Sunday, March 29, 2020

Vladimir Tarassov - Вперед, время! / Onwards, Time! (1977)

with English subtitles, in two parts

"From the 1970s until 1980s... Tarasov made many films that talked about space through humanity, asking such questions as what it is to be human and how to find a common language between people. The quote “Wake up, cosmonaut!” from his film “The Return” has seen wide use in many different forms. His other film, “Contact”, was so popular in fact that it’s music – Nino Rota’s “Godfather” melody – was used during disco nights in Leningrad in the 1980s: if a young man wanted to court a girl, he whistled that tune, and if she whistled it back, it meant yes.

“Contact” is still Tarasov’s calling card – the “yellow submarine”-esque psychedelic film about a humorous meeting with an extraterrestrial civilisation won many awards in 1979, including one during the XVIII festival of science fiction films in Trieste.

"Tarasov called science fiction his breath of fresh air, thanks to which he has been able to work more freely and boldly than in other genres, and he has called animation the esperanto of humanity. He has also highlighted Estonian animation, such as the works of Rein Raamat and Priit Pärn.

"According to Estonian sci-fi expert Jüri Kallas, Tarasov was one of the most prolific science fiction authors in soviet animation. “To this day his films “Contact” and “The Pass” are broadcast by the biggest Russian TV channels around twice a year. These days Tarasov mainly works as a professor in Russia, but also in Iran and India; in the latter country you could call him the founder of the local animation scene...'” 

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Ed Emshwiller - Carol (1970)

"Off and on, Carol and I spent a few days in the woods filming. We got some images of her, some of trees, leaves, twigs and logs. These I combined with sounds from a thumb piano, which were sometimes modified ..." - Ed Emshwiller

"After serving in World War II, Emshwiller, an academically trained artist with a talent for figurative illustration, settled down to start a family with his wife Carol in Long Island. There’s a clear trajectory from the military drawings he sketched during his time as a lieutenant to the science-fiction novel covers, tense with armed conflict, that became his livelihood (his illustrations won five Hugo Awards). From his unassuming suburban home, Emshwiller pivoted from this illustration work into the pioneering experimental film work that comprises much of “Dream Dance”—complexly layered musings on interpersonal relations, the interconnectedness of the universe, and the form of film itself. Emshwiller’s talent and vision in this medium landed him a position at the computer animation lab at CalArts; he served as dean of the film school there from 1979 to 1990.

"... In a quiet corner of the gallery, Carol (1957) and Certificate of Appreciation to Carol Emshwiller (1975) hang side by side. The former is an oil portrait of Emshwiller’s wife, who looks stately, radiant, and mannishly handsome, even in a dress. In the frame to her right, Emshwiller has inked a certificate to Carol, noting her numerous collaborative roles in and around Emshwiller’s work: as model, actress, editing consultant, photographer, writer, and mother to the couple’s three children. She was a noted science-fiction author in her own right. The tribute to her is an unexpected punctuation mark in this wide-ranging retrospective, a funny and tender moment that is self-aware on multiple levels, acknowledging the difficulties of proper accreditation amid conventions of authorship....

"Throughout Emshwiller’s film and video work, illustrations, paintings, works on paper, and sculptures (painted neckties!), there is a sort of deeply compelling mania, as if he could not possibly record everything he felt compelled to in the mediums available to him and in the timespan of a life. In remarks that followed the opening screening of “Dream Dance,” Emshwiller’s daughter Susan recalled her father’s monomaniacal documentation of their shared everyday life, an object of her teenage frustration. When asked by an audience member what, of his sprawling body of work, Emshwiller was most proud of, Susan replied without hesitation, “Whatever he was working on at that moment.” ' -  Heather Holmes, Art in America

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Yōji Kuri - The Midnight Parasites, 1972

