The exhibition explores one of the most fascinating aspects of animation: the opportunity to use motion. For many artists and filmmakers this feature is so attractive that they employ it, like a stroke of magic, to bring life to the drawn line, shape, marionettes, or photographic images. Often the demiurgic imagination underlying such drawing or figurative representation can assume, via motion and music, the bewitching traits of a spell. So it is no happenstance that artists and filmmakers often concentrate on images of the body, frequently evoking such figures as Frankenstein, Golem or robots. Animation involves the artificial generation of a body: giving a soul to something inanimate.
This exhibition features artworks that provide an historical overview of experimental and artistic animation as seen through the image of the body, of its construction and its montage. When based on drawing, animation seems to originate from line, as in the case of Émile Cohl’s pioneering Fantasmagorie (1908) or Ed Emshwiller’s Lifeline (1960); where a white continuous mark winds itself around knots of material mixed with the images of a female body. In other artworks the drawing cedes space to sculpture and to the related myth of Pygmalion. An example can be seen in Darkness Light Darkness (1990) by Jan Svankmejer, where a body uses its own two hands to model itself; or in The Nose (1963) by Alexeieff and Parker, in which a nose separated from its body claims the power of life’s magic spell. Recent developments and over-turnings in this investigation are found in some of Nathalie Djurberg’s art. The Frankenstein tale is explicitly revisited in Len Lye’s film Birth of a Robot (1936) and in the Quay Brothers’ Street of Crocodiles (1986), whereas Diego Perrone’s Totò nudo (2005) shows the famous actor’s iconic image deconstructed and reconstructed like a marionette.
Still other works represent the body as a place of construction, not so much of the individual identity as the social one. This can be seen in the famous L’idée (1932) by Berthold Bartosh but also, in a different way, in William Kentridge’s works, where the pain of the masses leaves traces of black dust on the white pages of history, whereas in Kara Walker’s silhouettes different black bodies equate victims and torturers.
Noa Gur’s White Noise (2012) seems to go beyond this duality through a black imprint of her own face, which is at the same time an effacement of her aspect and social identity. Different social aspects are present in the work by Claudio Cintoli (Più, 1964), in which Pop Art’s aesthetics deconstructs the body’s identity into clothes and advertised products; as in the ironic human phylogenesis of Stan Vanderbeek (After Laughter, 1982).
Lastly dance, the purest expression of beauty in movement, a discipline that allows a full display of the animated body’s magic in the most varied places of thought and imagination. This line of investigation is seen in Léger’s Ballet Mécanique, where machine and body meld into a single rhythm, in Pas de deux by McLaren and in Maya Deren’s The Very Eye of Night (1958) or in the universe of Robin Rhode’s drawings and movements.
The exhibition is documented in an Italian/English catalogue of the same title, published by NERO.
Curated by Lorenzo Giusti and Elena Volpato
Works by Alexandre Alexeieff & Claire Parker, Max Almy, Berthold Bartosh, Claudio Cintoli, Segundo de Chomón, Émile Cohl, Maya Deren, Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg, Ed Emshwiller, George Griffin, Noa Gur, Claus Holtz & Harmut Lerch, William Kentridge, Fernand Léger, Len Lye, Norman McLaren, Diego Perrone, Quay Brothers, Robin Rhode, Jan Švankmajer, Stan Vanderbeek, Kara Walker
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