Women Hold Up Half The Sky


Strangelove Moving Image Festival, Mon 16th March 2015: Women Hold Up Half The Sky

This 1-hour programme takes as its title a Mao-era propaganda slogan as a provocation to think about the status of women in China today relative to the past. These short, independent films by (all but one) female animators, many studying outside their native China, raise issues from contemporary China including personal identity, hormones and chemicals in factory production, the pressure of academic success, memory, the ties of family, abortion and the influence of pervasive computing.

Curated by Chunning Guo (Renmin University), Birgitta Hosea (CSM), Shelley Page (Dreamworks)

MA Character Animation, Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London:

KETCHUP by Chunning (Maggie) Guo

MA Character Animation presents:
Ketchup, an installation by Animation Artist-in-Residence Chunning (Maggie) Guo.

MACA is delighted to welcome Chunning (Maggie) Guo as our first Chinese Visiting Researcher and Animation Artist-in-Residence, a project made possible by the British Council and CICAF. Maggie is an independent animator who collaborates with Baishen Yan on films that explore memory and is in residence at Central Saint Martins for 3 months. Her work has been shown at international festivals and she was previously in residence as a Visiting Scholar at Vancouver Film School. She currently lectures at Renmin University, where she is also a PhD candidate, and is the author of several books on animation and digital arts. Link: http://www.arts.ac.uk/csm/people/teaching-staff/drama-and-performance-programme/chunning-guo/

Ketchup, in the Windows Gallery at Central Saint Martin, presents the context behind the short film, Ketchup, made with Baishen Yan, in which tomatoes act as a memory trigger for brutal events in China in 1984.

Opening times: 09.00-21.00, 11-25th November 2014

Venue: Windows Gallery, The Crossing Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London, Granary Building, Kings Cross, London, N1C 4AA

Screening: There will also be a screening, presentation and Q & A on Monday 17th November at 18.30 in room C303. If you would like to attend the screening, please RSVP to: http://ketchup.eventbrite.co.uk as seats are limited.

Join Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1530522017186368

Exhibition curated by Birgitta Hosea


8th China International Cartoon and Animation Festival

CICAF is the biggest animation festival in China and includes the Golden Monkey King Animation Awards, an education summit, animation trade fair, project investment fair, masterclasses, conferences and Cosplay shows.

The tourist destination Hangzhou is beautifully located at the side of a large lake and is rapidly becoming an important city for animation with the regional government investing 70 million yuan (approx £7million) to support original animation projects in the last year. 22 major roads in the city are decorated with cartoon characters. The city is also preparing to open an amazing new Comic and Animation Museum designed by Dutch architecture firm MVRDV, which will be made in the form of cartoon bubbles and include an IMAX cinema. This museum will definitely be worth visiting when it’s completed. Here is the architectural visualisation.

I felt very privileged to be selected by the British Council to participate in the Expo as part of a UK Day. The opening ceremony for the festival was unlike anything I have ever seen before. We were taken to the Huanglong Sports Stadium, which is bigger than Wembley, to see a truly incredible show. After opening speeches from government officials on the cultural and economic significance of the animation industry, the Golden Monkey Awards were presented to festival prize winners. We were then treated to a two-hour spectacle, which featured kites, flying acrobats, mass dance troupes in all kind of costumes, ice skaters, Chinese popstars and TV presenters. Two massive screens on either side of the auditorium relayed live video feeds of the action. Huge screens also played animations that served as backdrops. Local dignitaries were seated in special seats at the front. Everyone was given plastic hand clappers with flashing LED lights so that the applause was magnified. I cannot imagine anything on this scale to launch a UK animation festival!

The scale of the expo itself was simply staggering. There were two halls in the convention centre, each the size of Olympia, but standing three stories high. On each of the three days we were there the number of people who attended the show exceeded 100,000 people. The demographic was mainly teenagers to early 20s and some families with their children.  As it was a public holiday, this seemed to be a major attraction for teenage comic and animation fans. The only event I could compare it with would be Comic Con in the USA.

I spoke to a lot of people, but the majority simply wanted their photos taken with me as there are not many foreign visitors to Hangzhou.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the trip was my introduction to the world of Cosplay. In this teenage sub-cult, costumes are worn that make the wearer look like a character from a (Japanese) comic or animation. I was fascinated by the extent to which animation could influence fashion and the sheer scale of the economics behind this.

Not only was there a Cosplay competition, but several halls of clothes and accessories. I couldn’t resist buying myself a leopard print pair of ears with bells. At times I was surrounded by elves, cat people, French maids, pirates and purple haired ancient warriors with animal ears.  I can imagine Chairman Mao turning in his grave!

On the final day of our trip, the British Council had arranged some cultural visits for us. In the morning we went to the Zhongnan Animation company. Founded in 2004 by the CEO of a construction company who wanted to see Chinese animations made for his children, the company now has over 300 staff. In the short time since it was founded, it has produced over 15 TV series and 25 feature films.

