Haeckel’s Tears

Phonotrope with gold wedding ring, snakes, hands and weeping eye.

After long last, I have finished the construction and assembly of my Haeckel’s Tears wedding cake phonotrope, complete with all its various paper layers. In the rough, off-the-cuff smartphone video posted above, I give the phonotrope a quick whirl on my turntable.

 The imagery on this phonotrope includes a twirling gold wedding ring, a hand holding this same ring, a snake that twists and turns into a variation on a figure-eight, and a weeping lover’s eye. Lover’s eye jewellery was popular in the late 1700s and early 1800s, when stylish aristocratic men and women often wore the miniature portraits depicting one eye (usually) of their spouse or lover. Typically painted on ivory, the tiny portraits were fashioned as brooches, rings, pendants, and lockets. I added this lover’s eye image to my current phonotrope as it purports to tell the story of the 19th-century marine biologist Ernst Haeckel and his young wife Anna, who died suddenly shortly after the couple were married.* The lover’s eye is surrounded by an ouroburos (a snake devouring its own tail, symbolic of the cycle of life, death, and rebirth), which ties back to the snake loop below (itself a looping infinity symbol) which appears on the first layer of this phonotrope.

I plan on building one more phonotrope, making the total number of phonotropes for my proposed Haeckel’s Tears installation three. I will video these again with decluttered backgrounds once I’ve completed all three. Have also decided to build a silhouette-style animation — telling the story of Ernst & Anna Haeckel — to fit around the videos of the phonotropes. Stay tuned.

Incidentally, below is a video of the first phonotrope in this series — this one prominently features the medusae jellyfish so beloved by Haeckel.

Phonotrope with medusae jellyfish, seahorses and waving seaweed.

*The German biologist Ernst Haeckel was fascinated by medusae, the umbrella-shaped animals commonly called jellyfish. For Haeckel, whose imagination was shaped in the Romantic era, medusae expressed the exuberant yet fragile beauty of Nature. And in their ethereal forms he glimpsed a reflection of his great love Anna Sethe, who died tragically at the age of twenty-nine.

Haeckel had been engaged to Anna for four years when, in 1862, he became associate professor of zoology at the University of Jena. The job gave the adoring pair the economic security they needed to finally marry. In the same year, Haeckel published a book on radiolaria (microscopic plankton) which he furnished with stunning illustrations. In Jena, the newlyweds lived together in bliss for eighteen months. Then, on the day he was supposed to celebrate his thirtieth birthday and receive an award for his radiolaria book, Anna died suddenly, probably of a burst appendix. Haeckel became mad with grief. A partial delirium kept him in bed for eight days. A month later he wrote to a friend, “I am dead on the inside already and dead for everything. Life, nature, science have no appeal for me. How slowly the hours pass.”

Haeckel travelled to the Mediterranean town of Nice to attempt a recovery from his suicidal malaise. One day he took a walk and saw a medusa in a rock pool: “I enjoyed several happy hours watching the play of her tentacles which hang like blond hair-ornaments from the rim of the delicate umbrella-cap and which with the softest movement would roll up into thick short spirals.” He made a sketch and named the species Mitrocoma Annae [Anna’s headband].

The grace and beauty of the medusa soothed Haeckel’s grief and contributed to what would be a lifelong fascination with medusae.

— source.

Further investigations with phonotropes

Testing out the first layer of my vertical paper phonotrope.

In the video posted above, I’m testing out the first layer of my second phonotrope project (you can read about my technical process and first phonotrope here). I decided to play around with varying the number of frames in each animation, resulting in the animation moving horizontally. If you add frames, the animation moves right-to-left; if you subtract, it moves left-to-right. The snake in the centre has the “correct” number of frames (32) so it remains in the same location.

The flattened artwork. It’s shown 2-up, because I always like to print a spare.

Thinking about building an interior framework with balsa wood + dowling to minimize the wobble of the paper at the top. (The taller the paper structure gets, the more prone it is to wobble when rotated).

Now, on to the next layer/s for this phonotrope. Thinking of having one, and maybe two, additional layers on the inside of this phonotrope. Stay tuned.

Playing with paper puppets

 

In addition to teaching and making art and animated films, I like to make and sell articulated paper puppets for my Etsy shop. Think I just enjoy the straightforward, playful simplicity of puppets and paper dolls.

I recently made this short stop-motion video “commercial” to promote my shop — but, honestly, I just wanted to get some of these puppets under camera to see what I could do with them. Their range of motion is limited (most of the heads don’t move), but I was up for the challenge.

The music is just some royalty free loop I downloaded from Soundsnap.

December 2018 update

Hello darklings. As we approach the quiet dark of the Winter Solstice, I have two pieces of news to share with you. Firstly, I was thrilled to have my short animated film Wunderkammer featured on the Cult of Weird web site. Fans of this compendium of all-things odd and weird are the perfect audience for this project.

Cult of Weird write up of Wunderkammer

Second, Wunderkammer will have its world festival premiere at the Medusa Underground Film Festival in Las Vegas, Nevada on January 11-13, 2019. Here’s the description of the festival from their web site:

The Medusa Underground Film Festival is a three day event in Las Vegas, NV showcasing underground/strange and unusual films created by women. Dreamt up by filmmakers for filmmakers, the goal behind the fest is to provide a space where everyone can watch each other’s movies together, get inspired and network.

