• Tell me a bit about yourself – where you’re from/based etc.
  • Currently, I am an animation director based in London, from the world. On some days, I go by illustrator, musician, designer, but frankly I am just another person on the internet whose word you’re taking for.

  • How did you first get into animation and what attracted you to it over other creative mediums?
  • I have a dead friend who aspired to be an animator. I met him whilst I was studying at Sheridan College in Canada. We did everything together, except for parkour. We were already both studying to become animators, but this did not mean that I “got” into animation then. He opened my eyes to an entire new world of consciousness that I had not mapped out before. I had never related to anything so spiritually and yet couldn’t understand at the same time. Melancholically, it was only after he left that I could finally understand it for myself. Ever since, I made it a personal life devotion to feed that consciousness into my work, and I figured coincidentally that it worked best with animation. Realising that was when I first truly “got” into animation.

  • Are there certain aspects of the medium that excite you the most?
  • Animation is a universal language in itself. You do not need dialogue to be able to follow the story. Just by body language alone, it is able to transcend the barriers of what usually separate humans, and possibly even for other life forms as well. It is truly a human language. I also like animation because it can do literally anything live action cannot. I am beginning to explore all this in my next work.

  • Do you have any particular references/inspirations in or outside the creative world?
  • Life. It could mean the way a live action director captures life, it could mean the way a tree grows, it could mean the way the Mandelbrot set works, or even the way a trashed sandwich wrapping glistens in the rays of a sunrise. I am truly inspired by life and its mysteries every day – and I love it.
    So no I guess...

  • How would you describe your creative practice and the projects you like to work on?
  • Totalitarian. Outside of my collaborations, I am usually in control of every aspect of my work (also out of convenience). (For example, I am also a musician, hence I can also design the sound for my film.) I always make it a point to make or pick work that can raise questions to make the world a better place, no matter how seemingly commercial a work is. This can also be very abstract – for example, I am currently working with Sophie Koko Gate on her upcoming animated film "Slug Life". I like the way she raises questions, so I work with her.

  • Would you say you have a signature visual language or pattern of concepts, if so, how would you describe this?
  • I am drawn towards “ugly” conventions, and use it as figurative paint to make work that makes you re-evaluate its “ugly”. I am always experimenting and constantly trying to reinvent myself, but the concept always has to inform the aesthetic. Conceptually, I try to raise questions, and specifically for animation, I find it easier if I look into the future. Hence, there tends to be a futurist element in my animations.

  • Could you tell me about three creatives from your area whose work you think we should know?
  • Jonathan Anstett, performance artist and musician. Baris Cavusoglu, animator. Vince Mckelvie, net artist.

    Jonathan Anstett and I exchange ideas all the time, and a huge part of my artistic worldview is informed by our exchanges. He tells the same stories as I, but in a physical, performative format. I don’t necessarily understand them, but I believe that is the point. We challenge each other a lot, and I think that’s very healthy practice for any artist. If you are a fan of metaphysical realism and want to know what it feels like to exist in the same room with an interactive otherworldly presence, I suggest you go see him perform.

    Baris Cavusoglu is a 3D animation director whom I have shared a mutual admiration with, and always yearned to meet in person (take a look at his Instagram page and you’ll know why). I finally did, and on the set of "Slug Life" of all places (we were both predominantly 3D artists working on a 2D animated film), which was a very pleasant surprise. Very rarely that I can meet and confide in someone who shares the same interests, passions, humour, love for cinema and lifestyle as I do, and on top of that, does 3D animation as well! One of the hardest-working animators I’ve met.

    Vince Mckelvie is an experimental net artist who does really cool things with programming and animation. The blend between art and tech can never be any more perfect with Vince. I am always looking forward to see what he does next. If you want to see something beyond your imagination, check out his work.

  • Tell me more about "VACUUM" – could you explain the premise in more detail?
  • Using his innate skills in perfumery as a form of escapism, Antoine navigates through scrutiny in an oppressive world controlled by a government that aims to narrow down the 5 human senses. "VACUUM" particularly focuses on the sense of smell. The government does so by prohibiting uncontained organic scents in public spaces. On paper, the film is about developing internal freedom to overcome external oppression, but I have kept the narrative very subjective so that each viewer can take away something unique for themselves from their interpretations of the film.

  • Where did this idea come from?
  • "VACUUM" is a self-portrait. A huge part of my early-life can be described as nesting dolls after nesting dolls of oppression. I could stay sane all those years because of art. Creating art has always been the core of my being – it was and is something innate and spiritual. As long as I could sustain an art practice, external pressures could not touch me, because mentally, creating art made me feel fulfilled and free. As long as the oppression did not manifest mentally, I could find freedom, and nothing else mattered.

    When the time came where I could muster enough confidence to make a film, I decided to make a film about what I knew best at the time, which was myself. I am still learning about myself every day, but making a film about yourself meant that you had to look at yourself objectively, especially when you are the animator.

    I remember in art school, we had a painting assignment where we had to paint ourselves using only a mirror, where we will be graded based on the likeness of the result. Many people don't succeed initially because of their ego, wishing their noses were thinner, eyes bigger, lips plumper - whatever physical attribute they deemed would meet society's standards of beauty. What would happen is they would project it onto the painting, and what comes out of it is the painting would deviate so much from their likeness that it no longer looks like them anymore. The idea was if you can paint yourself to look like yourself, if you are free from society's impositions, you can paint anything, because once you can paint objectively, you can paint subjectively.

    Making "VACUUM" was like that painting assignment. I had to figure out why I behave and think the way that I do. It was a self-research, and making it furthered my understanding of myself. Now that I can understand myself, I can begin to make films about other people.

  • Design wise, what decisions went into how the animation looks?
  • Even though I kept the film mostly ambiguous for maximum viewer interpretation, I set some intersubjective design parameters so that they don’t stray too far from the feeling that I am trying to evoke.

    For example, I designed the aspect ratio to be tighter (4:3) in select scenes to induce claustrophobia and unease within the viewer, as is it wider (16:9) in scenes where Antoine feels more secure and free. In the 4:3 former, Antoine is constantly contained within angular negative shapes, and in the 16:9 latter, whenever he is more comfortable, the colour of Antoine’s suit matches the colour of his surroundings.

    The design of his hat resembles a roof, in which his head is the house, in which he lives in. Antoine’s overall silhouette (combined with the hat) is of an upward-pointing arrow, echoing his ascension in the elevator later in the film (the elevator is shaped as a vertical arrow as well).

    I designed the animation (i.e. movement) itself as well. As an example, when mixing the perfume, Antoine rotates the flask inwards, towards his body, rather than away because he is a private person (he keeps his thoughts to himself, so his body reflects this too). This goes for his limbs throughout the film too, where they are always close to his body, or how his palms are always closed, like an infant. He dons a corduroy suit, a textile associated with childishness.

    If he only wore a corduroy suit and nothing else factored into the design of the film, for example, the film would not have evoked the feeling I was after. It is the combination of all these intersubjective design elements (that may not be able to objectively communicate an intent on their own) that creates another kind of narrative – one that isn’t explicit, and I felt that this was necessary for "VACUUM".

  • What do you hope viewers take away from the short?
  • That they can do it too, or that any imposition is bad, or perhaps even nothing at all – that’s up for them to decide.

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