Coonskin |

Animated Exeter Round-Up

Coonskin | TakeOneCFF.comJust outside of Exeter at The Thelma Hulbert Gallery in Honiton are a series of arresting and technically marvellous animations and prints. Not only is there a great variety of styles and mediums explored in this captivating exhibition but there is also a great chance to meet and discuss technique with some of the artists in their workshop.

Alongside the handcrafted letter-presses and prints there are more contemporary pieces on display created with a mixture of Flash and 3D. One such is a mixed medium animation based on an Edgar Allen Poe story, Jack Hagle’s DESCENT INTO THE MAELSTROM. The woodcut stylisation and distinctive signature of the Flash animation lends itself beautifully to this macabre tale of an ill-fortuned seaman.

One of the most interesting pieces, by Joshua Gaunt, presents a triptych of oxymoronic still animations which expose an abstract emotional animation within the subjects. The figures are motionless yet the looped animation of water surrounding them seems to resonate from their presence. Gaunt’s collaboration with artist and printmaker Catharine Cartwright, PLAYING WITH MY SHADOW (TEST), is reminiscent of the structural experiments of the American avant-garde movement. The pounding repetition of a bouncing ball demands the film’s rigid performance but is contradicted by the conventions of squash and stretch.

Many of the works at The Thelma Hulbert Gallery are fascinating and innovative. Alongside these examples there are a number of other works, such as Judith Potrier’s hypnotising letterpress experiment DIALOGUE, which continue to explore the relationship between the format of animation and the audience’s perception of it. This exhibition continues to demonstrate Animated Exeter’s philosophy of diversity concerning animation’s form and its unrelenting objective of dissolving the constraining stereotypes of genre and medium.

The exhibition is running until the 2nd of March.

…The overbearing absurdity of COONSKIN prevents the viewer from sinking into a dangerous level of comfort…

Meanwhile, back in Exeter, time is unravelling in the form of award-winning author Philip Reeves’ THE EXETER RIDDLES, a story that was specially commissioned for Animated Exeter 2013. TIME WINDERS is a street game devised by Slingshot, which pits a host of family-centric combatants against malevolent monsters determined to tear apart time.

The game requires the teams to dash between a number of Exeter’s premiere landmarks and some hidden architectural treasures that this writer had never seen. Upon arrival budding time heroes must solve fiendish puzzles and riddles against the clock. The trials are back-dropped by a host of interactive projected animations while enthusiastic and entertaining actors guide you on your journey.

TIME WINDERS is great fun for the family, but especially appealing for younger members with an adventurous spirit and those with a burning desire to don colour-coded overalls alongside Richard O’Brian in The Crystal Maze. Most fascinating is the stunning architecture and the creepy subterranean world hidden beneath Exeter’s glossy exterior. Those who enjoy a good ghost tour, shooting lasers or solving riddles will do well to spend an hour or so saving the universe from the despicable monsters that are creating time leaks throughout Exeter.

The same evening at the Bike Shed Theatre, Animated Exeter treated us to a screening of Ralph Bakshi’s highly controversial COONSKIN. A crude, funny and violent satirical exposé of blacksploitation cinema, COONSKIN is everything it should be. In a transgressive and politically charged stylisation, the film mixes live action with hyper-real animation that serves to over accentuate the caricatured leads. The animators assimilate the conventions of squash and stretch animation seen in Disney’s films but use it to expose the exploitative nature of racist stereotypes seen in blacksploitation pictures.

Although the onscreen humour and violence is entertaining, the overbearing absurdity of COONSKIN prevents the viewer from sinking into a dangerous level of comfort. The film is never a passive experience; the animation, film montage and deranged plot culminate in a psychedelic tumult of racism and exploitation. The animation’s biting political satire is so rabid that it’s hard not to get infected by its power and resilience; COONSKIN is a vital work that should not be overshadowed by its ferocity as it has been in the past.

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