Not sure what is considered “underground”? We accept all genres and if it’s strange, experimental, cult, genre mashup…or is just all around hard to define, you’re probably in the right place.

 

Yep, that definitely sounds like what I do. Can’t wait. I’m slotted into the Erotic Block. I anticipate questions, many questions.

medusa erotic block

 

Wunderkammer

SYNOPSIS:
Madelaine’s cabinet of curiosities contained a collection of wonders to both delight and horrify. One day, a mysterious item in her cabinet captures her attention. A darkly-tinged fantasy that explores the erotic-grotesque.

Directed, animated, and edited by Jennifer Linton
Musical score by Zev Farber

ABOUT THIS FILM
Wunderkammer is a 2D stop-motion animated film shot under camera using unarmatured, replacement paper cutouts. This traditional animation medium involves hundreds of individual drawings that are drawn on paper, scanned, printed, hand-coloured and cutout. These cutouts are swapped in frame-to-frame to create smooth, complex movements not possible with articulated paper puppets. The resulting film has all the hand-drawn charm and personality of traditional cel animation, plus the lovely textures and materiality of stop-motion.

Many thanks to the kind generosity of my Indiegogo contributors!

Copyright ©2018 Papercut Pictures. All rights reserved.

Female-generated erotica, lost in translation.

Recently, I tripped across an online review for my animated short film La Petite Mort on a French-language arts & culture magazine called Wukali. At least, I think it’s a review. The reason for my uncertainty is, of course, the absolutely horrendous French-to-English translation offered by Google Chrome. The author, identified as Pierre-Alain Lèvy, seems to be discussing the difference between erotica — that classy, art-directed tease who promises, but never quite delivers — and her more hardcore sister, pornography. This discussion name-drops a short list of Western civilization’s erotic art heavy-hitters, including Apollonaire, André Breton and Octave Mirbeau — the latter best known for his written anthology of sadism entitled Torture Garden — and alludes to Charles Baudelaire through his mention of Flowers of Evil.

It is notable that most of the names mentioned in the article are 19th and early 20th-century French men (Lèvy also mentions male Japanese artists Dan Kanemitsu and Katsushika Hokusai). Conspicuously absent are the historical women artists working with erotic content. Even the most cursory glance back at the early 20th-century in France summons the names of celebrated women writers Anaïs Nin, Colette, and Pauline Réage (author of the BDSM-themed novel The Story of O), all of whom would serve as better antecedents to my female-generated erotica than either Mirbeau or Baudelaire.

That said, Lèvy does correctly detect the influence of Japanese erotic art on La Petite Mort. A tiny reproduction of The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife by Katsushika Hokusai is prominently placed within the frame, providing a strong hint at what’s to come in the narrative. As with many of my animation projects, the concept for the film began with a single image — the Hokusai print, in this case — and developed outwards from there. I asked myself questions such as: “What happened before that image? And what happened after?” The resulting animation is my response to those questions.

toshio saeki

“Masturbation Box”, by Toshio Saeki.

A similar tactic was employed in the development of my most recent animation project Wunderkammer, which grew as a response to an image by Toshio Saeki from his print series Masturbation Box. An astute reader will have already noted that both the Japanese artists I’ve mentioned are men. Regrettably, there are very few Japanese women artists engaged with this type of ero-guro or “erotic-grotesque” imagery — at least, of which I am aware (Junko Mizuno is the one name that springs to mind, though I’d classify her work as more gothic kawaii than truly ero-guro). I consider my animations as female-lensed erotica engaged in a game of call-and-answer with the content produced by these male Japanese artists. Wunderkammer expands the universe surrounding Saeki’s image to a considerable degree, fleshing out the story with my other various fixations such as cabinets of curiosity, oddities, taxidermy, octopuses, and Edwardian-style costumes and furnishings. And, of course, that mysterious box.

scene 16 blur

Work-in-progress video still from “Wunderkammer” (projected release date Fall 2018).

Below is a screen capture of the Wukali article and here is a link to the original French article, which I imagine makes considerably more sense than the translated version offered here (if you can read French, that is).

Wukali 01Wukali 02

Preview clip of “Wunderkammer”

Preview clip for “Wunderkammer”. from Jennifer Linton on Vimeo.

The entire film of Wunderkammer is under lock-and-key on Vimeo until it’s had a festival run, but you can get a taste of it in this clip. Very pleased with the original score composed by Zev Farber.

SYNOPSIS:
Madelaine’s cabinet of curiosities contained a collection of wonders to both delight and horrify. One day, a mysterious item in her cabinet captures her attention. A darkly-tinged, animated fantasy that explores the erotic-grotesque.

ABOUT THIS FILM
Wunderkammer is a 2D stop-motion animated film shot under camera using unarmatured, replacement paper cutouts. This traditional animation medium involves hundreds of individual drawings that are drawn on paper, scanned, printed, hand-coloured and cutout. These cutouts are swapped in frame-to-frame to create smooth, complex movements not possible with articulated paper puppets. The resulting film has all the hand-drawn charm and personality of traditional cel animation, plus the lovely textures and materiality of stop-motion.

Many thanks to the kind generosity of my Indiegogo contributors!

Copyright ©2018 Papercut Pictures. All rights reserved.