By Ruby Samuels
Millennials lie on an indoor astroturf lawn, drinking beer and eating m&m’s beneath gigantic glass orb lights and one glass wall. Every variation of animation imaginable is projected onto a screen in front of them. Hand drawn characters who could almost be Popeye or Betty Boop follow a short animation that uses stop motion characters made out of what appears to be scraps of garbage including soap and wire.
Some movies are political or deeply personal and emotional while others are purely entertaining. Some short movies seem to mimic synesthesia by pairing color and sound around swirling movement in a way that might cause some viewers to confuse one sense for another.
These monthly screenings demonstrate how dynamic and far-reaching the art of animation can be. Beyond the realm of Disney princesses is a world of animation that is sharp, round, soft or all three, colorful, black and white or simply penciled blurs flashing across the screen. The artists sometimes use watercolor, sometimes pencil, sometimes clay, and computer programs that range from 2-D to 3-D to 4-D and virtual reality animation.
The stories attached to these films are also incredibly wide ranging, from poetically intangible vignettes to archetypal hero narratives with happy endings. This combination of creative narrative construction with moving, noise-making visual components often cause animated movies to seem like puzzles that need to be solved. However, like many art forms, animation often gives its viewers abstract clues to a bigger picture by making them feel profoundly through many senses without ever letting them see the whole elephant whose foot they are touching blindfolded.
One short animation shown at the March screening encompasses this idea very well. Feed, by Eri Okazaki, depicts a gigantic creature that seems to fill up the entire white, gray and green world where the story takes place as a pair of children feeds their goat. It begs the viewer to use their brains to take some philosophical answer away from the piece while surrendering to the illogic of it at the same time.
The art of animation has the flexibility to try new varieties of art and narrative style because it brings visual art, music, technology, filmmaking and storytelling together. All of these artistic modes, especially the technology component, are developing rapidly in the art world. With so many developments and new artists in the field, ANNY is constantly involved in innovative projects that bring other creative organizations and individuals on board. For example, there is one project currently under development in collaboration with High Fidelity and Artella to create a virtual reality version of the building where ANNY takes place, 180 Maiden Lane.
Yvonne Grzenkowicz started Animation Nights in 2015 when Little Water Radio gave her and fellow curator Robert Lyons their space behind Fulton Stall Market to screen their inaugural “NY Independents.” By the following year, Little Water Radio hosted them to take part in a residency with the Third Annual Out to See Festival at 192 Front St in the South Street Seaport. Now, Animation Nights of New York is curated and held every month by Yvonne and a team of producers, social media marketers, graphic designers and more. In addition to the q&a that occurs at the end of every animation night with one of the filmmakers, Animation Nights hosts an annual “Best of” festival every September, they have teamed up with the Animation for Adults podcast to record and publish a series of interviews with animators and take part in several panels at art schools and venues in the area.
Organizations like Animation Nights New York are important because they give a voice and a venue for artists to show their work, be inspired by others and gather in one place to appreciate their common craft once a month. The next event is on April 12th at 8 pm at 180 Maiden Lane.