Research 1.2: Observing ‘Cycles’

TASK Watch and compare the animated shorts below. Pay attention to the technique used by each animator as well as the reasons why the cycles are obscured or accentuated. Make notes on the variation of the cycles that are used. Can you identify the different ways that the animations are made? Write this up onto your learning log along with any screenshots or your own drawings to illustrate your point (approximately 350 words).

Cycles can loop, oscillate, or even appear to be stationary. The use of cycles is often motivated by economy because it saves on drawing time. But the type of cycle used can also make up the meaning of your film.

Cycles and loops can make up an entire film (as in the GIF versions of the projects so far) or parts of the film. All the films viewed in Research 1.1 Obesrving ‘Boil‘ had sequential elements that repeated and looped. In Gertie the Dinosaur when Gertie raises her feet, right and left in a little shuffle dance approximately 8 minutes into the film, the same sequence of drawings were used in a loop.

Looped cycles are most commonly employed on particular layers within a frame, such as in artist Katie Dove’s Luna (2013). Sergei Eisenstein described this layered looping within a frame as ‘vertical montage’:
“The simultaneous movement of a number of motifs advances through a succession of sequences, each motif having its own rate of compositional progressions, while being at the same time inseparable from the overall compositional progression as a whole” Sergei Eisenstein, Eisenstein Volume 2: Towards a Theory of Montage (London: BFI Publishing, 1991)

Zbigniew Rybczynski, Tango (1980)

This animation is a montage of numerous short film sequences of one or two characters in the room. Each character/pair of characters is filmed separately (black line and no shawdows) in the room, then cut/masked out and overlaid in multiple cycles for each character in multiple permutations in a separate film of the room itself.. The repetition of cycles for each character is obvious – a tango of life repetitions. The different cycle layers means each cycle is in its own little bubble of separation. The different combinations and permutations of multiple character bubbles are chaotic and often surreal. The only interaction is where the old woman picks up the ball at the end after everyone else has gone, making that a very poignant moment.

Disney, The Skeleton Dance: Silly Symphonies (1929)

Here the animated drawings are done separately and overlaid onto the background. This enables the amount of drawing to be reduced through repeating and flipping/reversing cycles while making them seem different because they gonin different directions on the static background.
The repetitions are obvious because of repetitions in the music – all part of the dance.

Jerzy Kucia, Parada (1986)

A very evocative Polish black and white film animation about Harvest.

  • Uses variations in abstract framing, focus and timing to evoke memories and reflections.Film grain, light and shadow plays evokes the time that has passed. Subtle monochrome colour shifts and selective colouring eg shirts of harvesters as the main things remembered.
  • Dreamlike reflections are produced through eg drawn/overlaid animation of birds.
  • Music and sound effects re-inforce the feelings of dreamy nostalgia, noise or threat.
Jordan Wolson, Con Leche (2009)

Animated cartoon Diet Coke bottles filled up with milk walk alone, in groups or march in formation through video of desolate streets in Detroit Michigan. The frame rotates, wobbles, and flips. Texts from the internet referencing identity, technology, memory and mortality spoken by a commercial voice over actress are interrupted evert few minutes by formal instructions and adjustments telling her to distort her tone, volume, and “sex”.

The background is continuous video of desolate streets shot on location in Detroit. Looped walk cycles of the Coke bottle characters

A commercial voice over actress speaks from texts collected from the internet referencing identity, technology, memory and mortality most of which are personal accounts spoken in first person. Every few minutes Jordan Wolfson interrupts her giving basic formal instructions and adjustments distorting her tone, volume, and “sex”.

Mark Leckey, Flix (2008)

Gorilla Tapes, Death Valley Days: Secret Love (1984):

Peter Millard, Fruit Fruit (2013)
Katie Dove’s Luna, 2013
‘Dumbland’ (2000), David Lynch

Purposely used cycles of animation to represent the breakdown of social structures depicted in his film.
Francis Alÿs, Exodus

Francis Alÿs, ‘Exodus’, a 16-second hand-drawn animation made from over one thousand pencil drawings. #Exodus is another variation on the recurring theme in the artist’s practice of doing and undoing, or doing without doing. Other examples of employing this method are seen in video works, such as Paradox of Praxis 1 (Sometimes Doing Something Leads to Nothing) (1997), in which the artist pushes a block of ice through the streets of Mexico City until it completely melted. The work depicts a woman whose face is averted from the viewer while she braids her mid-length hair. The simple act of doing and undoing is based on what the artist views as a “blind faith in the need for the action to happen.”

Jordan Wolfson

A translucent, animated condom filled with red candy hearts is an animated protagonist in Jordan Wolfson’s marvelous video installation at REDCAT, the New York-based artist’s solo debut in Los Angeles. Projected onto a white screen suspended on the diagonal in a white room carpeted in wall-to-wall white rug, the non-narrative video feels unmoored and adrift in a languorous state of liquid reverie. We soon float along with it.

Owen Land

OWEN LAND was born George Landow in New Haven in 1944 and began making films in high school. He spent many years of study in drawing, painting and sculpture with teachers in a direct line from the French artist Jean Léon Gérôme (1824-1904), who is remembered for his historically accurate scenes of life in ancient Rome. Land’s films of the 1960s and 1970s are widely acclaimed as amongst the most perceptive and important works of the period.