Nau mai, haere mai, welcome to eyeCONTACT, a forum built to encourage art reviews and critical discussion about the visual culture of Aotearoa New Zealand. I'm John Hurrell its editor, a New Zealand writer, artist and curator. While Creative New Zealand and other supporters are generously paying me and other contributors to review exhibitions over the following year, all expressed opinions are entirely our own.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Educational animation

Jill Kennedy: New Educational Series
Film Archives, next to ARTSPACE
29 August -30 September, 2009

For this exhibition of three short films that use animated collage, Jill Kennedy has a cleverly ambiguous title. It can refer to the source material where she found her images. Or it could refer to political/historical or social readings from encoded narratives that you might see in the array of moving theatre-like sets and cut-out protagonists.

There is a tension here, between her obvious love for Surrealist collage artists like Max Ernst and Joseph Cornell, and the political readings or messages that can be found in images such as Hussars (Imperial militarist expansionism), microbes and virologists (influenza epidemics), or busy ants and housing subdivisions (community conformity, escalating consumerism).

Yet in some way’s Kennedy’s films follow the lead of the seductively silky, droning music composed by her collaborator John Payne. His sound has more emotional (and visceral) power than her visuals which though entertaining, funny and possibly semantically loaded, don’t bodily penetrate in the way that sound does. Her colour for example, is not saturated but tastefully pastel or slightly faded. You are not optically bombarded by chroma but you are manipulated by horizontal movement as the camera pans past things or objects float past it.

This kinetic sense seems to be Kennedy’s real interest, for she is a sort of suggestive, surrealist abstractionist - despite her interest in narrative. She likes clusters of entangled line and delicate spirograph formations as much as patterned formations of flying fishes, or swaying, nodding canaries. The horizontal movement (punctuated by a little vertical action) seems just as crucial to her as the evocative (or potentially didactic) image – if not more.

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