RESIDENCY AT THE UCA ANIMATION ARCHIVE – DAY 5

Sadly, all good things must come to an end.  This is the last of my daily posts from my Creative Residency at UCA Farnham, and marks the end of a fantastic week.  My one regret is that I’m not able to stay here longer, but all is not lost – Rebekah and I are already talking about ways in which we can continue to collaborate in the future. Today I’ve been trying to wrap up the last few things that I had on my list to do this week.  This morning I wrote a transcript for a ten minute screencast on Wunderkammern and collecting, which I then recorded this afternoon.  The end product should be on the UCA archive blog at some point; it’s a highly condensed version of some of the issues I talked with students about on Monday and Wednesday, and will hopefully get students thinking about their own motivations for collecting.  Asides from that, I’ve been finishing off my blog posts and cataloguing, and saying my goodbyes.  How sad.

This week has absolutely FLOWN by.  As I didn’t have the time in the end to record more screencasts, I’ve decided to complete another one or two this weekend (I’ve got lots of ideas and need to commit some to mp4 before they vanish!)  Rebekah’s keen for me to come back up at some point in the not-too-distant-future, too, so hopefully there’ll be an opportunity for me to help her with a bit more cataloguing then as well.  It’s also great to know that I can come back here in the future to conduct my own research.  There are already a few things I’ve earmarked (Fatty Doggy, don’t worry – you’re first on the list).

I’ve had a wonderful time here in the archive this week – indeed, here at UCA.  Rebekah is a fantastic, passionate archivist, and I’ve been able to learn a lot from her.  We’ve also had heaps of fun working together – I’ve been totally spoilt with cake and laughter – and I’m sure we definitely going to keep in close contact with one another going forwards.  So, thanks so much for having me, Rebekah.

I’ve been made to feel so welcome by every single person that I’ve been introduced to, and I feel as though I’ve learnt and achieved so much over the course of this one week (why can’t every week be this productive, eh?)  So, yeah, it’s definitely been a Good Thing to Get Involved With and I feel very lucky indeed.

And with that, I think I’ll be off for my farewell drink and my last goodbyes.

Bye UCA, bye lovely archive, and hope to see you soon!

Sonia

Rebekah and I taking a 'shelfie'.  Good times!

Rebekah and I taking a ‘shelfie’. Good times!

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RESIDENCY AT THE UCA ANIMATION ARCHIVE – DAY 4

Today’s been a slightly more leisurely day, with opportunities to talk one-on-one with lots of other people here at UCA.  This morning I’d arranged a long tutorial with an animation undergraduate student who is very interested in Švankmajer and Surrealism. It’s always so rewarding to be able to talk to students about shared interests, and as there is so much material on Švankmajer that is obscure or hard to find, I was able to pass a fair bit of information on.

As I was holding the tutorial in a reading room in the library, I also had the privilege of meeting the lovely teams at the Digitisation Unit, the Centre for Digitisation Scholarship and the library front desk.  I’m still extremely envious of the A0 flatbed scanner in the Digitisation Unit.  My own methods of documenting some of the rare books I have at home are embarrassing, to say the least (an A4 scanner and an odd home-made contraption to hold fragile materials in a position that doesn’t damage their spines as they are being copied, followed by swaddling in mountains of acid-free tissue paper).

Rebekah then ran another really useful session on archiving with another group of MA students in the archive.  It was great to be able to get material out of boxes to show them; it’s always so much more vivid and tactile up close (particularly when it comes to cels).

This afternoon we had a few people pop into the archive with requests, including a couple of members of staff.  Hearing about the ways in which archival material is being incorporated into teaching here at Farnham provided a lot of food for thought…and also got me thinking more about the ways in which I’ve been incorporating archival material into my PhD research.  Over the course of my studies, it’s become increasingly important to me that I delve into ephemera and archival material produced by the Quay brothers and Jan Švankmajer.  I say ‘ephemera and archival material’, but I find those distinctions can be rather problematic when researching the artists.  Švankmajer and the Quays are ardent collectors themselves, with their collections (and the psychology of collecting) providing inspiration and even a methodology during the creative process.  Moreover, the Quays’ MoMA NY retrospective (for example) saw scripts, tapes, and even beer mats exhibited alongside more ‘conventional’ works, and some of the former were incredibly creative (and useful) in their own right.  As a researcher, it seems appropriate – at times, absolutely necessary – that I approach their work in an interdisciplinary, holistic (and painstakingly thorough!) manner.  This is not to say that distinctions between high and low culture aren’t important to a certain extent; if anything, my practice as a researcher has cast them into even sharper relief, even if I then contest them.  I’ve also realised that the approach is always potentially at risk of morphing into a contentious ‘anything and everything goes’, so I’m having to guard against conflations and misplaced emphases at every turn!  A fraught, but ultimately rewarding, process.

