The Geopolitics of Animation
Summary / Presentation
The MARCO of Vigo hosts in its ground floor galleries the exhibition THE GEOPOLITICS OF ANIMATION, a co-production with the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo curated by Juan Antonio Álvarez Reyes. Tracing the history of artistic animation, it is perhaps the most ambitious display to date in Spain, with over sixty works based on the moving image. Spanning classic pieces from the 1920s to more recent creations drawn from a diversity of geographical backgrounds, all the resources and techniques pertaining to animated film are given representation. An analysis of the genre traces its evolution from its earliest moments, revealing how it has become a visual language of maximum actuality and a powerful vehicle for the transmission of cultural models and values.
Curated by Juan Antonio Álvarez Reyes, the exhibition GEOPOLITICS OF ANIMATION explores the genre of artistic animation along two paths: the historical, represented with works by classic creators who were significant in regard of the idea behind the title and the themes touched upon in the exhibition, and the broadly geographical, which showcases contemporary creativity. Artists from all over the world are represented, as is their wide use of techniques borrowed from animated film -that is, "image to image" cinematography- such as cartoon, plasticine, and computer-assisted digital animation.
However innocent they may seem at first, especially in the context of children's animated film, these works carry implicit messages regarding the values and morals of their host cultures and the relationships these have with other, foreign cultures. Indeed, one of the aims of the exhibition, which plays on the juxtaposition of particular works, is to provide viewers with information so that they may better understand and incorporate other, manifestly different, worlds.
From its inception, animation, while linked to the entertainment industry, has always been associated with the spreading of ideologies and systems of global understanding. The animated stories presented in this exhibition are powerful indicators of the transformations undergone by cultural forms that were once strictly preceptive into the exchange currency of artistic expression they are today; of the perversion of their earlier forms into contemporary representations. These works reveal how, despite the pervasiveness of today's cultural impositions, certain sensibilities succeed in defying the prevailing ideologies and mythologies and tap into areas of knowledge that lie beyond the grasp of centralising controls, where they can use -and perhaps recover- a technique as ancient and free as that of animation.
As a time reference, GEOPOLITICS OF ANIMATION offers a selection of classical creators which includes Segundo de Chomón, Lotte Reiniger, Kenzo Masaoka and Norman McLaren. Their works are proof of animated film's historical awareness, an artistic manifestation that has served as much to encourage individual critical reflection as to spread all types of ideological propaganda. Perhaps its connection, from the start, with what are considered as childhood's two principal fountains of wealth -secrets and silence- explains in part its growing success.
In addition to these and other classic artists, the exhibition also showcases works by contemporary creators as disparate as Narda Alvarado, Kolkoz and Gili Dolev, in which visitors can, in one same space, journey among worlds while taking in the proposals of Zhou Xiaohu, who offers a cynical vision of the media icons made in USA, and Kara Walker, whose silhouettes speak of the tragic racial conflicts lived in America's deep south. William Kentridge's piece are vital in understanding the history of a land; those of Nils Norman and Tintin Wulia carry a subtle criticism of unchecked urban development; Takashi Ishida and Naoyuki Tsuji are simply poetic; Extramücadele and Nathalie Djurberg politically engaged; not to mention other animated pieces that reinterpret the traditional narratives of their creators' birthplaces. Thus, the work of Tomoko Konoike offers us a glimpse of the Japanese mindframe, and that of Robin Rhode recalls the African oral narrative tradition.
Many are the themes touched upon: post-colonial societies, migratory flows, criticism of abusive policies, the ecological crisis, the consequences of war, the consumerist fever, but also family breakdown, existential angst in large, modern-day cities, the sense of the absurd and emptiness, the loss of privacy and historical memory, the emergence of new transnational heroes, angels or demons in the third millennium.
Cinema records real images in continuous movement, but in animation there is no real movement to record; images are produced one by one, so that when they are projected they give the illusion of movement. This peculiarity is what allows the creator to invent highly original narratives, to create fictional worlds in which anything is possible, where the laws of physics or metaphysics can be transgressed. The advances in technology, photography, film, and video and the sophistication of the digital image have rendered animated representations increasingly complex. All this, coupled with the evolution of techniques, the transformation of the economy and the disarticulation of absolute cultural orders, means that the principle value of this exhibition lies in its ability to reveal the great theatre of today's world.
