Tuesday, October 13, 2009
In his essay ‘Animation as Baroque: Fleischer Morphs Harlem; Tangos to Crocodiles’ (in ‘The Vatican to Vegas: A History of Soecial Effects’, and also part of the excellent reader ‘The Sharpest Point Animation at the End of Cinema’, edited by Chris Gehman and Steve Reinke) Norman M. Klein argues that one the governing concepts of animation is “the morph,” the theatrical rupture of the stable image in the transformation of a thing into something else. For Klein, it is a space of entropy within a cartoon itself-an actual “lapse” of scribbles between two more fixed images. The “morph” is a metaphoric, frequently haunted “hesitation” that embodies all our anxieties about the world around us, and it is shorthand for the entire medium’s proclivity for constant metamorphosis.
“the Morph is solid and absent at the same time. It is like a scar that narrates, a braile of absences. The viewer can practically run a finger across the ridge of hesitation, very haptic, a touch of all-at-once. the drawings leave a elegant wound as they dissolve to make way for motion.
the Morph is also a history of production itself, like many special-effects films: a history of the drawing in decay or erasure; or even of the team who made the effects. In thirties animation, the original drawing was cleaned up, then traced by inkers on to another medium: inked and painted on a cel. In the nineties, it is scanned digitally, then paint-boxed, a morph of production itself, with far fewer strings, often fewer hesitations.
Also, the morph should suggest an uneasy alliance inside the character’s body and inside the atmospheres at the same time. Like Dr. Jekyll nervously grabbing his throat, both the space and the body should look as if they might revert back, as if the air is dangerous. The morph is supposed to look unstable, in hesitation, on a journey into antimatter, where many atmospheres meet”.
Here are some wonderful examples of Morphing in the “Electronic Baroque” era
Robert Arnold: ‘The Morphology of Desire’ (1998)
‘The Morphology of Desire’ is an ongoing project which explores the commodity representation of gender and desire in popular culture, and the relationship between the still image and illusion of cinematic motion, using digital morphing to animate romance novel cover illustrations as a never-ending dance of unrealized desire. Robert Arnold: “My work explores language as object and communication by sampling text from everyday sources like movie trailers, book covers and advertising slogans, and remixing it to create ‘poems’ which address the original material in some way, often with humorous results. I work with video, digital processes and drawing.”
Ronnie Cramer, ‘Pillow Girl’ (2006)
‘Pillow Girl’ was originally a sound-art work. Artist/musician/filmmaker Ronnie Cramer scanned the covers and inside pages of a number of lurid, vintage paperbacks and magazines, then ran the collected image and text data through a variety of synthesizers. The resulting sound files were then processed and remixed into a collection of electronic soundscapes. The visual portion of the piece makes use of the covers themselves, with the illustrated figures coming to life and morphing into one another during the course of the presentation (each cover is visible in its original state for only 1/30th of a second). In addition to being a colorful and impressive visual display, the images presented in ‘Pillow Girl’ are a vivid and fascinating historical encapsulation of how women have been depicted in popular culture.