Questions by Adi Berardini
Chris Strickler is an animator, installation artist, and live visual performer (VJ). He works with abstraction and interaction to create immersive and experimental animations. His experimental film, BIRD MILK, will be screened on October 19th at 7pm as part of Antimatter Media Art in Victoria, BC at Deluge Contemporary Art.
Your film is very influenced by electronic music, which was made by Gil Goletski. What was the process of collaboration like for you on your film Bird Milk?
Our collaboration was an interesting one, I think. To start, I gave Gil an energy chart, mapping out the mood of the song. Then part by part, they made each segment of the song and I would share my feedback. I don’t know how helpful my feedback was because I have no clue how to talk about music, but eventually, we ended with an amazing 7 and a half-minute song. Now, if you have the chance to see my film, you may notice that it is a sweet 4 minutes and 44 seconds. We ended up cutting it down and changing a section because there was no chance I was going to finish 7 minutes of animation in [9 months]. But if you ever want to listen to Gil’s full song, it’s out there, waiting for you.
How did you come about finding the particular textures and effects that you use throughout your experimental animation?
Norman McLaren’s Begone Dull Care was my kick in the pants to make something like BIRD MILK. It was messy, colourful, erratic, [and] chaotic. It spoke to me on a level an art piece had never reached before. McLaren used ink, so I used ink. McLaren scratched, so I scratched. But that was only the start. I dropped ink into water and alcohol to make delicious splashes of colour.
I did some parts of my film in Autodesk Maya, a 3D animation program. To integrate the 3D footage with the rest of my messy, experimental film, I printed out the frames onto transparent sheets at the size of postage stamps. The effect of close-up ink dots and the fact that these sheets would gather dust and scratches imbued what was previously a lifeless 3D animation with a tactile, textured feeling.
I did the same with some rotoscoped footage of birds and different animals I found, except instead of printing the frames, I laser-cut them. I had a grand time creating different method mark-making and then looking at everything under a macro lens, a lens meant for bug and flower photography. The macro lens is what made everything so juicy and crunchy, magnifying minuscule textures into giant pieces of art. Then once everything starts flashing at 24 frames per second (which may not be so fun if you are photosensitive), that’s when the magic starts happening.
How did you move from more representational to abstract/experimental animation and film? Do you move back and forth between them?
Back to Norman McLaren, it was his film that I mentioned before that opened my eyes to abstract animation. Up until that point, I was just going through the 2D character animation pathway because I didn’t quite know what I wanted to do. Then in 3rd year when I saw Begone Dull Care for the first time, it was a revelation moment. I didn’t have to do character animation, it was okay! Since then I have been doing almost exclusively abstract and non-representation animation. Maybe one day I will delve back into representational work, but today is not that day.
Who are some artists and animators that inspire your work?
If it wasn’t already obvious, Norman McLaren is a big inspiration of mine. He was a pioneer of experimental filmmaking and is a pillar of film and animation history. I’m not one to idolize anyone, but I idolize McLaren. Not only his work do I adore, but his work ethic is something I aspire to. If he tried something new and it didn’t work out the way he wanted, he would file it away not as a failure, but as something he could use in the future. No effort went to waste, no such thing as a wasted opportunity. I’m also a big fan of Andrew Benson, Ryder Thomas White, Sara Goodman, and Nadya Bokk. These are all people I follow on Instagram or Twitter. Except [for] McLaren, he’s quite dead.
Do you have any other projects you are working on that are coming up?
I have a music video with queer pop icon Devours that’s on the back burner until we both have the bandwidth to tackle it. Additionally, Flavourcel, the animation collective I’m a part of, has a couple irons in the fire that we are working on. One is a project for the Emily Carr University writing program, and another is a gallery show and workshop with the Surrey Art Gallery. Both of those will happen sometime in the spring. I’m also always up for VJ gigs that come my way, I love doing visuals for the local bands of Vancouver.
Follow Chris on Instagram at @doktorgrafiks.