Curated by Adriane Little, Director, Frostic School of Art and Professor of Kinetic Imaging
Postponed from the spring of 2020, Naomi van Niekerk’s solo exhibition in the Kerr Gallery will feature prints, objects, and a series of short films animated on a light table with a camera affixed. Titled Interval, the exhibition originates from the idea of archiving and making a residue of ephemeral performances and films created across the past five years. For Niekerk, this reworking of images as etchings or 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, inked up, and deemed print ready. The process is similar to capturing a frame after sufficiently altering an image for stop-motion animation, which, by its very nature, slows down motion or makes it stop. Film being both an analog and a digital medium, what is perceived as a few seconds of action in film actually took days to create; fractions of an event were carefully recorded with a camera, move by move. From this perspective, it is as if the filmmaker-animator grasps time and alters it. She can distill instances as well as reverse actions in fluid transitions. Here the artist’s process might be interpreted as a game of slowing down and accelerating both motion and time.
Niekerk says, “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 tandem with her exhibition at the Richmond Center, Niekerk will teach a spring course at the Frostic School of Art in the recently founded Kinetic Imaging area.
About the artist:
Naomi van Niekerk (South Africa, b. 1984) is a hybrid-media artist and works in film, theatre, installation, and printmaking. Her extensive training and work in puppetry equipped and inspires her to breathe life into inanimate materials, whether 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, including 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 Québécoise in Montreal in 2018 and is currently also developing a new VR project titled Two Worlds, which won the Digilab Africa competition in 2018.
For more about Naomi’s work, see www.dryfsand.com