Images from the Future: Lost and Found in the Images du Futur collection
Lines and Paintbrushes: 2D
There was not much 2D animation in the International Computer Animation Competition of Images du Futur. During the years of the exhibition, the novelty of 3D was probably still too strong for viewers to be drawn to two-dimensional products highly similar to those of classical animation.
Viva Paci © 2005 FDL
The only works of 2D animation to be frequently presented were those that resembled paintings and that specialized in extravagant animations of graphic-arts effects. Indeed synthesized animation, whether it is in two or three dimensions, often carves out a space between moving images and the painterly imagination (see also "Sunless Images: 3D Animation"). One major instance of this was the 2D animation series Traits et portraits: dessins et textes de Jean Cocteau (1986), which Patrice Molinard based on drawings that Cocteau made in Opium (1930), an illustrated journal dealing with the sufferings he endured during an attempt to break a drug habit. Here animation gives us more than a simple succession of drawings, such as we might find in a slide show; for it sometimes "fills in" the spaces among them, thereby imparting a veritable motion to them, and enabling them to transform into one another in a continuous, fluid manner. Given the unsettling world of these drawings, and the strangeness of the frozen forms as they begin to twist and mutate, the overall effect of Traits et portraits is rather disturbing. It is as if Cocteau’s sufferings had come to life only to die again before our very eyes.
In a spirit akin to that of Molinard’s Traits et portraits, which uses 2D digital animation to fill in the gaps among drawings and thereby facilitates smooth transitions from one to the other, Lea Lublin’s Zéro-dix (1985) gives us variations on classical paintings that bring together images from different pictorial traditions. In this endeavour, she is undoubtedly trying to reconstitute connecting threads, common constructions of lines and homogeneous uses of colour. This Argentinian artist is thereby pursuing her work as a visual artist, seeking the hidden foundations of her art. In a sort of history of Western art forms, she assembles figures and compositional practices drawn from the paintings she studies, sometimes managing to isolate specific series of colours. In her article "Lea Lublin, l’œil alerte (arts plastiques & beaux-arts)," Christine Rey quotes this comment by Sarkis: "Lea Lublin is the only artist who has tried to uncover what painters hide."
Dance of the Stumblers, made by Steve Segal in 1988, attests to a legacy that certain 2D animations seem to have taken over from a very rich vein of avant-garde cinema, that of colour rhythms. Starting with the colour rhythms to be found in Leopold Survage’s films from early in the first decade of the 20th century, a broken line runs through Viking Eggeling’s Diagonal Symphony (1924) and Hans Richter’s Rythmus... (early 1920s), and on to a number of the films that Norman McLaren made by drawing directly on film. Thus a whole range of artists working with moving images have made direct use of the potential to be found in geometric forms studied in relation to music. Steve Segal takes us back to this way of thinking with his animations of geometric matchstick figures moving to music by Rimski-Korsakov.
This type of experimentation with movement and the forms that 2D animation can generate, round out and visualize on the computer thus fall within the old cinematographic tradition of "pure cinema" and "animated painting," as well as belonging to the type of experimental cinema that consists in drawing directly on film.
It is especially in examples like Traits et portraits and Zéro-dix that 2D digital animation truly appears to be exploring a completely new dimension of moving.