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July 2, 2007

animated installations at PLATFORM

by sven at 3:30 pm

Pika Pika: the lightning doodle project

I confess, when I heard that the PLATFORM animation festival was going to include animated installations, I felt dubious. I imagined it would just be films being projected onto gallery walls, nothing special. Boy, was I in for a surprise! The installation show turned out to be the most mind-blowing aspect of the entire fest!

the March Fourth marching band

Thursday night, as Competition Program 5 was ending, the "voice of god" announced that we should follow the marching band outside to the Walking Tour of Animated Installations. ...And as we streamed out of the Portland Center for the Performing Arts, there it was: the March Fourth marching band, already playing their raucous tunes. A joyous crowd followed the stiltwalkers, drums, and brass for at least 10-15 blocks. What a brilliant way to help lead a crowd from point A to point B!

Ritz & Tochka from Pika Pika

As we arrived at the PNCA (the Pacific Northwest College of Art), Pika Pika started up their performance. What this group does is live animation...

A camera takes a photo of the performers using about a 30 second exposure. The performers draw shapes in the air using multi-colored flashlights. The lights' trails show up as glowing lines on the film. After taking a series of maybe 30 still frames like this, they use a computer to play back the images they've created, thus making an animation.

The animation is very rough, but personally I found it stunning. When a film of Pika Pika's animation showed earlier, during one of the competition programs, the phrase that went through my mind was "paralyzing beauty." It literally took my breath away.

"Copenhagen Cycles" cinetrope - by Eric Dyer

When I went into the PNCA building, the first installation that grabbed me was "Copenhagen Cycles." There were three large spinning disks with paper cut-outs attached to them being filmed by video cameras. The principle is similar to that of a zoetrope -- but the images were actually three-dimensional, and the animation was accomplished by matching the disk's rpm to the camera's fps.

"Copenhagen Cycles" screens

When I discovered the spinning disks, I could only see the animation by looking into the little 2" square viewscreens of the video cameras. I thought this was really cool... Then I walked around the partitioning wall and discovered that the images were actually being projected onto three ten-foot-tall screens! Wow!

"Balance" - by Ondrej Rudavsky

The animation titled "Balance" was being projected on a 2-story-tall wall nearby. It was a fairly static piece... It created the illusion of 38 acrobats standing in a human pyramid. The detail that really made this piece work for me was that the uppermost acrobats appeared to be holding onto the railing of the second story balcony in order to keep their balance. A pretty amusing illusion, I thought.

"Dream of Lucidly Living" - by Miwa Matreyek

"Dream of Lucidly Living" was a performance art piece by Miwa Matreyek, a student from Cal Arts. Animated images were projected onto a flat screen -- both from in front and from behind. Matreyek would sometimes walk behind the screen, and her silhouette would become incorporated in the images. For instance, her shadow seemed to pet an animated cat; and, at another point, a beating heart was projected onto her shadow's chest -- so it was as if we were seeing an X-ray. At other points, she was in front of the screen arranging white boxes, which were transformed into skyscrapers by front-projection.

The music for "Dream of Lucidly Living" was by a band which Matreyek is a part of; she herself was the singer in the recording.

"No Never Alone" - by Gregory Barsamian

The most stunning installation of all was "No Never Alone" by Gregory Barsamian. As you entered a darkened room, you saw before you a living sculpture.

It was a seven-foot-tall spherical cage. In the center of the cage was a life-sized human figure, motionless, covered by a shroud. Around the figure, there were two rings of hands. The upper ring was (I'd guess) 24 pairs of hands, each crumpling and uncrumpling eye charts. A lower ring of 48 hands was opening and closing books which showed pictures of hands clapping. At the top of the cage, carrots swung gently back and fourth.

Everyone who walked into the room was transfixed. It was hypnotic, and you just stood there wondering how this living sculpture could possibly exist...

The trick: The spherical cage was actually rotating at about 15 miles per hour. A strobe light was flashing at the precise rhythm required to make the sets of hands seem to exist in stationary positions. I overheard someone refer to this as a "strobascope." Fantastic!


In all, there were 18 installations in the show. By necessity, of course, I'm only sharing my favorites. I think one more is worth mentioning, though.

During the installation show, there was a car that was driving around the neighborhood. As it was in motion, it was projecting images of a running tiger onto the sides of the buildings it passed -- creating the illusion of a tiger actually running through the neighborhood. Sadly, I never actually got to see this one in person.

posted by sven | July 2, 2007 3:30 PM | categories: exhibits & events, movies