Thursday, 9 December 2010


"INDIVIDUAL HAPPINESS NOW!" That was the credo of Len Lye (1901-1980), a New Zealand born multi-disciplinary artist. He’s a legend to most animators and unknown to almost anyone else. The Ikon Gallery in Birmingham is currently hosting the first major retrospective of his work in the UK.

Lye was passionate in the pursuit of kinetic art, using animation, sculpture, painting and even batik. His work was continually evolving as he looked for different ways to convey movement and motion. His films for the GPO film unit in the ‘30s like Colour Box (1935) and Rainbow Dance (1936) were colourful abstract precursors to music videos, made using experimental techniques like painting and printing directly onto the film strip. Watching the films gives you the surreal experience of pure colour, movement and music combined with the rates for sending parcels (3 lbs for 6d if you’re interested!).

His work appeals to more than just our visual sense, it appeals to our physicality, our sense of our selves and our own bodies. The kinetic sculpture in particular creates a visceral reaction in the viewer - you feel the sound of it echoing through your chest as it ‘performs’ its choreographed ballet of movement and sound. Fountain III (1976) is an enormous, slowly revolving over-arching bouquet of steel rods lit with theatre lights, and it made me feel simultaneously awed, amazed and slightly seasick as I walked around it.

Len Lye’s work is about change and evolution: black and white film stock processed into colour, steel transformed into water, paint into light and parcel rates into poetry. “Individual happiness now!” is a assertion of the joy of being alive, of qualia - the subjective quality of conscious experience. The exhibition leaves you with the impression of a unique artist who was insatiably curious and constantly inventive.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

The Public exhibitions 2011

There's an opportunity for digital interactive and film & video artists coming up at the very lovely Public in West Brom. They have a good track record of programming and screening audio-visual work thoughtfully and interestingly, it maybe worth a look? See below for details.

The Public in West Bromwich are accepting submissions for two unique open exhibitions.
TOUCHINTERACTIVE 2011, the UK’s first open exhibition specifically for digital interactive artwork,
and SCREENING 2011, an open exhibition for film and video artists. 
A is for Animation exhibition at The Public, summer 2010

The selected applications will be exhibited at The Public in January and February 2011. Priority will
be given to early career artists and filmmakers and those living or working in the West Midlands.  For
application details email here.

Deadline: 31 December 2010

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Derek tastes of earwax

My friend Phil Easey sent me a link to this, it's worth a look if you haven't seen it before - fascinating!

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

BANG in Brighton

I had a lovely time in Brighton on Sunday, speaking at the Brighton Animators Network Group (BANG), at an event about animating the mind. My film was in excellent company; Ryan, A is for Autism, and several really interesting new films from the RCA and local film makers. It was organised by Sarah and Abbie from BANG and the incomparable Kate Genevieve who makes such beautiful work herself.

the screening at the King & Queen Pub, Brighton

Neuroscience & Guitar : teaser from kate genevieve on Vimeo.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Flip animation Festival 10

Last weekend I was in and out of the Flip Animation Festival, the West Midlands' festival of all things animated. The opening event in Birmingham's Millenium Point on Thursday evening was a little bathetic for us because at the start of Ravi Maheru's second year short film Sentry the projector malfunctioned - aarg! Luckily Rav wasn't too emotionally scarred by the experience and the rest of the festival at Lighthouse in Wolverhampton went much more smoothly.

Highlights for me were;
kids animation workshop at Wolverhampton Art Gallery

Claire Kitson's programme of her favourite films - I loved watching Hedgehog in the Mist on the big screen
The showreel reviews which were nail bitingly X-factor-ish to watch but really useful- this is Chris Chidlow, a graduate from Wolverhampton last year who worked as production assistant on Eyeful of Sound
The shorts programmes which was really strong, Lizzy Hobbs' Little Skipper was wonderfully simple & beautiful
Seeing the students get into the swing of being part of the animation community

Thursday, 11 November 2010


Reasons for hope as we get older number 6,473:
Images of actual neurogenesis (the formation of new brain cells in adult brains) captured by Jason Snyder via the Beautiful Brain gallery. Read the full article here.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Submissions Open for Tribeca Film Institute Sloan Filmmaker Fund

There's an interesting opportunity for film makers working in the science field to get funding to develop/progress/finish a science-based feature film from the Tribeca Film Institute Sloan Filmmaker fund, see below for details;

"The TFI Sloan Filmmaker Fund seeks exceptional narrative work that is scientifically relevant, accurate, and exciting.

