EXPERIMENTAL ANIMATION from THE CALIFORNIA
INSTITUTE OF THE ARTS
By Maureen Selwood
Maureen Selwood is the director of the CalArts Experimental Animation.
In this article, she takes us on a comprehensive retrospective of
the program history and shows us its more relevant students.
This retrospective of the rich history of the Experimental Animation
Program allows us to look at how the development of authorship begins
with a young artist. Various graduates have left the program with
highly individual pieces of work that have created a foundation
for their skills to be later demonstrated in industry successes.
This program aims to highlight some of these works while including
some works that show current films by a new generation. It often
surprises viewers just how unique and personal these early works
are when the industry successes become well known. This showing
lets us go back and see some highlights.
The Experimental Animation Program at California Institute of the
Arts started thirty-two ago with a handful of students under direction
of Jules Engel. It began as a program designed to help the student
establish oneself aesthetically and evolve at a form that speaks
of a personal vision. In the early 1970s across America, universities
and colleges were developing an approach to teaching the arts in
an academic environment. Cal Arts was alone is setting up a program
in animation. There was no set curriculum and a fresh new ground
was created that allowed for new creative approaches towards animation.
These early students created a body of work that established the
foundation of the program to be a leader in the work done by students
since then. Over the years the program has grown to encompass the
many directions that independent animation includes. Mirror People
by Kathy Rose is an early example of the individual working as a
student under the guidance of Jules Engel yet remaining independent
and serious as any artist working outside the academic situation.
This early work of Kathys helped to give Cal Arts a presence
internationally. Kathy came to animation having worked and studied
as a dancer. She did remarkable seminal works as a student and went
on to do installation and performance work using her education to
help lead her into the direction that integrated her talents.
The studio system of the industry of animation in Los Angeles co-existed
with the bubbling ferment of new ideas at Cal Arts. As a student,
Eric Darnell who created Filter Gallery was experimenting with the
physical material of film and the avant-garde inspired by the films
of Stan Brackage. How wonderful to discover that the freedom to
develop such a unique vision could also encompass an approach such
as the computer technology as the feature, Antz and an ability to
communicate with a wide audience. The depth of understanding of
the experimental techniques that Eric Darnell worked with helped
to establish a confidence with the computer technology of his feature
work. It especially showed others that sometimes the student knows
where he is going and the teacher stands as a witness to a process
contacted when needed. Assimilate new animation techniques.