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Naomi van Niekerk: Interval

Fall 2020

Netzorg and Kerr Permanent Collection Gallery

Adriane Little, curator

Interval, a show comprising prints, objects and a series of short films animated on a light table with a camera affixed originates from the idea of archiving and making a residue of ephemeral performance work and films created over the past three years.

Reworking images as etchings and linocuts is an attempt to prolong or evoke the experience of a film or theatre piece. The printing press, in this instance, also functions as a photographic device, in that it takes impressions at a specific moment, the instant in which a plate has been prepared and inked up and deemed print ready. It is similar to capturing a frame after sufficiently altering an image in stop-motion animation.

By its nature, stop-motion animation, in which one second of motion is divided into twelve frames or impressions, slows down motion or makes it stop . What we perceive as a few seconds of action in film, took a day to create – fractions of an event are carefully recorded with a camera. It is as if the the filmmaker- animator grasps time itself and has found a way to alter it. She can distill instances as well as reverse actions in fluid transitions. It becomes a game of slowing down and accelerating motion and time.

My interest in slowing down and decomposing movement dates back to my training as a puppeteer. I recall a specific exercise: two participants hold on to a broom with the tip of their index fingers taking turns in moving and allowing the other to nudge them in a certain direction. It is an intense exercise in practicing stillness while responding to micro-impulses. The animation of the inanimate other through touch is what drew me to animation years later; hence my impulse to create a series of animated short films. To move material and allow oneself to be moved over distance is at the core of stop-motion animation and my artistic practice.

In the neurologist Oliver Sacks’s essay 'Speed' he discusses characters in the short stories of H.G. Wells (‘The Time Machine’ and ‘The New Accelerator’) who experience the world at different speeds:

People like ourselves and not yet like ourselves, frozen in careless attitudes, caught in mid gesture […] And sliding down the air with wings flapping slowly and at the speed of an exceptionally languid snail – was a bee.

I always feel bolstered when reading Sacks's essay It reminds me that the seemingly absurd task of spending eight hours to produce an animate two or three intricate seconds creates resonance and that our experience of time is relative. To break down one second into smaller instances – depending on the intricacy of the action, I shoot at between 12 and 15 frames per second – is to play with the speed at which we experience things.

With this work I am attempting to recalibrate the experience of time and motion; it's a gesture towards restoring my trust in motion as contemplation. I see my work and methodology as an act of resistance against a sphere that is continuously in acceleration.

About the artist
Naomi van Niekerk (South Africa 1984) is a hybrid-media artist and works in film, theatre, installation and print-making. Her extensive training and work in puppetry equipped and inspires her to breathe life into inanimate materials albeit objects or liquid powder that is animated frame by frame using a camera. As a stop-motion animator, she creates short films of haunting poignancy and power based on sensitive interpretations of stark, South African narrative poems that speak to her. These short films have been screened at numerous international festivals and received widespread acclaim such as the Best First Film Award at Annecy International Film Festival (for An Ordinary Blue Monday) and selection for the International Program at the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen for My Mum's Bonkers. The Alchemy of Words, a theatre production about Arthur Rimbaud that combines sand animation and live puppetry and music is still on tour two years after its original staging and was also performed at the Festival Internationale de théâtre des Marionnettes in Charleville-Mézières, France. She started work on her latest film, Box Cutters, at the Cinémathèque Quebeçoise in Montréal in 2018 and is currently also developing a new VR project titled Two Worlds, which won the Digilab Africa competition in 2018.

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Frostic School of Art Students and Friends of the Richmond Center Members Preview and Opening Reception TBA MyWMU.com/FriendsofRCVA