In short: archives are worthwhile, and worth a visit.  And, of course, that’s what brought me here in the first place…

RESIDENCY AT THE UCA ANIMATION ARCHIVE – DAY 3

Can I pretend that today is Wednesday, please?  If it were, then this post wouldn’t be a day late…and I’ve still have two-and-a-bit days left of Lovely Archive Time to go…

Sigh.  Wordpress says ‘no’, and apparently is going to publish today’s date at the top of this post just to spite me.  Wordpress and I are not on fantastic terms right now after it sent a large chunk of my previous post to the Great Recycle Bin in the sky.

So, yesterday’s news, today (You Heard it Here First).

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The very first known pictorial representation of a Wunderkammer, belonging to Ferrante Imperato (published in 1599)

Wednesday was busy, busy, too.  I spent both the morning and the afternoon working with Film and Media MA students (Journalism, Animation, Documentary Filmmaking, Filmmaking, Photography…the list goes on!)  I really enjoyed teaching a group of creative individuals that spanned such a wide variety of disciplines, as everyone could bring something different to group discussions.

I began the morning’s session with a second talk about Wunderkammern (Cabinets of Curiosity).  I find the history of Wunderkammern fascinating (a history that of course interlinked with Rudolfine Mannerism, Alchemy, the expansion of Renaissance Trade routes, major shifts in the production and classification of knowledge, the carnivalesque…and lots of other interesting areas), and so many of the objects that were originally housed in collections of the 16th and 17th centuries still seem contemporary.  Take Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s Vertumnus, which was painted in 1590-91 for Rudolf II – Holy Roman Emperor and curiosity collector extraordinaire:

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Incredible.

I then moved sideways from Wunderkammern (and, specifically, Rudolfine Prague), to Jan Švankmajer, an artist who has created his own extensive Wunderkammer in his house at Horni Stankov (inspired by Rudolf II), as well as numerous pieces that refer directly to alchemy and the transmutation of base matter.

The homunculus in the alchemist's laboratory.  Still from Faust, 1994

The homunculus in the alchemist’s laboratory. Film still from Faust, 1994

As a group we then began to examine the psychology of collecting, and collecting as methodology (both within the work of artists like Švankmajer, and in relation to new media).  So many interesting anecdotes and points of discussion emerged!  The afternoon also included great presentations by Yuwei (on digital culture and collecting), and by Rebekah Taylor (on creative archiving methods, cataloguing, and collecting).

Last, but not least, we finished the day by introducing students to the lovely animation archive itself.  It sounded though it might prove very useful to some students further down the line, so watch this space!

In the evening I screened Švankmajer’s latest feature film, Surviving Life (Theory and Practice) (2010) in The Glasshouse, at the student union.  It was great to see familiar faces from both my BA and MA classes, and was also a bit of a treat to be able to sit in a comfy, worn tub chair to watch the film again on the big screen.

Oh, to have my own home cinema…

RESIDENCY AT THE UCA ANIMATION ARCHIVE – DAY 2

Another busy (busy!) day at the archive!  Today was workshop-packed.  This morning I ran a workshop on Surrealist Games for the undergraduate creative writing students here at UCA (creative writing and journalism + creative writing and media students) between 10.30am-1pm, then there was a quick break for lunch, and in the afternoon I introduced the same group to a range of experimental writing techniques in a session from 2pm until 4pm.  The students were fantastic; given that it was a long day, they maintained their energy and enthusiasm throughout, and produced some really interesting work.  They’re a talented bunch, and I look forward to hearing about what they get up to for the rest of the year. From my point of view it was also great to see some of the games being played in a number of groups of students simultaneously…

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                                      Students thinking of their next line for a variation of Exquisite Corpse

…there’s so much more to say today (and so little time), so I think I’m going to have to expand this post tomorrow (hopefully by then I should have a few photos to put up today, too).  In short, though, it’s been a totally exhilarating day, and I can’t help but think that the minute I get back to the hotel I’ll sit down to continue writing and experimenting with text…