In 2011, the TFI Sloan Filmmaker Fund will provide grants of $10,000 - $40,000 in support of narrative feature film projects that explore scientific, mathematical, or technological themes in their storylines, or that feature a leading character who is a scientist, engineer, innovator or mathematician. In addition to funding, TFI provides guidance, introductions and industry exposure to help move the selected projects closer to completion."

See their website  for rules and regs, submission form and examples of past awardeees.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Nature Journal review

From the review of the Imagine Film Festival in Nature on-line journal by Carl Zimmer.

"The 2010 Nature Scientific Merit Award went to An Eyeful of Sound, which joyously imagines the world as it is seen by people with synaesthesia. It makes those of us with ordinary brains jealous of those who can't help but mingle sight and sound."

Carl Zimmer writes about the sometimes uneasy relationship between film and science. He cites the dodgy science so often bastardized by Hollywood in the pursuit of a lucrative story line as a one way street where scientists do all the giving.
"Tornadoes, volcanoes, spaceships, viruses: all obey the laws of Hollywood, not the laws of Newton or Darwin."

However he does like the films screened in Imagine, including Skhizein "which won an honourable mention (see 'Science Oscars'), uses sophisticated computer graphics to transform the world as its hero descends into schizophrenia".

I've seen Skhizein (click on the title to see on Shorts Bay) at another festival and absolutely loved it knowing nothing about it. Knowing that it is about a man coping with the descent into schizophrenia doesn't detract from the absurd central concept but instead enhances and enriches it.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Beautiful Brain

I found this great on line resource called The Beautiful Brain, a magazine for the convergence of art & science. I particularly like their gallery section where they show and discuss art inspired by neuroscience.

They also have a series of podcasts which I'm looking forward to catching up with on one of my (many) train journeys.
The 'brain tree' image above is by British artist Andrew Carnie, whose work featured on the Beautiful Brain site a few months ago.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Nature Scientific Merit Award

Just had a press release from the recently finished Imagine Science Film Festival in New York. We've won the Nature Scientific merit award! I'm really thrilled, it's a huge honour.

Scientific Merit Award - $2,500

The 2010 jury, consisting of Carl Zimmer, Valerie Weiss and Randy Olson, have selected  "An Eyeful of Sound" as the winner of the Nature Scientific Merit Award.The Nature Scientific Merit Award is awarded to a short film that exemplifies science in narrative filmmaking in a compelling, credible and inspiring manner. "

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Feedback from synaesthetes

In the past week since coming back from Nashvile I've had some lovely e-mails from people who saw the Eyeful of Sound presentation or have seen the film as a result of it. It's particularly relevant to me to hear from synaesthetic people, because only they can tell me if it's 'right'.

There were a couple of other animators at the conference, one of whom, Chad Sikora, is working with artist Carol Steen in translating her synaesthetic reactions into moving image. Chad works in After Effects and the work Carol screened (both still and moving) was beautiful. There's an interesting article here, written by Julliard professor Greta Berman, about an exhibition of synaesthetic art which Greta co-curated and featured Carol's work. Greta gave a talk about the impact of the exhibition and screened some stunning work.

Another artist/animator was Carrie C. Firman, who is also synaesthetic. She has a wonderful website where she has a 'synaesthetic library' of flash animations which I really encourage you to have a look at - it's compelling and so 'right' even to a non-syaesthetic brain like mine!

