The Object of Animation. Third Sense (interview, Prostor Zlín)

The Object of Animation. Third Sense (interview, Prostor Zlín)Filip Cenek        13.10.2009
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Questions asked by Václav Mílek, director of the House of Arts in Zlín, for the quarter-yearly Prostor Zlín (4/2009).

The exhibition entitled The Object of Animation. Third Sense attempts to present several possible approaches to the medium of animation through ten works by young artists. Approaches aiming at the most fundamental principles of animation which usually do not correspond with the generally perceived role of animation, i.e. being the medium for making TV bedtime stories. The crude materials of the architectural design and the simplicity of the graphic materials accompanying the exhibition may be quite embarrassing for an unsuspecting visitor. Rather than attempt a complicated explanation of a complicated subject I decided to put some questions to Filip Cenek, the co-curator (w. Martin Mazanec and Jiří Havlíček) of the exhibition.

(V.M.) The exhibition shows both the actual animations and the models which were at their birth. Sometimes both alternatives, elsewhere only one of them or their part. The game of omission and addition plays an important role in the concept of the project. Why or because of what was this principle interesting for you when preparing the exhibition? Can it suggest something to the viewer about your approach to animation?

(F.C.) Even as far back as McLaren’s well-known definition animation is considered as the art of working with invisible gaps between the picture frames, about bringing to life, etc., which can be a point of departure for the approach you describe in your question. In general, it is a naturally lived principle, when somebody wants to initiate some action in oneself and others, give some space to the other, get him/her involved in the game. By leaving something out you give the other an opportunity to fill in the missing part with himself (his memory) and to see something rather unexpected (for you and for him) in the resulting image. In this respect the exhibition is not mischievous, the trends are clear: we always see two points which suggest the location of the third point; the anticipated and the provable complement each other (not just thanks to the physically centred text by Laura U. Marks in the accompanying publication or the precisely measured architecture of the exhibition). The individual omissions do not change the thing essentially, rather they accentuate the whole in an interesting way; more accurately: the exhibition as a whole is strongly accentuated by things where, rather than omission, it is the blending of the model with animation and the subsequent disappearance by another means than non displaying that you mentioned.

(V.M.) There are quite a number of animators who could have been represented in an exhibition dedicated to contemporary animation. Is your selection specific in any way? How does it accommodate your ideas within the framework of this exhibition?

(F.C.) Certain limits in the selection are easy to identify. The most visible is the fact that it is a generation of people born at the turn of the 1970s and ‘80s. And the core of the selection is made up of graduates from the Faculty of Fine Arts of Brno University of Technology, where we studied together with Jirka Havlíček (co-curator). Personally, I do not consider it important to go into details about the exhibition typology, as far as the animation approaches are concerned; I don’t think anybody expects that they could be shown in a greater scope within a single exhibition. I am satisfied that none of the works in the exhibition is formally or thematically repeated and that often by a simple change of the context of how a work is displayed we manage to highlight yet another quality. The theme of the exhibition directly coincides with the latest work by Matěj Smetana Instructions, currently exhibited in the Atrium of the Moravian Gallery in Brno, or the on-line project Cheesy Dessert by Pavel Ryška. — To do an exhibition in an open-air glazed space with a floor plan of 23 x 17 metres has its constraints, which we attempted to use to the benefit of the meaning of the show: the daytime journey of the sun around the House of Arts in Zlín illuminated the exhibition itself as an object of animation. The result is a modular arrangement of black boxes (hinting at the local pre-war housing development by Baťa Co), built around a wooden shelf by Petr Strouhal, which is emblematic for the exhibition, and, on the scale of the provided exhibition space, probably the achievable maximum, if we want to give the works their autonomy and a chance to be viewed undisturbed (being out of town we had no idea about the Zlín Philharmonic Orchestra next door having permanent rehearsals which creates an unintended soundtrack including things which were meant to be silent...). From the very beginning we planned to display a maximum of ten works; less being more.

(V.M.) Compared to the other projects presented in the Zlín gallery over the past few years, this exhibition is one of those more difficult to grasp. What do you think may be the cause? Could it be partly attributed to your free application of the term animation?

(F.C.) I don’t think this exhibition is difficult to understand, nor is the readability phenomenon thematized by the exhibition itself. We have already worked purposefully with concealment and omission in another animation exhibition Good News. A Spelling-Book in the Moravian Gallery in Brno in 2005 (see When I now compare the two curated events, I cannot talk about them using identical terms and compared to the Brno exhibition this time we have worked accurately with the term animation. We do not stray for a second from the path “between the object (model) and animation” (which is the working title of the exhibition). — Naturally, I am less speculative today and I like all the things on display individually so much that their installed juxtaposition came to being in our curatorial triangle without disputes; the only real constraint therefore was the willingness of the craftsmen to realize the exhibition’s architecture. Although we had a drawing of our idea of the spatial relationships of the selected works ready before the actual installation, we were not afraid to change their interlinking as we felt necessary a day before the opening so that we would not create redundant doubling and the whole would not seem too chatty. I am really happy about that, my “theme” today is more economy (ecology), rather than the creative potential of unreadability (although I am aware of the interconnection of the terms). The exhibition surroundings is treated in the same vein: a black-and-white publication and its corridor of thoughts. This does not mean I intend to defend the exhibition as visitor-friendly. It may be clear in hindsight that I do not mind when it’s more difficult to understand and not easy, I just wouldn’t like that somebody would take this as being mischievous. Actually, I felt flattered by your characterising of the exhibition at the beginning (especially when removed from the context): simplicity and crudeness.

(V.M.) Is a certain level of exaggeration or provocation essential for an exhibition like this?

(F.C.) It can be deduced from my previous answers that I did not approach the exhibition with a smidgen of provocation or as something requiring an ironic detachment. I honestly and conciliatorily believe in the exhibition and its multi-faceted impact. I suppose that speculative exhibitions look different.

(V.M.) To conclude, could you briefly sum up why this exhibition is important or what is its main contribution to further thoughts on the “object” of animation?

(F.C.) Even with the passage of time, I find valid the text by Laura U. Marks How Electrons Remember, where you can find so many inspirational and uplifting things concerning today’s memory (which determines the future that you are asking about), that when this exhibition is “forgotten”, nothing happens (i.e. it is actually impossible to really forget about it and its meaning; although I cannot guess who will do what with the memory). And also, that from time to time someone will think of using the phrase “object of animation” without the word object in inverted commas.

Installation view: