Saturday, 19 December 2009

Showing your workings

I've just been to see The Paper Cinema's The Night Flyer at the Battersea Arts Centre tonight, a story of a young man's heroic endeavour to save his beloved from fiendish top-hatted rail travel enthusiasts.

The set up was as follows: a video camera is set up in the centre of the room, which is linked up to a projector. The animation is then created in real time, using a series of beautiful paper cut outs which are moved in front of the camera by the two animators/puppeteers.

It struck me that there was an enjoyable tension created by having the mechanisms of the animation laid bare in this way - you could see a pictorial cut out being readied, wonder how it was going to be used and then see it realised on the screen. It didn't distance you from what was taking place within the story, but the two inalienably connected spectacles of creating and creation resonated with one another strangely. You could never actually see the act of creating an effect or movement and the effect or movement itself, but you could infer perfectly between the two (a kind of aesthetic 'knowingness' perhaps?) Against this was a semi-improvised musical accompaniment which in part acted as a glue for the visual experience, allowing you to become immersed in its tensions - or despite them, if you should so choose. But the music must have been more than this, because what was happening visually was of course a parallel of the music, but made clear in a way that we wouldn't normally hear or see in music. Or perhaps it was there all the time, and I'm just not sensitive enough to it.

Phew. I hope that made some kind of sense - I may have been reading too much aesthetics. After the performance, we were showed sketches and talked through what The Paper Cinema presently had in the works - a retelling of the Odyssey. Interspersed with this was further music - some of it the planned score for the new work. It was a pleasure to see a project in its early stages, and it was good to be given an opportunity to input into it - though I question the use of standard BAC forms as a means of accomplishing this. It seemed slightly undiscursive, and the questions didn't quite fit with what we'd seen and been shown. In fairness though, we were all perfectly free to ask questions, and food was offered in an attempt to create a more congenial atmosphere. As with so much, it was what you made of it. For my part, it has got me to consider carefully how you can expose artistic processes to generate more than just critical distance, and what kind of strategies you can employ to encourage people to engage in what you're doing.

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