Music by Kaoru Tomita 

"Kuri’s films have bite and he helped lift Japanese animation out of decades of cozy narrative cartoons into a new era of graphic and conceptual experimentation. His films mock and shock, attacking technology, population expansion, monotony of modern society while playfully toiling with the tricky goings-on between guys and gals. Witnessing the surrender of Japan during WW2, the devastation of his country followed by the quick rise of Western inspired materialist culture and rampant consumption, Kuri, like many of his colleagues of the time, questioned the state and direction of his society and world. One of his more experimental, stream of consciousness works is AOS (1964). Working with a vocal composition by Yoko Ono, Kuri takes the avant-garde artist’s assorted screams, moans, licks, and grunts and twisted them into a haunting and surreal series of black and white scenarios often involving discombobulated body parts of frustrated and repressed men and women who exist in cramped, isolated trappings – desperate but unable to connect or touch the other" - Chris Robinson, Animation World


Friday, March 20, 2020

Priit Pärn - Ja teeb trikke (1978)

"The unique characteristic of Estonian auteur animation is considered to be consistency in applying the co-effect of caricature, absurd humour and rationality, and playfulness, individuality, and a multifaceted approach in telling stories. All these traits are present in the works of Eesti Joonisfilm’s permanent authors Priit and Olga Pärn, Ülo Pikkov, Priit Tender and Kaspar Jansis. According to critics, films by Eesti Joonisfilm’s authors treat children like grown-ups and grown-ups like children...  Eesti Joonisfilm achieved international recognition with Rein Raamat’s films Lend (Flight, 1973, art director Aili Vint) and Kütt (The Hunter, 1976, art director Rein Tammik). Raamat’s most momentous films turn out to be Suur Tõll (Tõll the Great, 1980, art director Jüri Arrak) and Põrgu (Hell, 1983, artist Eduard Wiiralt). Priit Pärn is Estonia’s most internationally recognised and awarded filmmaker. Pärn’s films from this period that earned the most awards are Eine murul (Breakfast on the Grass, 1987) and 1895 (1995 together with Janno Põldma)." - Eesti Joonisfilm

"As Estonian animation began to push its own identity and achieve recognition just before independence, Priit Pärn’s films attracted attention with their naïve drawing style and controversy for a perspective on life behind the ‘iron curtain’ that would have been considered dangerously subversive a decade previously. Pärn managed to sidestep both the Disney-style kiddie cuteness previously prescribed by the government controlled Soyuzmultfilm studio and the dull preaching of a lot of his contemporaries’ ‘serious’ political animation. Along with the gritty social commentary, his films are also characterised by bizarre, surreal and ironic humour. Pärn also managed to find a stylistic middle ground between traditional cartoon drawing and raw primitivism, his scratchy style of drawing was confident and original and managed to be both figurative enough to be easily readable while retaining a free, spontaneous nature (by its painstaking nature a quality hard to find in much animation). His complex films were not only a simple criticism against totalitarian communist societies but also seemed to question the flip-side of the coin, a free market extreme where naked competition and materialism can lead to alienation, exploitation and the coarsening of values." - Stephen Cavalier, Skwigly 

"Hotell E" with some Beach House thrown over the top

full length version here at Vimeo

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Nikolai Serebryakov - Poezd Pamyati (Train of Memory), 1975

Based on Pablo Neruda's poems

Voice Actors: Alice Freindlich, Michael Boyarsky.

Directed By Nikolai Serebryakov.

Animated By Lev Ryabinin, Alexander Gorlenko, Irina Sobinova-Kassil, Nikolai Titov, Natalia Dabizha.

Written By Alexei Speshnev.

Music: Gennady Gladkov.

"The Russian film-maker Nikolai Serebryakov was an imaginative and experimental maker of animated films, and one of those who contributed to a groundbreaking collaboration between Russia and the Welsh fourth channel, S4C, for the 1992 series Shakespeare - The Animated Tales.

