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May 2007 - the hidden avant garde

What: the hidden avant garde: a new look at the art of animation
Where: The Light factory
When: Monday, June 4th @ 6:30

Presentation & Open Forum led by Jeff Jackson & Ross Wilbanks

Its just for kids! What can you possibly learn from funny cartoons?!

Whether we realize it or not, the cartoons we watched as kids have affected our sensibilities. Maybe because it’s not a realistic art form, we were more willing to accept things from it that we wouldn’t from more traditional media. Seriously, there is more of Bugs Bunny (or Charlie Brown/Homer Simpson/Spongebob Squarepants/… fill in as appropriate) in you that you think!

Many intellectuals have traditionally deemed animation as being beneath serious discussion. In some ways, this lack of serious institutional engagement has allowed the genre to flourish. Animators experiment in ways that are remarkably fresh and unselfconscious. Artists talk about the erasing the line between high and low art, but animation aggressively does it with every frame. And it has been so since its inception. Abstract color field animations predate similar movements in fine art by over a decade. Cartoons from the 1930s used postmodern and deconstruction methods long before they gained currency. Animation helped bring surrealism into the mainstream. And celebrated filmmakers like Robert Breer* and Stan Brakhage employed animation to push the innovations of abstract expressionism far beyond what was possible on the canvas.
Even today, if you’re not paying attention to animation, you’re missing some of the most interesting, cutting-edge, and vital work being done in any medium. It is the avant garde hiding in plain sight.

*We’ll look at examples of innovative animation from throughout history – including cutting-edge work done with pin-screens, clay, puppets, collage, and color fields. And we’ll discuss the ways that animation has subverted and transformed everything from graphic design aesthetics to how we view movies to what we expect from narrative.

  • Why has a medium of such broad appeal not been taken seriously?
  • Is there any other such media that is ignored yet inspiring, that we need to look at more closely?
  • Has animation played a part in the acceleration of the culture – wanting us to see more images, faster cuts… have more happen in a shorter time?
  • Has its overall effect been good or bad?

Lets ponder all that, as we watch some serious, funny, and seriously quirky animation clips, and discuss them with Jeff and Ross.

That’s all folks.

Please note: this session will be a good introduction and lead-up to the 3rd and final Noda Film Festival of the year, (June 10-13) the theme of which will be “the Art of Animation”.

Jeff Jackson is the director of the NODA Film Festival , which holds festivals three times a year at the Neighborhood Theatre . He is also a published fiction writer and a founding member of the Obie-award winning theatre company The Collapsable Giraffe .

Ross Wilbanks runs the NODA Microcinema , which offers free film screenings every Saturday at 8 pm at the Art House . He is also a filmmaker and musician whose credits include the feature Two Julies and the upcoming short Last Transmission.

Related Links:

Noda Film Festival: www.nodafilmfestival.org
Noda Microcinema: www.nodamicrocinema.blogspot.com

Article about Robert Breer http://www.chicagoreader.com/movies/archives/0697/06067b.html
On postmodern Looney Tunes:
http://www.chicagoreader.com/movies/archives/2001/0103/010302_3.html


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  1. What a great primer for the upcoming film fest. One aspect I found fascinating was the visual and intellectual impact possible when an object or being is combined with an unexpected context.


    By Matthew Stover