We were treated to a screening in their 4d cinema – as well as wearing 3d glasses you sit in a chair that moves with the motion of the action in the animation and air is puffed past your face at certain times. In addition, we were taken to see their merchandising store. Most of the profit in animation comes from toys and other associated items for which the animation itself serves as an advertisement. We were shown a number of new interactive toys that were being developed.

China is a clearly emerging as a force to be reckoned with in the field of animation. The animation industry is not only very successful in China economically, but also has cultural significance for the government who are keen to promote the development of Chinese art forms.

Approaching story through animating Shakespeare

Classical literature is a rich source of inspiration for plot lines, dilemmas and characters and no other classical writer has inspired Western literature quite like William Shakespeare. Not only were his plays hugely popular with audiences at the time of writing, but they introduced new techniques in theatre and even many new words into the English language. Consider the following popular saying – ‘Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them‘ – still used today this is actually a line from Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night. Indeed many phrases in common use in the English language derive from Shakespeare.

Shakespeare’s plays were designed to be alive – living documents to be interpreted by a theatre company – and were often re-written, updated and corrected during rehearsals with his theatre company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men. Sometimes parts of his plays were even written with the collaboration of other playwrights. Each succeeding generation re-invents what Shakespeare means to them (consider for example the HipHop Shakespeare Company). In Shakespeare’s plays, there are very few stage instructions or descriptions about what the settings should look like. In the Elizabethan theatre of his time, as we can see in the contemporary recreation of the Globe Theatre on London’s Bankside, the stage was relatively bare with very little scenery. Indeed, our ideas about the environment that the plays are set in and the characters that we see comes from the lines that the actors speak. In other words, all of the visuals in the play are painted in the minds eye of the audience through the poetic language of the dialogue. This makes Shakespeare’s work ideal material for visual artists and animators, because you are free to visually interpret how the plays might be aproached in so many different ways.

So far on the MA Character Animation course, we have used biographical incidents from students own lives or pictures (National Gallery paintings or London Transport Museum posters) to inspire the subject matter for students’ animated stories. In our next project, we are using classical literature – Shakespeare – as a source of inspiration to get animation students to start thinking about narrative and constructing plots. Working with Professor Shelley Page (of Dreamworks) and the Royal Shakespeare Company, students will create a series of ‘Micro Short’ animations for the World Shakespeare Festival that is part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad. When completed, these short films will be displayed on plasma screens in the RSC theatre in Stratford-Upon-Avon as part of the festival and will also be projected onto the wall of the foyer. Using Professor Page’s theme of ‘Devices and Disguises’, the films will take as a starting point scenes between two characters from either The Tempest or Twelfth Night in which something hidden is revealed – this could be lies, secret love, false promises, concealed gender, murderous intentions…

During the initial briefing for the project, Professor Page showed us Barry Purves’s film Next, in which Shakespeare mimes all of his plays in a silent audition.

For more information about this film, see Barry Purves website. Another film showed was Aria by Pjotr Sapegin.

She also showed a series of student films from France that explored themes of devices and disguises, including Tim Tom.

Here is some more sources of information that could be useful for the project.

Online resources for students: Shakespeare

Online resources for students: writing short films

Recording the Trace of Movement: Past and Present

In her current exhibition, Motion Capture Drawings, at London Gallery West (3rd February – 4th March 2012), artist Susan Morris has captured her own movements over a period of time in a motion capture studio and painstakingly converted the data via algorithms into lines, which are printed onto photographic paper. The images resemble a fragile, dense fog of movement.

Her work references Étienne-Jules Marey, born in France in 1830 and a pioneer of motion analysis through his work with chronophotography, which, unlike the sequential images of Eadweard Muybridge, used multiple exposures recorded and combined together in one photograph to analyse the trajectory of a movement. Here is a selection:

Marey’s work was a clear influence on the Futurists and other artists concerned with representing speed and motion in painting. Compare the image above, Etienne Jules Marey, Étude de l’homme, chronophotographie, 1887 with Marcel Duchamp’s iconic Nude Descending a Stair, 1912.

Beautiful as Morris’s images are, they bring to mind a tangled web of technological references to the history of motion analysis that she does not acknowledge. Capturing the trace of movement is the aim of contemporary motion capture technology, beautifully illustrated in Ghostcatching, 1999. In this digital dance piece shown below, movement data from choreographer and dancer, Bill T Jones, has been used by Bill Kaiser and Shelley Eshkar of the OpenEnded Group to create graphic lines. The data was not used ‘straight out of the tin’, but required extensive clean-up and artistic input from Kaiser and Eshkar.

Another example of graphic black and white linear imagery inspired by Marey’s motion analysis can be seen in Norman McLaren’s Pas de Deux.