Welcome to Edge of Frame, a blog devoted to experimental animation.
Experimental animation is hard to define; it encompasses a huge variety of techniques and approaches, and overlaps into many other disciplines. However this is also what makes it so vibrant and interesting. It is an area with a rich history and thriving contemporary practice, but also one that a significant number of people are unfamiliar with. This blog aims to provide a window into the work of a broad range of artists who engage creatively with the processes of animation and its possibilities as an art form.
A Man And His Dog Out For Air by Robert Breer (1957)
The term ‘experimental animation’ itself is somewhat problematic and raises various questions. Nevertheless it is probably the most straightforward and commonly understood label for this work. ‘Experimental’ alludes to process and the unknown, something which seems quite appropriate for a lot of the work I want to cover. To quote the preface to one of the very few books solely devoted to this area, Robert Russett and Cecile Starr’s ‘Experimental Animation, Origins of a New Art’ (1988):
‘They settled on the title Experimental Animation, for want of a better term, as the only one broad and elastic enough to embrace the extraordinary range of cinematic works… Despite the obvious limitations of the word “experimental,” the editors have used it to suggest individual techniques, personal dedication and artistic daring.’
My own interpretation of experimental animation is open and wide-ranging. The writing here will cover artists, festivals and organisations working in the area, from all over the world and from the beginnings of cinema to the present day. The range of approaches and techniques in experimental animation means that it is hard to define it in such terms. Really it is the spirit of the work I am interested in, where artists use animation to pursue their own personal visions, raw expressions, formal experiments and investigations into unknown territory.
These artists often work alone with relatively limited means, undertaking almost every aspect of the process themselves. This relationship to the means of production stands in contrast to that of animation studios, and has more in common with that of a painter. Despite this, experimental animation is more often seen or discussed within the context of the wider field of animation, where commercial work made by studios is the dominant force. The overlap between the experimental and commercial animation worlds is an important one that has existed since the early days of cinema, however the main focus of Edge of Frame is the discussion of animation as an art form, not as an industry.
Division by Johan Rijpma (2012)
I am a practitioner in this area so my writing will probably reflect this. There will also inevitably be a slant towards the work that excites and intrigues me personally. I am particularly interested in the working processes of artists using animation, something I feel is often very important to an understanding of their work. The use of improvisatory techniques, an engagement with chance and a kind of ‘thinking through doing’ are not uncommon in this kind of practice, and ‘experimental’ would seem a wholly appropriate term for this type of approach. However the scope of this blog will remain broad and flexible, so work produced by studios, teams of people, commercially and otherwise will also find its way in.
Experimental animation exists at the intersection of other forms, and so the discussion will overlap into drawing, collage, writing, painting, comics, filmmaking, sound and any number of other disciplines. Most of the pieces will be based around interviews, with reviews and some writing from guest contributors as well. The articles will feature embedded videos where possible, and hopefully some screening events will transpire further down the line.
There are perhaps more people making and watching experimental animation than ever before, thanks to the internet. Despite this there are relatively few organisations, books, websites or festivals solely devoted to this area. Hopefully this blog can act as a resource for other artists, animators and anyone else who is interested, and provide a place for discussion in the comments sections, on our Twitter and Facebook pages and beyond.
Hadley Grass by Zach Iannazzi (2009)