Artist Interview: Motion Paper Project by Mike Snelle
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Artist Interview: Motion Paper Project by Mike Snelle

Apr 7, 2016

Mike: You're one of the few artists in Wondrous Obsessions that I've not worked with before but I've seen a few projects you've worked on both independently and as a duo. I've seen Jacob's short film Agravoy which I know had great success at film festivals internationally, as well as Carla's drawings, and the animations you've made together. This is the first piece you've worked on together specifically for a gallery setting. I'm curious whether making something gallery specific feels different from your past projects and if so, in what way

Jacob: Yeah totally – it’s way more fun. This is the first time we've actually researched and written our own story, rather than having it handed to us.

Carla: The projects we've done together in the past have been commissioned for specific occasions. We collaborated with the people commissioning us, so obviously had to please them. This is different - we're doing it for ourselves for the first time, which is a lot more exciting, but also way more challenging.

M: Are you cool with telling me a bit about the story you've chosen, what made you decide on it, and what connects it to the theme of the exhibition.

C: This animation is based on a true story about mass hysteria. It happened in the 16th Century when a woman started to dance for no apparent reason. I don't want to give too much away, but the idea of mass hysteria is something we've always been fascinated by, and collective hysteria in the form of dance has a real connection for us personally.

J: All you need to do is go to a music festival and you'll understand... In relation to this exhibition and the theme of wondrous curiosities and obsessions - the story is one of the most curious in human history.

M: There is a quote by Nietzsche that I really love – ‘Madness in individuals is rare, but in groups it is the rule’ Personally, groups make me anxious because there seems to be a kind of collective psychology which allows people to behave in ways they wouldn’t were they alone. I wonder if you see a relationship between group psychology and mass hysteria, if so, how that line gets crossed.

J: I have no idea how the line gets crossed, but it's well known that humans are capable of terrible things when in large groups. You know - war, genocide, riots... But groups are not necessarily bad, they're capable of great things too. With a group of people, they can either build the pyramids, or burn down Babylon.

C: I also think it depends on the people or perhaps the situation - I don't know if it’s chemical or not. I could be with group A, dancing the night away and loving life, or with group B, throwing rocks through the window of a JD sports.

J: Human beings don't exist in a vacuum, the environment always plays a part in informing our behaviour. In cases of mass hysteria, there is always a specific environment in which these cases arise.

C: For example, at the time the event in our animation occurred, there was great poverty and famine - that kind of exposure can make people do strange things.

M: I'm a fan of stop motion artworks, and have previously done projects with Brent Green and Robin Frohardt, both of whose work I really love. They’ve managed to forge careers as gallery and museum artists despite the medium being notoriously difficult to place commercially. Brent’s work in particular, needs viewing in a very specific setting, with a live narration and orchestra. Have you ever considered exploring alternative ways of presenting your animations?

J: Funny you should say that - this is the first time we are presenting our animation in a different format. Before we've always just finished the animation, put it up on vimeo and shared it on various social media sites. Because this is the first time we've been asked to exhibit our animations, we've been able to have control over how people experience our work, other than just hunched over a laptop or squinting at an iPhone.

C: Because this animation is a new direction for us we felt it was a great opportunity to push the boundaries and try to give the audience a unique experience. We were brainstorming how to display the work and the idea of old style peep shows popped up...we decided to recreate a similar idea out of cardboard.

J: ...although there will be no nudity in ours...sorry

Cardboard has this great texture to it that is in keeping with the medium we work in. In short, we are building a cardboard cinema so you'll feel like you’re in the back row of an Odeon, without having to buy a ticket.

M: I always find it a weird question if someone asks where your ideas come from, as if somehow they're separate from who you are. The only honest answer is, I think, from in my mind. Having seen Agravoy I know there is some dark shit inside your mind Jacob. I think a more interesting question is who and what influence a particular work or body of work. Are there particular influences at play in the animation you're working on for Wondrous Obsessions?

J: Yeah there is nothing worse than being asked ‘what was your inspiration’...I prefer looking at where the research started, or where it lead:

This project has a specific time and place that it occurred in so our research began there. Most of the source material we came across were etchings, so that dictated the style and look we wanted to work within. As for the dancing, we looked at choreographer Hofesh Schecter. If you haven’t come across his work then hunch yourself over a laptop watch a clip and immediately book a ticket to the next performance. The raw energy in his choreography and musical composition strips away the need for language and speaks to you straight through the gut. Pounding rhythms throw the dancers bodies into the most incredible animalistic shapes. We wanted to recreate those shapes, so we watched some clips, put some tunes on and Carla sketched me as I danced around our workshop.

Finally, with the cardboard theatre we just went with it and made a prototype. When I looked through it for the first time something about it felt like a Wes Anderson segue, it wasn’t intentional but being a massive fan of his work would have guided my subconscious in someway.

C: I’m a huge huge fan of Hofesh - when we decided to create this animation around the mass hysteria of dance we instantly knew who to base the movement on. His choreography is an intense combination of hypnotic repetition and fierce barbaric movement. When you watch his performances it plays with all of your senses, which goes back to your previous question about challenging the way we perceive and experience art. He incorporates live music, dance and installation. Its wild.

Mark Osborne's stop motion animation More is absolutely sick and a must see. The original score was produced by New Order, which has encouraged us to produce original music for this animation. We were also introduced to the work of Robin Frohardt last year - she created a film made entirely of cardboard that masterfully reenacts the epic story ‘Fitscarraldo’ - scene by scene. Both Osbourne and Frohardt have inspired us to work with 3D objects in future.

M: I feel fortunate to have seen a little bit of the piece as it's developed and it's very exciting. I can't wait to see the finished work. Thank you.

Thank you very much Mike, Carla and Jacob!

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