Evacuated from Leningad during the wartime blockade, Serebryakov graduated in 1952 from the Vera Mukhina Institute of Applied Art in the city, then worked in theatre design and puppet animation before joining the Moscow animation studio Soyuzmultfilm ("Union Animation") in 1960. Set up in 1935 as a rival to Disney, Soyuzmultfilm had tended in the Stalin era to produce well-made, pretty and amusing cartoons for children, using traditional painted cel animation.

However, during the "thaw" of the 1960s, a group of young animators, among them Andrei Khrzhanovsky, Vadim Kurchevsky and Serebryakov, started to explore the wider aesthetic possibilities of the medium, especially in stop-motion (or puppet) animations addressed to a more sophisticated audience. In Serebryakov's 10-minute film Ball of Wool (1968), an old woman meets a sheep in the forest and knits herself warm clothes, a house and furniture out of its coat, before coming up against her own limitations when she tries to remake herself as a beautiful girl. With its striking use of colour and its witty exploration of the medium, Ball of Wool is one of the masterpieces of Russian animated cinema.

Serebryakov started his career as a director by collaborating on three films with Kurchevsky: I Want to be Brave (1963), Little Lazybones (1964) and Neither God nor Devil (1965). This apprenticeship preceded a productive 10-year period which brought international recognition with a prize at the 1967 short film festival in Tours for I'm Waiting for the Bird's Nest.

By this time, he was working chiefly with his wife Alina Speshneva, a designer at the Obraztsov puppet theatre in Moscow. They jointly won a prize at the short film festival in Grenoble in 1976 and the Grand Prix at the animation festival in Tampere in the following year. They also contributed to the design of Elem Klimov's feature film Sport, Sport, Sport (1970), a collage of documentary and archive, live action and fantasy, with a soundtrack by Alfred Schnittke.

After Speshneva's death in an accident in 1984, Serebryakov continued to work and teach at Soyuzmultfilm, winning a Nika (the Russian Oscar) for his film Actor in 1989. As one of Soyuzmultfilm's leading directors, he was commissioned to make two of the films for the Animated Shakespeare, Macbeth for the first series and Othello for the second, both using cel, rather than puppet animation...

In addition to his animated films, Nikolai Serebryakov was a remarkably talented artist and craftsman, painting and designing in many media: landscapes, portraits, icons, sculptures and constructions...."  - Robin Buss, The Independent

Sunday, March 8, 2020

National Center for Experiments in Television - KQED tape #8013

Experimental Project sampler. KQED tape #8013
by  National Center for Experiments in Television (NCET)

Breaking the analogue parameters here a bit here I suspect

Text below purloined from an essay by Steve Seid and Maria Troy:

"The NCET was an artists’ research facility tenuously aligned with San Francisco’s public station, KQED...

"The National Center for Experiments in Television was the first of the so-called TV labs. In its earliest conception, the NCET was really the Experimental TV Project, housed at KQED and funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Rockefeller Foundation. This was 1967. The driving theory behind the Experimental TV Project was to provide equipment access (an absolute rarity in those days) to a cross - disciplinary group of artists who would explore new modes of expression, simultaneously developing alternative visual languages. Under the guidance of director Brice Howard, a groundbreaking body of works was completed that redirected video technology toward unconventional experimentation. Works such as William Stewart Jones’ Graham Tape Delay, Richard Felciano’s Linearity and Joanne Kyger’s Descartes exemplified the preoccupation with performative disciplines and image processing. This culminated in the 90-minute production of ¡Heimskringla!, a videoplay combining the talents of the La Mama Theater, director Tom O’Horgan, and the NCET crew.

In 1969, the Experimental TV Project was renamed the National Center for Experiments in Television, and funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. A new group of resident artists was brought in which included Stephen Beck, Willard Rosenquist, Warner Jepson, William Gwin, Don Hallock and William Roarty. Works such as Beck’s Cosmic Portal, Rosenquist’s Light Forms, Hallock’s TheFather Tapes and Roarty’s Untitled were completed during this period. The need to expand the image processing possibilities in the NCET studio was solved by the designation of two “circuit engineers,” Stephen Beck who built his Direct Video Synthesizer, and Lawrence Templeton who built the “mix” station [Templeton video Mixer]. Another principal concern of the NCET is seen in the Videospace Electronic Notebooks, a series of vaguely didactic programs that contextualized the Center’s philosophy of experimentation.

