Pulsing chiaroscuro, palpable decay

Grisha Dolgopolov on Anemone and the second wave of digital image-making

Anemone is a collection of 14 Australian digital video and animation shorts curated by Imago and screened at FTI. These are no TropFest gag flicks but an interconnected series of experimental works that seek to explore the possibilities of a variety of mediums under digital transformation. The digital diversion is combined with traditional methods of video art, 3D animation, music clips and AV-essayism. The alterations enhance the originals while preserving their mutation. The works have a pervasive texture of pulsing chiaroscuro, fragmentation, darkness and decay. This texturedness is the most striking common element. Unlike much recent digital art that can alienate with its sweeping surfaces and impossibly lush wallpapering, these works are gritty, itchy and touchable. This is the “second wave” of digital imagemaking that has tilled the surface and re-sown the loam. Video becomes a claggy scrapbook of memories. A glimpse of ideas, bits, bytes and hints. Recycled carbon from the photocopy bin. The flattened dynamic range, while annoying with some dull soundscapes, allows for a collation of consciousness and a stream of materiality in the visual text. Hence the title, Anemone—the windflower of the sea gathers sustenance from the currents that ebb over its domain.

The curators, Cam Merton and Rick Mason, compare the anemone with modern imagemakers who are inundated in a sea of information, but who pick and choose from this galaxy of possibilities in an attempt to produce something new before relaunching it back into the miasma. These works distinguish themselves by virulent combinations of the trauma of things past. Difference is transmuted into convergence. But unlike other new media shows with their radiant future gleam, the Anemone works are generally bleak and mystical, driven by fragmentation and a palpable sense decay. Vikki Wilson’s darkly mesmeric March-Riever draws on Beowulf to forage in the shadows of monsters on the boundaries of time. She rebuilds the narrative through shreds and scurrying repetitions. Likewise, Kim McGlynn’s Eulogy, Justine Cooper’s Rapt and Vicky Smith’s Rash are, in different modes, corporeal shards and spirals that interrogate the body’s memory and offer distorted, subjective and painful reconstructions. Out of the disturbed pixilation of white noise come recognisable images and personalised ghosts.

In Dominic Redfern’s Please Wait Here we disappear into the private pixels of daytime TV. The ascent into the void of drifting colours is so laconic, so opposed to video’s temporal thrust that the screen transforms into a cozy fireplace before tilting back into the beguiling pulse of daytime channel surfing. As the image speed increases, movement decreases to patchwork quiescence in the alluring Rhythmus 99, Sam Landel’s cityscape animation essay, while in Marcus Canning’s Sumpbapschism movement flows and washes through the surveillance static. Paul Capon’s Digital Decay degrades through feed-back reprocessing the once recognisable body in a box. The junkyard appropriations of the remote surveillance probe draw on the clutter of private eye traces in the uncanny animation world of Peter Circuitt’s Post. Drome toys with genetic transmogrification in the witty LUMPs: Museum of Failures while George Stajsic in Weary Sons of Freud conjures a sequence of sexually charged images hiding within the fur of teddies and bears. The sharp Cheap Blonde by Janet Merewether is a cascading word rearrangement of a famous filmmaker’s twelve poignant words, “cinema is the history of men filming women” against a disquietingly lurid Norsca-blonde foreground. Against this video grain slithers Andree Greenwell’s sumptuous Medusahead, Confessions of a Decapitated Soprano, a beautiful opera clip with striking 3D animation and a potent sound text.

Anemone is a challenging experience. It is a vigorous appropriation of past images fertilised by the prevailing winds.

Anemone, premiere screening, Film and Television Institute, Fremantle, July 9.

RealTime issue #33 Oct-Nov 1999 pg. 24

© Grisha Dolgopolov; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 October 1999
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