Re-animating the Archive

Discovering Collections, Discovering Communities conference, Manchester, 12-14 October 2015

Watch the conference paper on You Tube:

More information about the presentation:

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At this year’s National Archives and Research Libraries UK conference, Alison Green and Birgitta Hosea will be presenting a collaborative project between four organisations: MA Culture, Criticism and Curation and MA Character Animation at Central Saint Martins, the Guildhall School of Music and the Old Operating Theatre Museum.

With a conference theme of exploring new digital destinations for the heritage sector, Discovering Collections, Discovering Communities, will examine methods for meaningful and innovative digital engagement with museums and archives. Reflecting on the CUT! exhibition created for the Old Operating Theatre Museum, Green and Hosea will demonstrate a case study of the use of animation in museums and archives.

Abstract:

How can digital media augment old spaces and things? Using the exhibition, CUT! (Old Operating Theatre Museum, London, 2014) as a case-study, we will present a project that juxtaposed original, auratic objects with reinterpretations in the form of short digital animations. CUT! was a collaboration between the Museum and students from two courses at Central Saint Martins, MA Character Animation and MA Culture, Criticism and Curation.

The aim of the exhibition was to bring back a sense of the people who had once worked or been treated in a space now filled with glass cases and curious objects. Animations inspired by the museum’s quirky range of artefacts from medical history were created by students from MA Character Animation. The forty films were curated by students from MA Culture, Criticism and Curation, placed as interventions into the museum’s permanent collection, like a haunting or re-animation of the historic objects.

The exhibition, conceived as an experiment and which proved popular with visitors, raised issues about how audiences relate differently to ‘history’ versus ‘the present’ and how different people engage with different types of objects and technology. The paper will theorise these results through discussions of animation and haunting (Cholodenko, 2007 & 2011) and memory as speech versus memory as object (Derrida, 1996). Both presenters have led several collaborative projects with students working with museums. We are interested in exploring what such projects mean for our respective fields—digital animation and curating—and, further, reflecting upon these partnerships as forms of pedagogy.

Link to presentation slides:

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Pinning Butterflies: Royal Albert Hall Monday 9/03/2015

Pinning Butterflies: this audience engagement project was created by BA Performance Design and Practice at Central Saint Martins with the Royal Albert Hall.

Animation (by First Year students on MA Character Animation at CSM), installation and performances on the themes of Pucini’s opera Madam Butterfly were installed to be walked through in the backstage area of the Royal Albert Hall. Four groups of visitors at a time were lead through loading bays, changing rooms, props areas, theatre corridors and catering spaces to experience a range of works including animated emotions, a life size chrysalis, provocative poetry in the lift and suicide by origami.

This one day event was designed to get the local community interested in the events at the Royal Albert Hall.

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Madam Butterfly production at the Royal Albert Hall (from the NY Times DEC. 22, 2014)
Pinning Butterflies: Royal Albert Hall Monday 9/03/2015

Documentation from the CUT! Exhibition

CUT! was an exhibition at the Old Operating Theatre Museum, 9a St Thomas’ Street, SE1 9RY that ran from 3 November 2014 to 15th December 2014. This museum is sited in a former anatomical theatre and herb garret from the ancient St Thomas hospital. There has been a hospital on this site near London Bridge for over 1,000 years!

Animations inspired by the museum’s quirky range of artefacts from medical history were created by students from MA Character Animation at Central Saint Martins with soundtracks composed by students from Guildhall School of Music. MACA’s Visiting Professor, Shelley Page, and the museum’s Creative Director, Kevin Flude, helped the students to brainstorm ideas for short 1-minute films.

The 40 films that the students made were curated by student curators from MA Culture, Criticism and Curation and placed as interventions into the museum’s permanent collection, like a haunting or re-animation of the solid objects. The films were projected onto the wall of the famous anatomical theatre, below cabinets and tucked away in drawers and surgical cabinets. This contrast between contemporary, digital animation and historic artefacts and site proved popular with visitors and raised issues about how audiences relate to original objects in glass cases.

The curation team ran a series of events during the exhibition and also created a CUT! exhibition app which is available on the Apple App Store.

