|Photograph by David Strick on the set of the film Coraline, directed by Henry Selick|
There is no avoiding the computer in the 21st century. In fact, I am using a computer right now, and so are you. The computer has become a part of our lives almost as its own species that we interact with and co-exist with daily as a source of entertainment, communication, information, etc. As a result, a beautiful combination has emerged, the combining of art and technology. The computer as an artist’s tool has taken countless forms. It has even gone as far as becoming the artist’s only tool which has birthed the debate as to whether or not purely digital art is in fact true art based on the absence of the artist’s hand. But there exists something that requires both the use of technology and the artist’s physical skill, stop-motion animation.
Stop-motion is an animation technique that allows you to physically manipulate objects and various art mediums and make them appear as if they were moving on their own. It involves a terribly tedious process of arranging a still frame, photographing it, making very slight changes, photographing again, and so on. The images are then compiled into a slide-show that is shown at a very high speed and commonly accompanied by background music and/or sound clips. The result is comparable to the effect of a flip book, you get lifeless objects and images in lively motion.
This technique has most popularly been used in making motion pictures. As far back as the early 1900’s, film makers have used stop-motion to show objects moving as if by magic. In today’s culture, stop-motion still remains most popular in film, which in itself is it’s own art form. Movies and television shows such as Wallace and Gromit, South Park, Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline, and Fantastic Mr. Fox are among the most recognized but the list continues on. However, recently this technique has leaked its way into the fine art world.
|Tim Burton with scultptures from Nightmare Before Christmas, 1993|
The MoMA in New York City did an exhibit featuring the art of the most famous stop-motion filmmaker, Tim Burton, in 2010. His body of work includes sketches, paintings, sculptures, entire models of cities, and of course the films themselves. The exposure of these “behind the scenes” elements highlights the use of fine art mediums as parts of the process to make the final digitalized product.
|Still from Tara Ahmadi's stop-motion animation Momentum Spotlight, 2010|
A favorite contemporary artist of mine, Tara Najd Ahmadi, has an entire body work dedicated to stop-motion. In an article in Blue Canvas magazine, Ahmadi quotes “I use stop-motion animation because it stands right on the border of fantasy and reality.” The movie theatre is the “art gallery” of stop-motion film, but soon enough the art galleries will become theatres themselves.
This form of creative expression allows for a multitude of possibilities. There is an endless list of media and common artistic practices that could be incorporated such as clay, metals, paper, painting, drawing, found objects, cats, human beings, photographs, fibers, and so on. And while this art might be popping up in fine art galleries, the best place to find an abundance of stop-motion art is on YouTube.
|Nick Park molding his clay characters for the Wallace and Gromit movies|
- Keller McConnell