Under the Radar in Vienna

I returned to Vienna last weekend for Under the Radar. I was so glad to be asked by artist organiser Holger Lang to join the symposium to present my work in the context of discussions spanning a wide range of ‘analogue’ and digital subjects, whatever the interpretation of those terms might be.  I showed a selection of films in the Top Kino Cinema and then introduced the context of their production the following day at the Museums Quartier.  The sky was blue, it was even warm, and I was able to catch up with old friends, and meet new ones with time to listen to many interesting ideas.

American animator Tess Martin and Werner Raczkövi started the conference by introducing their different practical experiences of animation and filmmaking.  Werner Raczkövi talked about his lifetime of experience with mechanical devices and their influence on style, content and direction of analogue film production, illustrated by photos of the many mechanical devices with which he is familiar (an understatement).  He was a lovely humourous presence at the symposium.  Tess is a practitioner with an amazing array of short films under her belt, and an energetic connection with other animators in Seattle, including the fantastic Bruce Bickford.   She presented an engaging description of the direct, rostrum based techniques that she uses.  It’s quite a challenge to animate live and to keep the attention of the audience.  I really enjoyed her work, and her style, which is fresh and economical.    The same evening Holger Lang presented a huge double bill of short films that he’d curated both from his students and from international professional filmmakers (including Mandy McIntosh).  I’d been up at 3.45am, so I’d planned a refresshing kip in the middle, but it didn’t happen, all credit to the work.  My little programme came right at the end, and there was still a good crowd.

The following day I talked about my work with little animated clips to illustrate. It was so useful to do that following not only the screening the evening before, but also Tess having paved the way with a practical demonstration of the techniques that she, and I employ.  The ground was laid, and I could spring from that, I enjoyed it alot.

Dr. Monika Schwärzler is also a researcher and lecturer at Webster University Vienna.  She analysed two animations by the Swedish artist Magnus Wallin called Exit (1997) and Skyline (2000).  They were both extraordinary. Monika was encouraging us to listen closely to the sound in the films, and the methods that the artist had used to help us to identify with the protagonists, who are experiencing extreme and senseless violence, panic and distress at the hand of a careless or despotic God-like being.  However hopeless the world view, looking at the films with Monika’s guidance was a pleasurable enterprise, because in my mind the work so successfully fulfilled her thesis.

Nikolaus König’s presentation was really interesting, although I would have liked to hear him go on longer, and perhaps to include a 2014 update on the ideas that he presented.  He was talking about jumping into a magic circle in which you can supsend your disbelief or happily buy into an idea, and accept the borders or rules of play.  His ideas applied to all stories, games and films, so there is much to think about in the subject area.

Dr Simone Gristwood, who is currently the Lansdown Research Curator at Middlesex University working with the archive of computer art pioneer John Lansdown. Simone showed us Flexipede by Tony Pritchett 1962, it was the first UK computer generated animated film, made on the mainframe at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment in Didcott. She’s working hard to bring Lansdown’s archive to public prominence, and it’s a really worthwhile project.

I still have a bit more to write later, but for now I’m going to stop, it’s my favourite programme on telly.

Look at the view from the Sofiehotel, with it’s Pipilotti Rist ceiling, thank you to Waltraud for the high rise adventure!

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