Carrie's synaesthetic library. You can click on the imagesto see the movement and hear the trigger sound

Carrie kindly wrote me some feedback about my presentation and film, which I think is relevant about the representation of synaesthesia in general, not just in my work;

"I wanted to express again how much I enjoyed your presentation! I just watched the DVD twice and loved it! As I'm sure others told you at the conference, even though the animations may not be "ours," we synesthetes are drawn to authentic representations, and yours is certainly one.

For me, my pulse starts to quicken and I can't take my eyes off of it, and I get quite excited when I see something that is close to my own reaction. It was also exciting to watch in my peripheral vision, I think because when my concentrated focus was elsewhere it made the video be in a closer "place" to my mind's eye."

Wow. Really interesting about the peripheral vision. Before working on this project I thought that everyone's "mind's eye" was the same as mine, but I've realised that that isn't the case. Some synaesthetic people experience their reactions inside their heads (an associator) and some outside (a projector). Some I've spoken to have their reaction on, or in relations to, their body. One person I spoke to saw a musical note as a vibrating wooly blanket hovering at waist level. Another saw a note as a chocolatey silken swirl surrounding and enveloping their body.

At the conference we were all really struck by the intelligent questions and interesting point of view articulated by a 10 (nearly 11) year old boy called Thomas who was there with his mum, Cydne. Thomas has synaesthesia and is really interested in it so Cydne brought him to the ASA conference to find out more about it. What an amazing mum! She passed this on to me:

"Thank you for giving my son Thomas a copy of your gorgeous film.  He showed it to his class today.  Last year he tried to tell the kids in his class about synesthesia using mere language but seemed to fall short.  When he showed them your film today they seemed to get it.  They all asked tons of questions and thought it was very cool.  I just wanted to thank you again and let you know that it was really helpful to him and enlightening to everyone who saw it."

I'm so pleased that he liked the film and found it helpful, but seriously I think that Thomas will be telling us all about synaesthesia in another ten years or so. He is a super bright spark.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Back from Music City

Had a great time in Nashville - a fascinating conference (the American Synesthesia Association), with amazing people, great talks and a wonderful city.

My highlights of Nashville, aside from the conference, were:

BBQ brisket and pulled pork at Centennial Park
a basil ice lolly from Las Paletas, gourmet Mexican popsicle shop
seeing Dolly Parton's handwritten lyrics for 'Jolene' at the Country Music Hall of Fame
seeing the Dale Chihuly exhibition at the Frist art gallery
the proximity of cowboys and all things cowboy related

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

New York, London, Istanbul, Nashville .. and Loughborough

This month is a busy one, with An Eyeful of Sound playing at the Candid Arts Trust's Angel Moving Image Festival in Islington, North London (Oct 1-3). It will also be playing at the Imagine Science Film Festival in New York, on Sunday October 17th in the New York Hall of Science, Queens.

I will be presenting a paper on the film at the American Synesthesia Association conference at Vanderbilt University, Nashville at the end of this week. It will be an interesting and exciting opportunity to discuss synaesthesia, animation and representation with neuro-scientists and artists. It's also my fourth conference of the year, all in different areas (animation, science, documentary studies) so I've become a bit of a conference nerd. They are wonderful opportunities to travel, make new connections and hear fascinating ideas. They're also sometimes frankly terrifying and, particularly with the really hard-core academic ones, painfully brain expanding.

Wilson Hall, Vanderbilt University. Photo: Edward M. Hubbard
I went to the Visible Evidence Documentary Studies conference in Istanbul last month which I found really challenging, both intellectually and thermostatically - it was boiling and really humid in mid-August but so beautiful.
Not the most picturesque photo I took in Istanbul...Visible Evidence Conference XVII, Bogazici University.
It was interesting - if perplexing - to see how animated documentary is seen within the larger context of documentary studies, and I had some really interesting conversations on the subject. I think it has a tendency to be seen as a slightly weird distant relative, and no one wants to be the first to invite it over for Christmas. However, hopefully that is changing. There were two panels in the conference devoted to animated documentary that suggested that it might be, where some good discussions took place. Look out for an article I'll be writing for APEngine on this topic...

