Art in Motion: Motion in Art

Recently wandering through the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, I encountered Jennifer Steinkamp’s projected installation, Mike Kelley. Not only is the Steinkamp installation a projection; it is a moving projection, an animation,  twelve feet high and sixteen feet wide; it’s message is not complex, but the image certainly is, and mesmerizing.

Mike Kelley is not the only animation in MFAH’s collection.  Across the hall from the café, five screens play Chiho Aoshima’s City Glow. The 2005 animated piece is similar to Steinkamp’s in that it is a cyclical animation. Some might argue that Aoshima’s piece is narrative, telling a story. But it doesn’t tell a story in the same way that a narrative film or an entertainment animation does. Here the message is more abstract, leaving room for viewer interpretation, and repeated endlessly.

Seeing Steinkamp’s and Aoshima’s installations in the same day caused me to consider the role of motion in fine arts, a role that seems to me to be growing. I’m purposely not considering film in this discussion; that is another topic all together. Rather I am talking about the world that is usually inhabited by painting, sculpture, and still photography, a world that that is becoming increasingly motion-oriented.

Some of this I have mentioned before. In an post about art online, I mentioned s[edition], which allows anyone to purchase limited edition digital pieces by very well-known artists.  In my estimation the works of Mat Collishaw are some of the most successful on the site in that they take full advantage of the animation capabilities of the digital medium and, instead of consisting of a movie of a work on a turntable or a film of an activity, fully integrate the motion and the subject matter.

There were also discussions of both cinemagraph  and lenticular images. The former is essentially a still image that has been selectively animated. This minimal animation adds interest and dimension to a photograph (or other illustration), and modifies what and how that image communicates with the viewer. Most of these are made in a gif format and can only be viewed on a computer. But they could also be projected or viewed on very large screens. In other words, they are not really limited to the relatively small computers and tablets that are currently their homes.

Lenticulars are the non-electronic entries in the trend to add motion to images. In a lenticular, “multiple images are interlaced and fused to a lenticular lens to create the illusion of movement or three-dimensionality” as the viewer walks past the work.

The most notorious recent example is the lenticular work by Derrick Santini [Note: all links in this paragraph are NSFW.] which are part of his show Metamorphosis and which are based on the Leda and the swan myth. What makes this example notorious was the widely reported incident of a London Metropolitan policeman seeing one of the works in the Scream gallery window and, with a fellow officer, demanding that it be removed because it “condoned bestiality.” Interestingly, the gallery had had no other complaints.

Art is always in motion, but now motion is moving into art. The ability to digitize makes it possible. But it’s still not easy. I have made lenticular images, but the process is not for the faint-hearted; it is complex and exacting both on and off the computer. Any sort of animation, while perhaps easier than it used to be, is still quite intricate. Regardless of the complexity, motion in art is here to stay; it gives the artist ways to say things in a fine arts framework that otherwise could not be expressed.

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Date: Sunday, 24. June 2012 23:38
Trackback: Trackback-URL Category: Audience, Communication, Presentation

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