Fleeting Visions

Under the heading "Dessiner - Tracer", Le Fresnoy, Studio National des Arts Contemporains, presents an exhibition of animation works. Demonstrating the range of technical evolution in this area, the show centers on the theme of the fleeting vision.

Animating a drawing does not mean simply introducing the visual effect of movement through a succession of images: it means showing the emergence, alteration, or disappearance of a form. The domain of the trace and of evanescence, animation can convey the changes wrought by the passing of time (Qiu Anxiong, Justin Bennett); lend itself to the evocation of subjective visions or mental projections (Robert Breer); or to memory, or rather to the processes of recollection between obliteration and resurgence (Alexander Schellow, Thor Ochsner); or summon up phantasms, dreams, and nightmares (Norman McLaren, William Kentridge, Tabaimo, Jan Kopp).

In traditional animation techniques, the image is brought to life by the hand in gestures of addition and erasure. The digital offers new tools for creating and morphing such images. It facilitates hybridization (Thomas Bayrle, Kelly Richardson, Alexandra Crouwers), allows figures to be dissolved by reducing image resolution (Clint Enns), or to be conjured up by means of LEDs (Jim Campbell). Today, audiences can watch the transformation of a landscape reconstructed in 3D (John Gerrard) in real-time, or it can itself make an image appear and disappear in an interactive installation (Laurent Pernot). Animation is especially prevalent in works designed specifically with the Internet in mind, and artists have intervened on Second Life, and taken their cue from a video game to subvert its ideology (Les Riches Douaniers).

The capacity of animation to convey metamorphosis does not, however, imply that its output has necessarily to deal in the fantastic or the fabulous. When vague figures in the films of our childhood evaporate into fog (Maider Fortuné), artists start addressing the violence of the contemporary world and personal fantasies can become interlarded with an awareness of political change (William Kentridge).

Urban development and the failure of its utopias have become a recurring topic. For a brief instant, the most nondescript cityscape can give rise to the vision of a playful and friendly world (Jan Kopp) or raise the veil on hidden tragedy in the modern metropolis (Tabaimo). Throughout history, the transformations undergone by drawing have echoed those of the city (Justin Bennett), and, with present-day technological means, artists can show us the vestiges of the utopias of yesteryear (John Gerrard).

Fleeting, fugitive images can recall today’s unstable world (Jannick Guillou), the vagaries of ideology, the risks brought about by technological “progress,” with their attendant angst, the fear of losing grip on the world and of watching as what we ourselves have created slips out of our grasp (Hiraki Sawa). Perhaps this marks the dawn of a new humanism: alone, in the midst of a virtual landscape, a man starts dancing (Christian Rizzo & Iuan-Hau Chang); in a half-built (half-ruined?) city, a child plays and we contemplate the beauty of his face (Alexander Schellow).

Marie-Thérèse Champesme