curator: Adrian Notz
Since 1999 the Mexican artist Carlos Amorales (*1970, lives and works in Mexico City, Mexico) has organized an archive based on photographs of digital vectorial drawings that range from personal sources to political and popular iconography: The Liquid Archive. These abstracted black and white images are synthesized into ambiguous forms that combine silhouettes with traces that have strong iconographic character.For the exhibition recently opened in Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, Amorales coined the term „Skeleton Image” to describe the function of the Liquid Archive. The images in the archive are images that exist before producing an actual art work, be it a sculpture, a painting, paper cut out, a performance, or an animation. The archive is the skeleton of Amorales’ body of work.To explore the possibilities of the archive further, Amorales started an animation studio in Mexico City in August 2005, named Broken Animals. The aim was to make animated films and artworks through a collective of draftsmen, motion-graphic designers, media researchers, and a musician. Beyond mere visual production, the studio emphasized formal and thematic analysis through a weekly film club and a monthly seminar with guests that have included an urbanism researcher, a traditional animator, philosophers, filmmakers, artists, and musicians. At each session, the film club showed fragments of different films that could be related to subjects that the studio was busy with at the given moment. Broken Animals have also built a library of films and books, so each member of the studio could do research.This working project - an animation collective - is a conscious pauperization of the Walt Disney Studios model: it is a contemporary effort to redirect the understanding of fantasy toward obscurity, where the fantastic can stimulate questions (as well as emotions), without giving answers.With the exhibition “Broken Animals Revisited: Animations by Carlos Amorales” the MeetFactory Gallery is introducing Carlos Amorales to the Czech audience by presenting all eight animation works that have been produced by the Broken Animals collective. The exhibition not only tries to explore the visual vocabulary of Amorales’ Liquid Archive in the animation collective but also the animation principles of the collective.In the first and biggest room of the gallery one can see five single channel animations: The Forest (2003), Rorschach Test Animation (2004), Manimal (2005), Faces (2007) and Discarded Spider (2008).While “The Forest” is still very playful and light, a little bit like a music video, the “Rorschach Test Animation” already very clearly shows a tendency of the collective’s animations: experimentation with the viewer on a visual and subconscious level. The “Rorschach Test Animation” plays with the spectator’s own imagination. In fact it teases the viewer, because just at the moment when one is able to grasp an image and maybe even construct a meaning, it disappears and one is thrown back to one’s own subconscious level.”Manimal” is the only video produced by Broken Animals that has a clear visual narrative structure. For once, one could say, it is the soundtrack, composed by Julian Lede, that doesn’t have a narrative development, rather than the visuals composed by Ivan Martinez Lopez, another member of the collective and also of Amorales’ studio.In most other video animations meaning is not produced by a narrative but by the visual compositions. This is very explicit in “Faces“. Here Lopez animated the visuals in quite a confusing and abstract visual way. Only from time to time, one can actually recognize concrete forms such as faces or birds. Most of the time the frame is too full of information. The spectator is thus much more focused on the soundtrack composed Julian Lede. It is fascinating to notice how the images adapt to the sound. How the same visual information can be interpreted variously depending on the sound, giving totally different meanings. The sound also pretends to be an old record, which gives the animation a kind of old flavour to it. Here it clearly also shows one of the few references Amorales mentions when talking about the Broken Animals animations: “The Adventures of Prince Ahmed” from 1926, a feature-length animated film by the German animator Lotte Reiniger. It is the oldest surviving animated feature film and it features a silhouette animation technique invented by Reiniger which involved manipulated cutouts made from cardboard and thin sheets of lead under a camera. The technique she used for the camera is similar to Wayang shadow puppets.In “Discarded Spider” Amorales also goes back to this kind of shadow theater. Instead of using puppets, the video shows the artist’s own shadow forming and shaping giant spiders’ webs with a lot of strength.In the second room of the MeetFactory Gallery the video animations “Dark Mirror” (2004) and “Useless Wonder” (2006) are presented alternatively. One day, spectators can see “Dark Mirror”, the following day they can see “Useless Wonder”. The open-ended scenarios Amorales constructs in his animations originating in the archive also transcend into collaborations with artists and musicians. Thus these two animations were done together with graphic designer André Pahl, who is, together with Julian Lede and Carlos Amorales, a founding member of the record label Nuevos Ricos (www.nuevosricos.com).For “Dark Mirror“, Amorales commissioned Pahl to create an animation using the Liquid Archive. Pahl says: “The animation takes up this principle of suggesting rather than defining. Instead of making up a story with a narrative I wanted to create more separated animated scenes that function as individual canvases. Nevertheless, brought together they form one entity, one picture that might assemble to a bundle of fantasies and fears - like a mirror of the viewers’ emotions. Concurrently Amorales asked composer José Mariá Serralde to generate a score inspired by a selection of images derived from the same source. He added a soundtrack that overlaps the animation at random moments (the music is 15 minutes in length, the animation 6 minutes). Pahl: “By doing it this way we wanted to take a step away from an ‘animated clip’ more towards something more infinite and open. So every time you’d see it the notion would be different.” The literal reflection of Serralde playing his music is projected on the other side of the screen. Together the two facets of the work form a coherent whole that positions Amorales more in the role of a mediator than an editor or director.
“Useless Wonder“, the second animation that Pahl did for Amorales is - according to Pahl - inspired by “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket” (1838) by Edgar Allan Poe, a fictionalized narrative about an ill-fated Antarctic expedition. Pahl: “It deals with the ambiguity of fear and fascination that can attract and repel the focus of the spectator at the same time”. “Useless Wonder” combines Amorales’ graphic imagery of the animal, human, and natural worlds, abstract forms and Pahl’s sense for bizarre and androgynous motion and camera movement. On the front side, scenes that feel both evolutionary and apocalyptic unfold. On the back side, the floating and recomposing map of the world - moving sometimes gently but often aggressively - shows the macro level of the front screen’s detail view. The soundtrack is composed by Julian Lede.
In the third room, the latest Broken Animals production is installed: Psicofonias (2008). Here again Pahl was asked to make a realization of Amorales’ and Lede’s idea to build a virtual pianola with the representation of Amorales’ drawings by dots. A realtime-animation translates the drawing’s dots into musical notes that trigger two synthesizers playing the sound of a piano and of a harpsichord, which is also known as cembalo widely used in baroque music. The virtual pianola displays on two screens a selection of Amorales’ drawings, represented by dots, which scroll infinitely towards the bottom, and as they approach it, they play a note and vanish.
For this exhibition, the Swiss design studio Elektrosmog was asked to create a poster. Normally, designers are invited to work with the visual material in the Liquid Archive. Elektrosmog decided to restrict themselves to typography only. Instead of interpreting the visual material from the Liquid Archive they focused much more on interpreting Amorales’ method or principle of reassembling shapes within in a given pattern.
“Broken Animals Revisited: Animations by Carlos Amorales” is curated by Adrian Notz from Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich. Just a month ago, Notz and Amorales opened a small show in Cabaret Voltaire, where the whole Liquid Archive is available as postcards. This is just a smaller step within the context of wider research and discussion that Amorales and Notz are having about the Liquid Archive and the use and meaning of archives in general. Therefore even this show, being kind of didactic and presenting the whole body of animations by Amorales, can be part of this discussion.