One of the activities that keeps me busy these days — other than teaching, of course — is applying to grant programs. This is a long, tedious, and painful process that I submit to only grudgingly. It’s also, unfortunately, a necessary one. As part of the application process, I’ve been forced to cobble together a storyboard for my proposed animation project. This is yet another ‘necessary task’ that I perform grudgingly — being a naturally lazy creature, I’ve never done one before — though the benefits of having a storyboard are immediate and the process certainly worthwhile.
I don’t want to reveal all of my storyboard just yet, but here’s a sneak peak. Below the storyboard sample is my artist’s statement/project proposal, which might prove insightful to those of you who follow the development of my animations.
My current series of stop-motion animations entitled Domestikia developed directly out of a previous sculptural-installation project, in which I constructed a three-dimensional dollhouse from paper and lithographic prints. This project, entitled The Disobedient Dollhouse, employed the setting of a Victorian-themed dollhouse as a means to critique the sentimentality of nostalgia, as well as the tiny, precious model of perfect domesticity that the dollhouse itself proposes. A dollhouse is a gendered space, one specifically codified as feminine – it is therefore a highly suitable space in which to focus attention on women’s roles within the home. Furthermore, the strange, hybrid creatures and giant insects that populated my Dollhouse hinted at a dark, secret fantasy world churning just beneath the veneer of domestic perfection.
As previously stated, the Domestikia animation series began as an expansion of the narratives that originally appeared in The Disobedient Dollhouse project. For instance, the bird-headed children and Nanny (a self-portrait) featured in Domestikia: The Incident in the Nursery first existed as a paper diorama inside The Disobedient Dollhouse. The medium of stop-motion animation enabled me to — quite literally — bring that nursery scene alive. In addition to the scenes and narratives, the look and style of my Dollhouse has also carried over into my animations. Like the hand-drawn lithographs I created for the Dollhouse, the paper cutouts and articulated paper puppets from Domestikia possess the same grainy, textured quality of the lithographic crayon.
Similar to the other Domestikia films, the proposed project Domestikia, Chapter 3: The Little Death will employ the technique known as ‘cutout animation’, one of the earliest forms of stop-motion that uses flat characters and backgrounds cut from paper. The technical limitations of paper puppets, with their characteristically stiff and unnatural movements, make cutout animation particularly well suited to animations whose themes involve fantasy, surrealism, dreams, and that which otherwise lacks realism. Rather than being a technical limitation, the anti-realism of the paper cutout serves to amplify the strangeness of the events that happen throughout Domestikia – which is precisely why I’ve chosen to work with this technique. In Domestikia, Chapter 3: The Little Death, my plan is to further expand the technical and aesthetic possibilities of the paper cutout.
The storyline of Domestikia traces a series of strange, otherworldly events that take place within an imaginary dollhouse. The connecting thread between each narrative is the continual appearance of a butterfly, a creature that acts as a sort of ‘agent of chaos’, disrupting the daily domestic routines of the miniature household. In Domestikia, Chapter 6: An Unfortunate Incident Involving Her Hat, the appearance of the butterfly in the opening scene foreshadows the strangeness of subsequent events, in which the morning routine of dressing goes terribly wrong when a hat decides to grow out of control. The butterfly departs the scene, and in Domestikia: The Incident in the Nursery, it appears once more to disrupt the daily proceedings – this time, rousing an infant recently rocked to sleep by the Nanny, creating a cacophony of screams. The butterfly is once again featured in my proposed project, entitled Domestikia, Chapter 3: The Little Death. In this latest installment of the Domestikia series, the ‘little death’ of the title refers simultaneously to the metamorphosis process of the butterfly, as well as to ‘la petite mort’ of orgasm, as the butterfly is shown to have originated from an amorous encounter between Madelaine and her octopod lover. The ‘little death’ also refers to the literal building up, and subsequent dismantling of the Madelaine paper puppet when she is ‘lovingly dismembered’ by the octopus. Ostensibly, Domestikia, Chapter 3 is about shifts in identity that occur as one’s role in life changes: from individual, to couple, to parent. In short, sometimes it is necessary to ‘die’ in order to reinvent oneself.