By Nina J P Evans

Monday, May 31, 2010


Mothlight by Stan Brakhage (1963) was made by sticking bits of found foliage to tape and then running it through a projector.

There’s no sound on this animation you can choose your own and in doing so change the context of the visual dialogue completely. It’s an experimental short film that has no narrative and is open-ended. What I liked about the Stan Brakhage piece Mothlight (1963) is the random appearance of the flicking shapes of light—captured in this keyframe type of animation. The patterns, lines and textures are held together by the fragility of elements found. Using plants and insects to explore the themes of mortality and innocence. It has that DIY ethos quality to it that makes you want to head straight out of doors with some transparent tape and get creative, ripping the wings off many insects to do so, though the Victorians were much crueler with their collections of stuffed animals.

On closer examination of the tape you get the feeling of less randomness and a much more studious, time-consuming methodical process. There is an interweaving of compositional elements arranged that have been almost plotted like constellations on to a clear tape into strategic juxtapositions. Stan Brakhage clearly demonstrates his skills of both an artist and experienced animator that really understood time and motion to perfection as the animation is absolutely mesmerizing.

As your eyes move over the spider webs there is a subtlety of new angles formed by the crossing over of repeated elements. The wings likewise fan out and change in colour variation and are repeated with the same methodical, almost scientific approach to collecting, sampling and repeating. Forming patterns of elements that are composed in such way as to create movement with a lyrical quality. The film suggests that these strips may have been superimposed to create a more naturalistic effect.

This animation technique is reminiscent of Kyle Cooper’s outstanding title sequence Se7en. Se7en uses a layering effect with graphic elements scratched out onto film, working with the medium itself. Using a dynamic frame rate and unfamiliar juxtapositions meticulously crafted. The appearance of randomness is the same.

View title sequence in Se7en
More about Stan Brakhage

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