Next week when I return from Nashville I'll be starting my PhD at Loughborough University. Scary stuff but hopefully it'll be really interesting. My practice-led studies will be about how animated documentaries can be used to convey unique brain states (like synaesthesia), so I'll keep you posted on how it goes!

P.S. I just read this conference dictionary by Myles Mcleod. Very funny.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Branchage and Imagine fests

An Eyeful of Sound is screening at the Branchage Festival later in the month, along with my friend Danny Stack's new film Origin, which will be premiering at the festival. Danny is a writer (and now director) with an excellent scriptwriting blog, which if you haven't come across it is well worth a look.
A still from Danny Stack's film Origin

We're also screening An Eyeful of Sound at the Imagine Science Film Festival in New York next month. Imagine is "an environment where filmmakers, artists, scientists and the public can meet, where science is exciting and accessible to everyone, regardless of their background." The films will be screened at venues including the NYC Hall of Science in Queens, The Bell House in Brooklyn and the Tribeca Cinemas in Manhattan.

ISFF 2010 Trailer (official) from Imagine Science Films on Vimeo.

**** quick update: Danny's film Origin will also be screening at Raindance on 7th October so see it there! ****

Tuesday, 17 August 2010


Look, when you pick up the Scinema award it's actually a kaleidoscope! What a cool idea. I think all awards should do double duty like this, maybe the Oscar statue could conceal a toilet brush or hold some tooth picks.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Public visit

On Wednesday I went with animated documentary maker Katrin Rothe to see the animation exhibition at The Public art gallery in West Bromwich. On display was work by Clive Walley, Steve Chamberlain, two 7 inch cinema programmes (including work by Petra Freeman, Angela Steffen, Eric Dyer and Pes) and An Eyeful of Sound.

Our film was displayed on a huge iPod-like box with surprisingly good sound and a nice picture. Hooray! I have an allergy to moving image shown in corners of galleries on screens with some droopy headphone as it so often means that they get ignored, over-looked or marginalised. I liked the space it was in and some stools in front of it made it a more pleasant viewing experience.

I've never never been to The Public before and I was so impressed with the space and how it was used. Clive Walley's work 'The Light of Uncertainty' (1998) was screened in a large gallery space on a loop and the projection was excellent. I loved Steve Chamberlain's Cyclo-mation; an old Raleigh Twenty (with a white Brooks saddle, mmm, mine never had one of those) linked to a big screen journey around local haunts. Ringing the bell and using the left and right brakes would skip the interaction to different places and modes, and it was really fun to use - specially by kids like Katrin's son (see pic).

You can get a lift up to the third floor where the animation is showing but there's also a ramped walkway which will (eventually) get you back down to the ground floor via lots of interactive screens, games and spaces. There was a row of 7 cameras which allowed people to interact with images on a rostrum and make up their own stories (see bad acting below)...

 ..and cameras which linked up with others in the building so you could have silent image interaction with other visitors.

The Content Pools, made by Lia and Miguel Carvalhais (Porto, Portugal and Vienna, Austria) with the assistance of pupils and staff at Perryfields High School, were excellent too - you put your hands into empty frames and see coloured bubbles emerging on digital 'lilypads' hovering over the atrium.

And we loved the Flypad, made by Brighton's Blast Theory with with the assistance of Cronehills Primary School. "The objective is for players to exchange body parts by colliding with one another". Yes, well, it took us a while to work this out but it was fun anyway and lots of jumping was involved.

Particularly at the moment (with the Colour Box programme specifically for children and several animation workshops as well as all the interactive stuff) in the school holidays this is an excellent place to take children and young people - we're going back!

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Scinema prize winner!

We have just won the Scinema Festival of Science Film prize for best experimental/animation film 2010!

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Scinema Festival of Science Film, Australia

An Eyeful of Sound has been nominated for best film in the category of Animation/Experimental science film at the Scinema Festival, Australia. It is a travelling festival, playing throughout Australia, see here for the programme. Hooray!