Segundo de Chomón
Sebastián Díaz Morales
Ivan Ivanov - Vano
Mohamadou Ndoye Douts
Andreas Schulenburg & Jonas Fromm
Sheila M. Sofian
Warner Brothers / Bob Clampett
Amelie von Wulffen
Young - Hae Chang - Heavy Industries
"The conceptual roots of the exhibition The Geopolitics of Animation can be found in the crisis of Occidentalism and the emergence of border thinking. Walter D. Mignolo's assertion, ‘I am where I think', establishes a geopolitics of knowledge that can be applied to the construction of a critical outlook on the world-system passed down by modernity, as well as to the colonial experience. As Edward W. Said once observed, ‘The connection between imperial politics and culture is astonishingly direct.' Consequently animation, as a modern visual language involved in constructing the Western imaginary via one of its most powerful entertainment industries, but which has also quickly spread and expanded -like film- into other geocultures, can serve as a territory upon which to map out that modern-day global coloniality. In fact, this is precisely what this exhibition hopes to achieve by means of a specific visual exhibition discourse in which the works are connected by a union or dialogue between them, breaking with the time-space continuum to make a cartographic and narrative attempt at visualising some of the chapters of ‘the political constitution of the present,' to borrow the expression used by Michael Hardt and Toni Negri as the title for the first part of their essay Empire. In this way, and through a specific medium, the exhibit analyses the world order and biopolitical production in which animation throughout the 20th century and today has played and still plays a concrete role related to the spread of ideological models and of a specific system of global understanding. To this end, it is important to examine how certain animation aesthetics, forms and models have travelled across space and/or time at the same times as ideologies have done so, and how both form and content have taken on new meanings and given rise to other visual narrations.
The second theoretical foundation of the exhibition can be traced to Fredric Jameson and his ‘geopolitical aesthetic' in connection with his research into ‘cinema and space in the world system.' Thus, the concept of ‘cognitive mapping' is the conceptual axis of the exhibition insofar as it is also the paradigm of the political subconscious. This mapping would therefore be used to try to construct a view of the interconnections between the psychic and the social, the spatial and the political. Animation possesses certain qualities that make it a particularly suitable medium for achieving this purpose, particularly because of the production of affects with which it works in both the basis of its medial construction and its system of emotional distribution, allowing us to visualise these interconnections between culture, geography and politics, as well as a two-way road that runs with the psychic pressure that the individual exerts upon the collective and with the ideological constructions that shape personal narratives.
Devoted to animation as well as in one sense to its history, though taking as a starting point its immensely rich present and emphasising it, this exhibition adopts an experimental and critical perspective in order to offer a broad panorama -or abridged mapamundi- of the genre. As with the history of film, which developed other cinematographies different to those of the West, historically, too, animation has enjoyed various geographical strong points which have not always coincided with those of film. The ‘geopolitics of animation' presented here aspire to combine and enhance these aspects, fundamentally from within the field of contemporary artistic animation."
Juan Antonio Álvarez Reyes
Juan Antonio Álvarez Reyes
Juan Antonio Álvarez Reyes is an art critic and exhibition curator. He was chief curator of the Sala Montcada of the Fundación "La Caixa" (1997-98), and, from 2002 to 2004, directed the Centro de Arte Contemporáneo Párraga (Murcia, Spain). Some of his most outstanding exhibitions are: La casa, su idea (Comunidad de Madrid, 1996), El yo diverso (Fundación La Caixa, Barcelona, 1997), Ciudades sin nombre (Comunidad de Madrid, 1998), Escenarios (Injuve, Madrid, 2000), Mas vivas muertas que nunca (MEIAC, Badajoz, 2002), Monocanal (Museo Reina Sofía, CGAC, Centre d'Art Santa Mónica, Koldo Mitxelena, Museo Patio Herreriano, CajAstur, Casa Díaz Cassou and Centro José Guerrero, 2003), Esfuerzo (Koldo Mitxelena Kulturunea, 2004), Sesiones Animadas (CAAM, Las Palmas, and Museo Reina Sofía, Madrid, 2005), Actions Tour (Nit Niu, Majorca, 2005), Historias animadas (Caixaforum, Barcelona, Sala Rekalde, Bilbao and Le Fresnoy, Lille, 2006), En un mundo mágico (Nit Niu, Majorca, 2006), Fantasmagoría (Fundación ICO, Madrid, 2007), Madrid Abierto 07 (Interventions in the public space, Madrid, 2007), and Los Límites del Crecimiento (Sala Alcalá 31, Comunidad de Madrid, 2007). He is currently preparing Try again, for La Casa Encendida, Madrid and Koldo Mitxelena, San Sebastián.
As an art critic, he writes regularly for the ABCD (the ABC newspaper's cultural magazine) and the review Artecontexto. From 1995 to 1997 he worked for Diario 16 and from 1997-2002 directed El Periódico del Arte, while serving as a correspondent for The Art Newspaper, Le Journal des Arts and Il Giornalle dell'Arte, and collaborating with numerous national and international specialist publications.