Animation at the Olympics
Animation at the Olympics
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by Mark Segall
Animation and the Olympics aren't two things you automatically associate.
But back in 1984, during the Los Angeles games, the Olympic Arts Festival
sponsored a fourday Olympiad of Animationfeaturing screenings of a selection
of the best animated films of all time and films especially made for the
event thatwere shown at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences
in Beverly Hills. And this past March, animators all over the US opened
their ASIFA newsletters to find the following call for entries:
"Art Culture and Technology (ACT) is seeking animated works by independent
filmmakers, to be shown as part of a huge multimedia installation to run
throughout the Olympics (July 19 to August 4)."
The ads mentioned a $250 honoraria for each work that was accepted, and
a modest $10 entry fee. Entry requirements weren't strict: any film fitting
one of two broad themes-Bodies in Motion and Building Communities-could
be entered; films could be old or new, and filmmakers could send one entry
or several. The shows' tentative location (the Underground Atlanta Mega-Mall)
was likely to see a lot of Olympic foot traffic. While 84's Olympiad had
the cachet of an official connection to the Olympics, ACT offered animators
something just as important--the chance to be part of permanent installations
in Atlanta and New York long after the games were over.
Like it's parent organization, the Friendship Ambassadors Foundation, ACT
is devoted to cultural exchange between countries. It's FAF's hightech branch:
where crafts, folklore and humanities meet the new media. Promoting independent
animation has been part of ACT's mission from the start. During 1995's Fourth
World Women's conference, ACT showed a program on Beijing Train Station's
120square meter Jumbotron screen: film and video by women artists, including
animators Faith Hubley and Joanna Priestley.
Atlanta by Bob Hutchinson
Courtesy of ACT
An Overarching Concern
For the Atlanta event, besides running ads and announcements, ACT mailed
out 600 or 700 entry forms. Response from the animation community was enthusiastic.
Submissions came to producer Iva Kaufman's Manhattan office from all over
the US and Canada and as far away as France. Iva, curator Somi Roy and assistant
curator Amy Morley viewed over 50 videotapes, and finally chose around 20
for the installation. An overarching concern was to choose films suitable
to an international, multilingual audience--films that0- do not rely on
dialogue or narration to get their point across. Beyond that, different
pieces were chosen for different reasons. Some fit well into a videowall
or multimedia setup--what you might call ambient animation--abstract loops
of color and sound. Some covered social issues--smoking, violence, ecological
destruction, the rights of women and children. Emily Hubley contributed
Enough, a grant-you-three-wishes fable about greed. Others were picked
because they typified a particular culture or place--Sharon Shimazu's Mr.
Right, Debra Callabresi's Quilted by Hand. Films aimed at children
were highlighted along with films by animators age 15 or younger. The most
energetically animated pieces, such as Karen Aqua's stunningly choreographed
Perpetual Motion and Kakania, fit the Bodies in Motion theme.
Some do not fit any of the themes perfectly, but were picked just because
they made Iva and Amy laugh--John R. Dilworth's Dirdy Birdy, John
Schnall's Buy My Film, Nancy Keegan's Sophie.
on the Hush, Hush Tip by John Serpentelli
Courtesy of ACT
The animations will be part of a multimedia installation along with documentaries,
experimental films, and video and multimedia works. After the Mall management
changed its mind about having the show, Ms. Kaufman lined up a new venue:
the 3,000 square foot library at the Atlanta College of Art's Woodruff Arts
Center. The move from the Mall may lose ACT a few sports fans, but puts
the installation closer to a museum, a symphony hall and many Olympicsrelated
arts and cultural events. Engineered and designed by ACT's Howard Weiner
and David Miller, the installation has the sponsorship of Shaw Ross Importers
& Distributors (fine wine & spirits) of Miami, Florida.
The Olympic selections will also be part of ACT's most ambitious postOlympics
project: supplying the content for soontobeinstalled StreetSmart kiosks
in NYC. Twenty-five percent of ACT's contribution will be animation, the
other 75% a mix of videos, documentaries and other artsrelated material.
The first five kiosks will be at City Hall and the Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx
and Staten Island borough halls. Ultimately there will be 50 throughout
town, their material tailored to different cultures and available in several
languages. People will be able to mail order the animations they see from
the kiosks. ACT will also raise revenues for future projects by selling
kiosk advertising. The idea, says Iva Kaufmann, is to create a new revenue
stream for arts funding --to funnel forprofit money into nonprofit projects.
If successful, the kiosks will be displayed in other cities. The animations
will also appear at Studio 64, a spacious artsoriented meeting place scheduled
to open in New York's Chelsea district in August.
by Karen Aqua
Courtesy of ACT
Nationally, ACT has lined up postOlympics sites for the Atlanta reel in
Chicago, Washington, D.C., Miami and San Francisco, and is scouting other
major US cities. Internationally, the selections will be shown at the Beijing
Train Station, and other large public spaces in Asia and Europe. They may
also eventually appear on the Web; both Friendship Ambassadors Foundation
and ACT plan to have websites up and running this fall. ACT material has
been and will continue to be part of the EarthPledge (http://www.earthpledge.org/)
and EarthChannel (http://www.earthchannel.com/) sites.
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