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Viennese digital summer screenings

On Friday Tricky Women (women animation directors festival in Vienna) will be contributing a programme to the Frame[o]ut digital film festival, which is a series of open air screenings in the MuseumsQuartier. OneDotZero will also be doing a screening.

Tricky Women have kindly chosen The Beloved Ones as one of their featured shorts.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Artists Access to Art Colleges

The art school I teach at is a participant in the AA2A scheme, 'Artists access to Art Colleges'. It's a brilliantly simple and inspired idea, funding artists to use art college facilities and resources to continue their practice. The scheme is run at lots of different art schools throughout the UK

It would be great to have some animators working in the department, so if you are interested please see the info below.

"Artists Access to Art Colleges is funded by the Lottery through A.C.E., and offers artists & designer makers the opportunity to undertake a period of research or realise a project using art college facilities eg. workshops, IT facilities, lending library, & lecture programme.  AA2A schemes aim to benefit students and Colleges through their interaction with practising artists.

Access is free, for at least 100 hours, between Oct 2010 and April 2011 and a materials/travel grant of £220 is usually available.

Closing dates for applications vary but all are in September 2010
Applicants must have at least one years professional practice and should be able to work with minimal technical support.

Artists on AA2A schemes run from 2007 to 2008 or before can now reapply.  To read previous artists' stories click here.
AA2A particularly welcomes applications from applicants with disabilities, from culturally diverse backgrounds and non-graduates."

Monday, 12 July 2010


Phew. I've just come back from the Society for Animation Studies conference and am quite pooped. It was an intense and deeply stimulating three days, talking eating and breathing animation theory, practice and process.

I gave my talk, which I think went OK (and luckily it was first up so it was over soon!), and then settled back to watch everyone else's. It soon became clear that there was no way I could see all of the papers as there were at least two and more probably three sessions (each of 2-4 papers) going on at once, four times a day. Luckily coffee flowed freely and there were afternoon cakes and shortbread which I thought was very civilised.

The talks varied from the completely opaque (to me anyway) to the brain shatteringly inspirational and I came away from the experience energised and enthused. Some of the stand-out sessions were the key note talks by Claire Kitson (talking about Channel 4's invaluable development and support of the animated short during the 90s) and Paul Wells (talking about the links between animation and sport extremely convincingly even to a sport-o-phobic like me), Birgitta Hosea's fantasic paper about drawing, and the whole session about animated documentary, chaired by Bella Honess Roe. I also loved Kirsten Thompson's paper about colour which had some amazing slides and clips that I could happily have printed out and papered my house with.

The only downside was having hardly any time for exploring Edinburgh - which was sunny for most of the weekend! - but I'll have to go back and properly explore. On the Friday evening we went to a screening of Scottish animation at the Filmhouse and saw a great programme, I particularly loved Iain Gardner's The Tannery which is incredibly sensitive and moving, and Lizzie Hobbs' The Witches which is hilarious. Both animators were there to discuss the legacy of Norman McLaren too which was a treat.

The whole thing made me want to watch more films and read more books and make more work, which is the point really isn't it? I'm going to try and digest the information which is over crowding my head at the moment and turn it into some relevant and intelligent-sounding

Friday, 9 July 2010

Biorhythm exhibition, Trinity College Dublin

An Eyeful of Sound is playing as an installation at the Science Gallery in Trinity College Dublin as part of an exhibition called Biorhythm from now until October. Biorhythm is about music and the body.

"From an acoustic bed to sonic tables and experiments on your emotional response to pop music, Science Gallery's Summer exhibition BIORHYTHM will allow you to feel how music moves your body through an interactive bazaar of unique sonic experiences, installations, experiments and performances from musicians, engineers and neuroscientists from around the world."

The Science Gallery is in Trinity College Dublin on Pearse Street in The Naughton Institute.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Animation Evolution in Edinburgh

This weekend the Society for Animation Studies is holding its annual conference at Edinburgh Art College. It's called Animation Evolution and there will be fascinating papers from big and small cheeses of the animation world.

I am a mini babybel; I shall be giving a paper called "Animating unique brain states: The animated documentary and ‘psychorealism’" which discusses making An Eyeful of Sound.