"A medium is available. A very sophisticated, complex technology which human beings invested is available to us. It is dumb, inarticulate, contains no magic. It is available and manageable and probably stunningly beautiful when managed by graceful people who are bent on acts of expression ... This newer medium is swift in nature. It demands a new kind of perception. It moves like light sparked into life as through a nervous prism. It is another paint, another dance, another music of sound. Another message meant to catch the quick vision of the inner eye."
Brice Howard, Videospace, 1972

The National Center for Experiments in Television’s greatest asset was probably also cause for its demise - the mandate to innovate without end, nor end-product. Unlike other TV labs where the culmination of a residency might lead to programming, the NCET residents had no specific prerequisite. This led to an estrangement with KQED in which the Center abandoned the station and its studio facilities, concentrating now on smaller format technologies. The works from the later period tend to be more painterly and time-based as their video synthesis, feedback, and keying resources expanded.

Dating from 1967 to 1975, the videoworks from the NCET offer an unusual glimpse of some of the earliest efforts to turn television technologies toward other ends. Often this end meant the simple joy of an electronic surface that evolved as so many discrete paintings; at other times, this meant rendering other art forms-poetry, dance, music, painting - as recombinant expressions within what Brice Howard called “videospace.” These tapes also allow us to observe not just the creative output of individuals, but the concerted labors of an institution to rally and promote a new form of television."

Monday, March 2, 2020

Marcell Jankovics - Fehérlófia (1981)

"One of the great psychedelic masterpieces of world animation, Son of the White Mare ("Fehérlófia") is a swirling, color-mad maelstrom of mythic monsters and Scythian heroes, part-Nibelungenlied, part-Yellow Submarine, lit by jagged bolts of lightning and drenched in rivers of blue, red, gold and green. A massive cosmic oak stands at the gates of the Underworld, holding seventy-seven dragons in its roots; to combat these monsters, a dazzling white mare goddess gives birth to three heroes – Treeshaker and his brothers – who embark on an epic journey to save the universe.....

"Son of the White Mare... has previously never been released in US theaters. However, thanks to Metrograph and Arbelos Films, audiences will be able to not only watch ‘White Mare’ but will see the film in a new 4K restoration that was created using the original 35mm camera negative and sound elements by Arbelos in collaboration with the Hungarian Film Archive."

Jane Weaver's new ensemble Fenella's new uncommissioned soundtrack to Fehérlófia, part of the Fire Records's Imagined Scores series 

More Marcell Jankovics

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Ronald Pellegrino - The Space Beyond: Videospace

"In 1971, early in my video studies, I had the good fortune to meet Brice Howard, a TV producer from NYC who hustled some large grants, created, and directed The National Center For Experiments In Television at KQED in San Francisco.  He was philosophically inclined so we had some long conversations about the nature and practice of experimental video, a blooming love of mine.  At the time I was directing the Electronic Arts Studios at Oberlin College so I arranged for Brice to visit the campus for a week to present a series of lecture-demonstrations on experimental video.  Shortly after that visit I got a research grant to run some of my own experiments at the National Center For Experiments In Television mainly to explore video composition matters Brice and I had discussed at length, especially the video space that's unseen, the space that exists beyond the borders of monitors.  Though it may be unseen it's possible to imagine it, to imply it, and to compose it in ways that are suggested by what you see on the monitor as the imagery flies in from all edges of the monitor.  In a nutshell this is piece about objects flying into the screen from the wings.  Once again the sound is generated simultaneously with the imagery by a single algorithm, the focus of the composition." - Ronald Pellegrino