Animated Abstract Expressionism: A Digital Jam Session

Sunday, October 21, 2:00 PM

Live animation, music composition, and editing. One animator, one composer, one editor, three networked computers.The emphasis will be on spontaneity, improvisation, play and discovery.


Most animation is made with a plan, usually starting from a concept, and progressively building and assembling all the elements in an attempt to fulfill the specifics of that initial concept. The initial concept often acts as a filter that prohibits the artist from accepting and exploring the possibilities offering themselves during the creation stage. In that sense, many pieces are "finished" before they even get started, and most require an enormous amount of "plumbing," painstakingly putting all the laborious details together, leaving very little room, once the initial concept is "locked in," for spontaneity, improvisation and discovery.

One important thing that distinguishes modern art from most of what preceded it is the emphasis placed on the process itself. Whereas it used to be the norm to hide the many places a painting had gone through before it was "finished," the painters of the last century have allowed us to see the traces of where the painting has been. In fact, the traces of the process itself are often becoming what the work is about, what it primarily reveals (as in "making visible").

Also, most such works are now "abandoned" and almost never "finished". The traditional notions of "beginning, middle and end" seem to be increasingly hollow, obsolete. Unlike in the traditional approach, modern art arrives (sometimes) at meaning, it does not necessarily start from it. The work becomes a vehicle for that discovery, instead of a mere exposition of what was already known. These concerns, so important in modern art, seem to be absent from many works of animation; character animation and storytelling tend to dominate the field while concern about form is overlooked or placed on a back burner

This workshop will be exploring the possibility that, just as seems to be the case with natural media, digital animation too can be spontaneous and inherent (as in the famous "composition is inherent" of Philip Guston). Indeed, Inherent Animation will be posited as being a very potent structure (albeit not of a predetermined or imposed nature), a structure that comes into existence simply by and in the act of working, an automatic by-product of all our activities, "just" living included.
This inherent structure should be very familiar to us all, but it is often overlooked as we seem to always want to "do something" with what we see, most often remaining unaware of the potential of the seeing itself ("perception is constitutive" said Maurice Merleau-Ponty).

To put it simply: "Is there Art in our doodling?"

Is there any worth in what we do when we don't (yet) know what we are doing, in what we do when we are not (yet) in "conscious control?"

There will be three participants in the workshop working on three networked computers: Scott Lahteine (musician/programmer, author of "FretPet") will compose the digital music, live, based on the images and short animation clips Jean Detheux (painter/animator) will send his way.
Scott's music and Jean's images/animation will be assembled by Sharon Katz (animator/editor).
If, due to recent illness, Sharon Katz cannot attend, Tien Yang (animator/painter, and also Head of Feature Animation, School of Design, Nanyang Polytechnic, Singapore, and MFA student at The Academy of Art College in San Francisco) will fill in for her

Jean's image and animation creating process will be seen constantly on a screen via a digital projector, while Scott's music will be heard at all times.
Sharon's (or Tien's) efforts will be shown at regular intervals as they too will provide clues for Jean and Scott to base their work on.

The workshop will start with a projection of several samples of animation sketches done with the exact same process (Inherent Animation), giving the audience a sense of what the demonstration will be about. (Throughout the workshop, Jean will comment on the process, helping the audience connect with the ongoing work and situating it in a broad perspective: animation as an art form, and as an art form that can possibly go where natural media cannot.)

Jean: "Working with Scott is an incredible luxury. I can throw anything I want at the animation, he will always find a way to incorporate it into his music, making both work seamlessly together. We've only had a few short opportunities of working together in person as most of our exchanges take place via the web. This workshop will be a real work session for us, a rare and valued opportunity to work once again in the same time zone, a real treat!"

Scott: "Computer-based composition can seem like such a mechanical process with its microsecond-accurate beats and tight measures. In contrast, Jean's work has a primal, organic, and fluid quality that thwarts expectation. It calls for constant innovation. When we combine our respective elements there are subjective moments of convergence and divergence that underscore the ineffable quality of both. Whatever 'happens' is completely out of our hands. Be prepared for some prolonged suspense in this workshop."

Sharon: "This is an extraordinary opportunity to work with both Jean and Scott at the same time and in the same space. Until now most of our communication has been via e-mail. While communication once removed focuses our questions and decisions, it rarely allows for the immediacy and creativity of direct contact. I am particularly pleased to have this opportunity to work with Jean. His explorations are a genuine and original struggle to paint with time, and as such he is unearthing a number of principles directly applicable to the art of animation."

Tien: "I don't know what is it we are doing. Hence the need to participate to find out. If I knew exactly what the product is to become I would have been bored the moment production begins. Isn't this fun yet intensive and the root of learning through discovery! As the saying goes, the world becomes a lot louder with the quieting of our ego. I wouldn't miss this chance to do it with these guys."


Hardware provided graciously by Apple Canada.

Intuos drawing tablet donated by Wacom.

" Studio Artist 1.5" donated by Synthetik.

"Painter 7" donated by Corel.

"Final Cut Pro" provided by Apple

Support and promotion provided by AWN, SAFO, and more.


The workshop has been taped and the resulting video (edited) is visible here (35 MB)

See stills from that video

see the workshop clip or go to the Vudici front page

If interested by the ideas presented above, visit CreativeMac