Raymond Queneau, Cent Mille Milliards de Poèmes [continued] …I wish that the image above was of a work of mine (not least because then I’d be Francophonic, presumably), but sadly not – it’s the wonderful, die-cut 1961 publication of Raymond Queneau’s Cent Mille Milliards de Poèmes [One Hundred Thousand Million Poems].  I brought my copy in to show students this afternoon as we were doing a whole range of writing exercises that were inspired by similar ‘combinatory’ systems.  Every line of the ten sonnets in Cent Mille Milliards de Poèmes can be moved individually, allowing the reader to choose to expose any of the lines underneath it.  By selecting lines in this way, the reader ‘constructs’ one iteration of all of the possible combinations of lines.  And yet, in that one poem – indeed, in any one of the sonnets – there are 99,999,999,999,999 potential other sonnets.  For, in total, the fourteen lines can indeed be combined in 10^14 (one hundred thousand million) different ways. This concept of ‘potential literature’ is very much at the heart of Oulipians’ creative (and, moreover, scientific) endeavours.  It’s a tricky one to explain, sometimes….so thanks are due to my lovely die-cut book for helping me out (Tree of Codes and The Unfortunates, both of whom were in attendance, should also get a special mention)!   Many of the students responded really well to the constraints and systems that the games and exercises we played placed upon them as they wrote, and even described them as a form of liberation; others felt that they felt that they placed too much pressure on writing and the writer.  I’d anticipated a divide of this sort, so it was very interesting to see things pan out.  Above all, though, I was delighted with the willingness of the students to enthusiastically give things a go. The surrealist games ‘won’ the day (just), as many students like the fact that they were very playful and a imaginative.  Quarrel in a Compass (a game that was originally placed by some of the Czech-Slovak surrealist group and their Swiss peers in 1981) was particularly popular.  To the best of my knowledge, it has only ever been played twice before, so it was lovely to bring it back to life. I’d pre-prepared all kinds of materials for the games in order to help them run smoothly, which in itself was an interesting design challenge.  Surrealist toolkits available, roll up!  roll up! (contents may vary significantly from those undescribed…)

Residency at the UCA Animation Archive – Day 1

Hello all!  My name’s Sonia Friel and I’m a researcher based at Norwich University of the Arts. For the whole of this week, I’m going to be based in the Animation Archive at UCA, working with Rebekah Taylor.  Each day I’m running workshops from the Animation Archives on topics that are close to my heart, and closely related to the PhD I’m working towards, which focuses on the artists and animators Jan Švankmajer and the Quay brothers (my areas of interest are art history – especially international Surrealism – and animation).  For more information, see here, and for a timetable, please see here (although please note that the film screening, of Švankmajer’s latest film Surviving Life (Theory and Practice) (2010) is now going to take place on Wednesday at 6pm, in the Glasshouse.  It’s free, and all are welcome).

Each day I’m going to writing a short blog post to document what I’ve been working on.  Asides from running workshops, my main responsibilities in the archive this week include cataloguing material, recording screencasts and tutorials, preparing lesson plan packs, connecting materials to other resources (books, television programmes etc), and tagging.

So, I think that’s the basic intro done…on to my experience of the archive today!

Arriving at the archive I was immediately struck by how welcoming and quiet it is – the perfect space for students to get on with work uninterrupted.  I was joined today by Kerrie, an assistant curator at the Booth Museum in Brighton, so the morning started with Rebekah introducing Kerrie and I to the archive materials.  The majority of the archive is housed in a room at the back of the archive – there are 420 boxes in total, and numerous rolls of films and other miscellaneous objects.  A treasure trove for a researcher interested in animation and art history, like myself.

Kerrie and I couldn’t wait to get stuck in, so Rebekah took us through the cataloguing procedure.  For today, Kerrie will be cataloguing materials for a Bassett’s Jelly Baby advertising campaign, while I’ll be cataloguing materials from a Teletext advertising campaign involving ‘Horace the Hi-Tech Dog’.  Horace is lovely.  I’ve earmarked a box entitled ‘Fatty Doggy’ to work with next.

At 1pm the first of my workshop students began to arrive.  This afternoon’s workshop was themed around Wunderkammern (Cabinets of Curiosity).  I started off by introducing the students to the history of the Wunderkammer (including a few rather macabre images), and from there we moved on to a broader discussion around collecting: why people collect/what the difference between an archive and collection is/the psychology of collecting etc.  It was fascinating to hear students talk about their own collections, why they started them, and how they perceived them.  It would seem that in some ways we’re not so dissimilar from 16th-17th century collectors, after all!

Rebekah then briefly introduced us all to ImageBank – a great bit of software that’s used within UCA to catalogue and share images (including student work).

Here are a couple of images (thanks to Lorna for taking them)

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The Wunderkammer Workshop in progress

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Kerrie in her element!

Stolen Glances Exhibition: UCA, Rochester, UK

Stolen Glances
Zandra Rhodes Gallery, UCA Rochester
From 15th September to 18th October, 2014
Opening reception on Thursday 25th September, 5:30-7:30pm
A creative collaboration between Beige magazine, BA Hons Fashion Promotion students and the UCA archive.A provocative fashioned response to the photographic work of KIAD (Kent Institute of Art & Design) lecturer Tessa Boffin, which addressed issues of sexual identity and the representation of the LGBT community in the 1980s and 90s

Stolen Glances comes from the book – Stolen Glances: Lesbian Photography Anthology by Tessa Boffin 1991.

This exhibition is part of a larger initiative to explore LGBT issues within the creative arts.

Work is commencing on a further exhibition/conference for September 2015 in UCA Canterbury, influenced in part by this Stolen Glances exhibition.
cropped-lgbt-representations-header.jpgThe exhibition soundtrack has been composed by Music Technology students from MidKent College inspired by their response to the UCA archive and refashioned images.