‘Hourglass’: Critical Reflection

book-00_01_26_23-still004My main influences for this major project have stemmed and evolved from previous assignments and explorations of analogue/traditional media formats. I’ve held artists like Paul Bush and artworks involving rotoscoping like the ‘Loving Vincent’ or ‘A Scanner Darkly’films, that took the concept of something old and something new that could meld together seamlessly.
Over the course of two years, I had begun to develop an appreciation and passion for film strips (shooting and manipulating them) and also rotoscoping animation. There was something intense in relearning a forgotten and irrelevant practice. Why hand draw animation when you can do it on a computer? Why did I continue doing rotoscoping despite wanting to pull my hair out last time I did it? Because, when you see all the hard work, time and effort put into one tiny second of footage, and you made it, somehow it makes the whole ordeal worthwhile.

So for this project, I wanted my main influences to remain the same, the traditional and not-so-traditional, to inform my own exploration of traditional and contemporary media. How could I make a rotoscope more than a rotoscope? I knew I wanted to build on from my previous assignments by this time somehow incorporating a narrative, or underlying purpose that would thread the individual clips together, and what rotoscoping could signify.

Rotoscoping deals with inconsistency, its appeal is in seeing where it fails. This is what I decided to use to connect with memory. Memories are hazy, fickle, and often with details missing, or distorted or jumbled altogether. Our memories are often inconsistent, we don’t remember how everything was, but details, the movement. Just like Rotoscoping. Both are unstable and random, vivid and intense. As I progressed through the stages of iteration, from normal to inverse, to faded, I wished to show the degredation of memories, and how this causes disassociation with ourselves and the world around us. Our memories are what tethers us to the present, past and future.

Before I settled on this memory/dream/time narrative, I had more or less only focused on the movement aspect of rotoscoping. I focused mainly on dance clips that could be traced over as they were rich with movement. I would use effects on Premiere to the clips that looks similar to rotoscoping to see what it looked like. Though I had this notion of memories stuck in my head, I struggled to connect it to dancing, or any narrative with dancing and came to the conclusion it was not executable. As I shot my footage I would use as these ‘memories’ I tried to keep in mind that it still needed movement of some kind to be engaging, but not as the focus of the piece.

I chose to display my work using drafting film paper after some trials and executions on different materials to project onto. Drafting paper had an amazing sharpness to it compared to other materials tested. I chose to project with a QUMI, though had numerous technical difficulties as it could not handle the size of the video files often. Moreso, the lager projectors, though sharper and clearer in image, looked too pixelated in my opinion to work for my artwork. As I set up the exhibition I was mindful of the space around it, I wanted viewers to be able to walk around the paper and see the projection form every angle, with little light spill around the paper. This proved difficult once it came to mounting the projector at the right height and distance, and once another artwork’s curtain interrupted the space and aesthetic of my own work.

The strongest aspects of the projection material I felt were the layering effects I uncovered once I got experimenting. I wanted the sequence to start off with clear and simple memories, then reverse and slowly morph, before disintegrating and fading away. Some very interesting patterns and looks came out of this experimentation that I was quite impressed with. I also was pleasantly surprised with the audio’s final result, which had originally been the music box playing ‘Singing in the Rain’ to the dancing clips, but in my opinion was far too literal and cliched. I decided to try and edit it into more ambient and background tones to compliment rather than try and explain the work. In the end, the slowing down and reversing of the song made it more fitting I feel, and more in tune with memories and the loss of memory.

Additionally, the colouring in the rotoscoping did not come out as how I had intended, and ended up being barely noticeable. It had been my intention for it to be more definitive and showcase one particular colour of each clip, as memories often pinpoint a colour or defining factor to which stimulates our memory. But the colour ended up being little more than texture in some clips after editing and photographing the paper frames.

Another constraint and limitation I found was the hanging paper, an incredibly time consuming and delicate procedure. Once I had gotten all the paper hanging in the correct spot that would catch the light of the projector, it had to be taken down for other works to move in. And once I came back for the final installation, I could not find the magic spot again. Moving slightly forward and lower also proved to offer more limitations, and because of the position of the lights on the ceiling, meant there was a signifcant and noticeable gap in the papers.

However, overall I am pleased with my result and feel I achieved my goal. I wanted to create a rotoscope animation with a narrative, more accurately a purpose, to signify memories and their degradation. The one element I will change for the presentation at Grad Show is possibly having duplicates of the film showing at the same time to work with the disjointed and missing pieces, for a clearer and easier to interpret picture.