No Cel Animation: programme notes
London Filmmakers’ Co-op
42 Gloucester Avenue Camden London NW1 8JD

October 1995

no cel animation
No Cel Animation is an exciting series of screenings and discussions concerned with the type of animation that challenges. No Cel includes exhibitions and an animation course, as well as an open screening for new work. The screenings include many important, rarely seen films, as well as very recent innovative work, including some premieres.

the image of animation:
Animation is a medium encompassing a whole spectrum of techniques and approaches. With the emergence of studio and production houses dedicated to the proliferation of the ‘cartoon’, there has been a monopolisation of the public image of animation as light entertainment using ‘clever’ techniques. Originally the term ‘cartoon’ was used during the Italian Renaissance, and referred to the final drawing made by the artist for transferring an image from charcoal to fresco.It represented the summation of the artist’s sketchy and ‘experimental’ designs into a single image, the bridge between idea and execution. In this sense, the term ‘cartoon’ relates to this season’s presentation of animation as a focal point for exploring ideas both behind and beyond the image. The attempt here is to debunk animation’s ‘cartoon‘ stereotype and to position animation within a progressive context of experimental ideas and practice.

no cel:
‘Without borders’, ‘frame by frame’, ‘generated from inanimate material’, ‘an art of condensation and metaphor’ - so animation is variously defined. From these definitions it would seem that the medium permits as much experimentation as could be imagined, yet most animation remains narrative cartoon on cel. The films selected for this programme reflect exploration with a huge diversity of materials, filming styles and rhythms, and non-linear, non-narrative concerns not typically associated with animated film. Many have been made autonomously and uncompromisingly on a low budget.

feminine excess
This programme explores the notion of an excessive or monstrous femininity. Most of these films tackle questions and contradictions of corporeal gender difference, the ways in which those differences have informed women’s self image, and how men have constructed the dominant view of women according to difference. Women’s bodies, because of their ability to give birth and to nurture, have typically been confined to those roles. Through pregnancy, childbirth and menstruation, women’s bodies have been associated with the grotesque - distended, leaking vessels that in their formlessness and lack of containment/boundaries are a threat to identity and social order. The grotesque is also characteristic of animated film - the medium lending itself to comic, surreal and fantastic representations.

It is through animation that many women filmmakers have felt comfortable in expressing the taboos and desires that have otherwise been either effaced by the dominant male view, or assigned to the horror genre as the ‘monstrous’.

What is most interesting about the mythological figure of woman as the source of all life is that within patriarchal signifying practices, particularly the horror film, she is reconstructed as a negative figure, one associated with the generative other seen only as abyss, the all incorporating black hole which threatens to reabsorb what it once birthed.
Barbara Creed, The Monstrous Feminine (1994)

The following expressions of womanhood yield various positions on femininity. Some subvert and/or transgress negative female stereotypes. Some maintain the essentialist view that has inspired fear in men, associating women with nature and biology, coding femininity with corporeality. The films combine many different visual techniques: 2D, 3D, pixillation, live action, direct film.

menstruation and mystification

These films explore the female body - its cycles, its hollow spaces, its mystery. They re-examine essentialist notions of women’s bodies as enslaved by nature, and play with the myth of the unreliable, grotesque, boundary-exceeding female form.

Body fluids attest to the permeability of the body, its necessary dependence on an outside... they are engulfing, difficult to be rid of; any separation from them is not a matter of certainty, as it may be in the case of solids.
Elizabeth Grosz, Volatile Bodies (1994)

i cat (Jayne Parker, UK, 1980, 10 mins) Through poetry and raw pencil drawing, Jayne Parker describes violent oppositional states between beasts, depicting an extreme devouring sexuality, penetration, dismemberment and castration. With a disturbing soundtrack of bestial grunts and groans, the (female) body hole heaves and spews blood and guts.

cage of flame (Kayla Parker, UK, 1992, 10 mins) Cage of Flame expresses an ambivalence towards the experience of menstruation. The bleeding woman is alternately imprisoned by her cycles/nature. Her squatting position emphasises the lack of direction or ‘object’ for her flow.

mid air (Vera Neubauer, UK, 1989, 15 mins) The ‘curse’ is reversed when a bored housewife decides to put her broomstick to better use. Through assembling several visual modes, Mid Air treats myth, motherhood, marriage and menstruation. The film humorously draws attention to processes of representation and the animator’s magic that impart movement to objects. Patriarchy soils itself.

peyote queen (Storm de Hirsch, US, 1965, 8 mins) An intoxicating kaleidoscopic journey through bright gems and saturated scratches of different states of consciousness.

i con (Vanda Carter, UK, 1993, 3 mins) Fluid line in continual metamorphosis explores a forgotten female essence.

the cat and the woman (Jayne Parker, UK, 1987, 2.5 mins) ‘A woman loses her head to a cat in return for a man. A cautionary tale.’ - JP. A woman gambles with her ‘lack; and ends up with less.

Programme by Tim Cole and Vicky Smith