Professor Paul Wells (an entire Edam) and Claire Kitson (Gouda? maybe a big wheel of brie) will be giving the keynote talks and I'm very much looking forward to listening to some interesting ideas and getting into the right headspace for my PhD.

 And now I've made myself hungry ....

Friday, 25 June 2010

Animation at The Public!

There is a cornucopia of good animation stuff screening at  The Public art gallery in West Bromwich on 21 July.

An Eyeful of Sound will be shown as part of their A for Animation exhibition. It's curated by 7 Inch Cinema so it should be an interesting and stimulating programme.

Even better on the same day there will be a retrospective of Clive Walley's work, which is beautiful, lyrical and unlike anything else I've seen in animation. His film The Light of Uncertainty is one of my favourite animation films and I'm so glad that his pioneering work is being recognised.
Clive Walley

Finally Birmingham based animator Steven Chamberlain has been commissioned to develop an interactive animation device called Cyclo-mation. It looks like a really interesting project and you can take part by developing a story and uploading to the big screen!
image of a bicycle

Monday, 21 June 2010

The Beloved Ones at the Tricycle Theatre on Sunday

Women, Power and PoliticsMy film The Beloved Ones has made the final shortlist for the Tricycle Theatre's Women, Power and Politics season. It has been selected by a panel of industry experts (the screening is in conjunction with Women in Film & Television) and will screen this Sunday 27th June.

The Sunday Shorts programme of 6 short films will be the last day of the Women Power and Politics Film Festival. There have been some brilliant and fascinating films screened, so I feel very honoured to have been included

The screening will start at 2pm and will be chaired by film director Sarah Gavron. Tickets are £4, and available from the theatre's website or on the day. I won't be able to make it but if anyone does go I'd love to hear how it went!

still from The Beloved Ones (2007)

Friday, 11 June 2010

Prospective PhD study

Good news, I have been accepted onto the PhD programme at the University of Loughborough's Animation Academy from October!
Emma's sketch of her synaesthetic visual image prompted by the sound of running water (above).

My proposal was about animating unique brain states (like synaesthesia) through animated documentary, and why this genre might be uniquely suited to do so.

I'm very nervous about it but I also know that it'll be an incredible learning curve for me, and I'm very pleased to be back being a student again - learning is so much more open than teaching (although I will still be doing a bit of that to keep body & soul together!).

Wednesday, 9 June 2010


An Eyeful of Sound is playing on Friday 25th June at the In The Palace Festival in Bulgaria, at 12:30 (see pic below).

It will also be screening in the Palm Springs International Shortsfest (below*) on Saturday 26 June at 10:30 am in the Art Attack programme.
It'll also be showing at the Anima Mundi Festival in Brazil (along with The Beloved Ones)in July and the London International Animation Festival in August.

Plus, I will be presenting papers about the film at two conferences, the Society for Animation Studies conference called Animation Evolution in Edinburgh in July, and at the Visible Evidence Documentary conference in Istanbul in August.

*love those women in the audience! Have a look at this fab blog if you haven't come across it before; Advanced Style

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Magma Film Festival, NZ

'An Eyeful of Sound' will be screening at the Magma Short Film Festival, New Zealand on Thursday 29th April at 7 pm at the brilliantly named Shambles Theatre in Rotorua. 


We visited Rotorua on our big trip, and it's an amazing and surreal place. Here's a picture of me and Archie in a local park, which bubbles with steam vents and hot mud pools in between bowling greens and pretty flower beds. Fab.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

East End Film Festival

Eyeful will be screening at the East End film festival on Monday evening at the Rio Cinema - how cool! It'll be on in the 'Documents 2: UK True-life stories' programme at 6:15 pm, and if you fancy going you can get tickets through the Rio website.

Eyeful of Sound playing today

An Eyeful of Sound will be playing at the Athens International Film & Video Festival in competition today in the 'Poetry, Music, Film' programme at the Athena Cinema at 12:45.

(that's Athens, Ohio..)