts of the
spinsters of Utica

Obviously, the images are already there -- the challenge was to make visuals that wouldn't seem redundant -- that would spill out into their own poetic associations -- and still be able to link together, the stanzas vertebrae in an overarching spine that would weave through the entire poem. Eric had already laid out an over-riding image for the section, a surreal boat journey taken by Ginsberg and Solomon, linking them like the images of Dante and Virgil that have descended, through the works of Blake and Doré, from the Divine Comedy.

The storyboard went through other passes after I was done with it, getting worked over by John Hays, the animation director (who I've known from my days at the WIldBrain Animation Studio). I haven't seen any of the finished animation, and have no idea how many, if any, of my shots made it through to the final edit. But I have my fingers crossed for a positive reaction from the premiere. I'll probably have more to write about this project down the line, but wanted to at least send out those crossed fingers on the big day.