Oh, it’s you

I was searching for images of Duchamp’s Nude Descending A Staircase painting that had inspired Marco Brambilla’s animation, when Google showed me this photo.

A flash of recognition! I had seen it before, on that cover of The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien. I hadn’t realised who it was at the time, just thought it was some spooky old man.

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Victor Obsatz’s portrait of Marcel Duchamp
In March 1953, the Greenwich Village gallery owner Michael Freilich (RoKo Gallery) asked 28 year-old Victor Obsatz to photograph Marcel Duchamp in his apartment on West 14th Street. The resulting double-exposure print pleased Duchamp very much, as he chose it especially for the front and back covers of Robert Lebel’s 1959 catalogue raisonné.

The work has since become one of the most popular and sought-after images of the artist, and has been reproduced in a number of well-known texts on Duchamp, Dada, Surrealism, and recently in the The National Portrait Gallery’s 2009 exhibition “Inventing Marcel Duchamp, The Dynamics of Portraiture.”

It’s certainly a striking image of a very peculiar man, a great choice for a very peculiar book.

The Two Duchamps
He is known as the godfather of conceptual art, yet Marcel Duchamp was also a great admirer of the Pre-Raphaelites, and had strong affinities for their craftsman-like approach and their ‘tortured explorations of sex, chastity and desire’

Moving animation

A round-up of films showing that animation is all about movement, really. Let’s start with something literal.

Nude Descending a Staircase No.3 by Marco Brambilla
“The figures of No. 3 constantly reconfigure themselves to cascade down an unseen stairway,” says regular NOWNESS contributor Brambilla. “The body, shapes and colour palette are pure Cubism, now expanded into three dimensions using state-of-the-art computer technology.” Brambilla’s No. 3 is a simulation of a walk cycle, which itself is an abstraction of human movement taken from motion-capture recordings. Variations of the cycles are rendered at different speeds and collaged into a kinetic composition that constantly evolves.

As well as bringing life to the models, this film shows you can animate the cameras filming those models.

Daria Kashcheeva combines stop motion, documentary-style filmmaking and painterly techniques
The trauma that spirals out inexorably from a single instance of failed connection between father and daughter is captured with an affecting candidness by Daria’s use of stop motion animation. For her, the technique affects a closeness with the world of the characters as a tactile reality. “I like the air between the camera and the puppets, which is tangible and which I cannot feel in computer 2D animation.” This proximity to the characters is further enhanced by Daria’s painstaking filming technique. Instead of adopting the fixed perspective of an objective viewer, she simulates the cinematic effect of hand-held footage by animating the motions of her camera as well as the movements of her puppets.

How about animating something that doesn’t move for 50+ years?

A whale can live 50-75 years. Its afterlife is equally long and spectacular
After a whale dies, it begins to sink. As it drifts slowly downward, its body provides sustenance for an incredibly diverse community of organisms. In Whale Fall (After Life of a Whale), the stages of consumption are illustrated by paper puppets of the fish, crustaceans and microscopic bacteria that feed upon the whale for decades after its death.

Or something that hasn’t moved for thousands of years?

Frozen for millennia, an ancient Greek soldier is freed to charge into battle once again
The artifacts that underlie so much of our understanding of the ancient world can often feel like brittle remnants of a dim and dusty past that’s hard to access without context and extensive knowledge. But sometimes just a little kineticism can transform a bit of pottery into a living story. Such is the effect of this animation produced for an exhibition at the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology at the University of Reading in the UK, which breathes life into war scenes from a vase found on the island of Euboea and thought to date to roughly 550 BCE.

And from the sublime to the ridiculous; animating continental drift, as the UK stupidly slides away from Europe.

Max Colson satirises post-Brexit UK in a 3D-modelled animation
Brexit really has brought out the worst in people. The rhetoric spewed by certain right-wing politicians has allowed blatant racism to ooze out of hiding, revealing a cesspit of empire-loving xenophobes that wouldn’t know what makes Britain “Great” if it smacked them in their bland food-loving faces. But with that rather enormous caveat, it’s also been an utterly fascinating time for people-watching. If you’re interested in the idea of ‘Britishness’, like artist Max Colson, the past three years have been a revelation. Via nostalgia for a Britain of the past (in many cases a fictional country that never really existed), there’s a tonne of insight into the values, fears and neuroses motivating us Brits. It’s these idealised views of Britain that Max has mined for his latest short film The Green and Present Land.