Pictures from the exhibition:

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Documentation from the CUT! Exhibition

Goodbye Piccadilly: 16th May 2014 – 8th March 2015

Films by students of MA Character Animation at Central Saint Martins bring the First World War to life at the London Transport Museum

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Second Year students of the course worked with archival recordings from the museum’s oral history collection to augment the exhibits in the Goodbye Piccadilly exhibition, which runs from 16th May 2014 –  8th March 2015 at the London Transport Museum in Covent Gardens. One of many exhibitions commemorating the outbreak of the dreadful events of World War 1, this show focusses on the Home Front – events in London.

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The accomplished animated films combine a mixture of techniques such as hand drawing, stop motion, Cel Action, Maya, Flash and After Effects to visualise elements of the collection that exist in the form of sound recordings only. This includes an account of the origin of the song ‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary’ and the stories of women’s suffrage during the First World War, such as the struggle of women bus conductors for equal pay. The concepts for the films were selected by museum staff from a series of pitches by the talented students, who worked together in teams of four to complete the films to a strict deadline.

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Goodbye Piccadilly: 16th May 2014 – 8th March 2015

Liquid Boundaries at the Shenzhen Architecture and Urbanism Biennale

Central Saint Martin’s Head of College, Jeremy Till, recently curated the UK Pavilion at the 2013 Shenzhen Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism taking an animated approach to his exhibition design concept with films made by students of MA Character Animation and MA Communication Design. Taking place in Southern China, this is one of the world’s most important architecture exhibitions, with over 500,000 people estimated to visit over the course of three months.

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Responding to the Biennale’s overall theme of urban boundary, architect and architectural theorist, Jeremy Till, responded with a concept of liquid boundaries. He explained to students:

We live, Zygmunt Bauman tells us, in an age of liquid modernity. Labour, capital, time and commodities have achieved an unheard-of sense of fluidity as global flows of people, money, the virtual and goods dissolve previously stable conditions.

And yet against this socio-temporal liquidity, space has apparently hardened, throwing up ever more rigid boundaries as the production of space is increasingly codified and commodified. The proposal for the UK pavilion at the Shenzhen Biennale investigates how a new generation of British architects, spatial agents and activists are challenging the fixity of boundaries and the regulation of space. From co-housing to the Occupy movement, temporary interventions to playing with codes, the exhibit will show a range of methods through which boundaries have become liquid – suggesting that these more fluid spaces are best suited to emerging social conditions of negotiation and flexibility.

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The UK Pavilion was a joint production by several of the MA courses at Central Saint Martins. The curatorial team working for Jeremy Till consisted of myself, Alison Green, Tricia Austin and Rebecca Wright. The exhibition displayed films by students from MA Character Animation and MA Communication Design and was designed by students from MA Communication Design and MA Narrative Environments. A catalogue was produced by students from MA Culture, Criticism and Curation that was designed by students from MA Communication Design. Having the only seating area in the whole exhibition was a real draw!

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IMG_0827The animations in the pavilion were a response to the work of architects and planners.  Open City, directed by Yukai Du (production team: (Kee) Jiaqi Liu, Andrea Gulli, Mohan Ganesha) responded to ideas about creative commons for the city proposed by 00 Architects. See more of Yukai Du’s work on her website.

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The Planning Game, directed by Ria Dastider (production team: (Frank) Yu Wang, Natalia Biegaj, Laura Keer) took the form of a retro game to illustrate the ideas of David Knight, DK-CM Architects, who aims to make planning popular. See more of Ria Dastider’s work on her website.

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Here is David Knight talking about his research into making planning regulations more accessible:

Liquid Boundaries at the Shenzhen Architecture and Urbanism Biennale

Moving Posters for London Transport Museum

Here are the final films created by students from MA Character Animation at Central Saint Martins for the London Transport Museum. Made in small teams of 3-4 people to a short deadline of two weeks, they employ a variety of digital and drawn techniques in combination  – from stop motion to Flash, Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects and Maya. Each short film is inspired by a historical poster that had been designed by an alumni from the college. The posters are shown at the end of the films. We will be having a small exhibition of the films and original posters in the Central Saint Martins Window Gallery during the month of May.

Betchworth

Variety for a Change of Scene

Underground – for the Amusements of the People

Strong Blossoms

Royal Tournament, Olympia

People in a Theatre Box

Kenwood – London’s New Park

For London Spectacle

Cheap Fares for School and Pleasure Parties

 

Moving Posters for London Transport Museum

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

Approaching story through animating Shakespeare