Animator offers dose of abstractRealism has always been filmmaker Adriaan Lokman’s obsession. So it came as a surprise to him when people started calling him an abstract artist.
“Barcode,” which won the grand prize for short films at the 2002 Annecy Animation Film Festival and was recently shown in Korea for the Korea-Dutch Animation Festival, was his first animated film. The movie’s poetic look at something as simple as poles has the emotional expanse of a vast desert combined with the edginess of an urban setting.
He quickly followed that film with “Trainspotting” and “Shredder,” both critically acclaimed on the festival circuit. And from “Barcode,” he created “Barcode Live,” a live animation using a computer program he developed in the Netherlands. The setting he envisioned for “Barcode Live” was clubs with electronic music.
While in Korea earlier this month, he showed “Barcode Live” in a somewhat different setting. As part of the Hi Seoul festivities, he was the visual jockey for Jeroen Verheij, who spun techno music in the parking lot behind the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts. Older women and young children came out to dance and watch.
But his diehard fans were at a seminar he gave at Chung-Ang University in Seoul. To prepare for the seminar on abstract animation, he dug into his old belongings and came up with childhood drawings.
“All humans start as abstract artists,” he says. But with parental pressure, “realism” takes root. And from childhood to adulthood, he devoured realism and studied illustration and animation at the Art Academy of Rotterdam.
But inspired by filmmakers such as Godfrey Reggio, Lokman began searching for nontraditional ways to tell a story. The most simple form he hit upon was the pole. “Barcode” evolved around shadows, light, angles and music.
Q. What role does music play in your work?
A.The music is really important to what I do. When I was younger, I always wanted to play in a band, but I played out of tune. When I animate, I really do have an idea of the type of music I want, the type of atmosphere. Sometimes, I direct the composer in what I want, sometimes, the composer will lay down a track that I find interesting and come up with an animation.
How do you communicate with the DJ?
I know his music, and I’ve worked with him before. Also, before we perform, I get his new songs. He gives me signs when he’s going to change from song to song; that’s when I know I have to prepare myself to change images.
How is the visual jockey’s software animation different from an animator’s?
I tried to develop a new software that works like a musical instrument, like a piano, in that it reacts immediately to what I do. Most VJ software doesn’t do that.
Do you consider yourself an abstract animator?
I’m still surprised by it. I don’t think “Barcode” is abstract. I made it very simple, and I threw a lot of things away. There are certain rules to moviemaking. I thought about it, but I thought this way, it’s easier to attract the audience’s attention for a film that is already strange. In eight minutes, you don’t have a lot of time for people to get used to the film’s language.
On the other hand, “Barcode Live” is not narrative, it’s totally abstract.
What’s it like being an independent animator?
When I look at art, I like to enjoy it. I go there for fun. But it doesn’t mean it has to repeat itself. I think as an artist, you have to try to make things different, then do the same things all over again. Independent filmmakers tend to look for different ways of story telling and different ways of expressing themselves. They cannot do that with feature films; they are afraid they cannot attract an audience.
On the other hand, there is a lot of experimenting going on in short films. After I won the Annecy, I was contacted by Pixar to see my film. They studied it. They are aware of what’s going on in independent film.
by Joe Yong-hee
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