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Structuring Strategies: Experimental Animation Faculty Michael Scroggins 'What Are You Looking At?'

December 13, 2011
Tuesday, December 13, 2011 - 7:00pm

CalArts, Bijou Theater

FILM/VIDEO: Michael Scroggins is Director of the Computer Animation Labs at CalArts where he has been on the faculty of the School of Film/Video since 1978.  Scroggins is a pioneer in the field of absolute animation performance.  His absolute animation works have been widely exhibited internationally, including screenings at the Centre George Pompidou, Paris; Union of Filmmakers, Moscow; Seibu Ginza, Tokyo; and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles.  He is involved in an ongoing investigation of the potential of gesture capture in the creation of real-time absolute animation in fully immersive VR.  He has continued to perfect liquid projection techniques, most recently in the film Limn, which will have its world premiere tonight.

What Are You Looking At?

(1970/1973, 11:30, NTSC)

"What are you looking at?" was shot on the new ½ inch reel to reel EIAJ Sony Portapak's that made portable videotape recording open to a wide range of people for the first time in history.  Access to this artist friendly means of production allowed for a form of long take experimentation that was not constrained by the economics of shooting 16mm sound film.  The video opens with a brief moment with Nam June Paik in the CalArts parking lot, Burbank, 1970, and moves onto the core of the piece which revolves around a casual morning’s recording at the Hillside House in Topanga Canyon, 1973, in which the young child, Tucker, directs the gaze of the videographer—and thus the video viewer.  The synchronicity of developing events unfolds in a dance of subjective and objective relationships revolving around the question quoted in the title.

Destiny Edit 

(A linked compilation of "Lose Yr Jobs," 1972—"Corrigan /Lund," 1974—"Sangsara," 1975, NTSC)

“Lose Yr Jobs” consists of a fragment from an off the air recording an interview with President Richard Nixon that is looped by a very physical rewinding, forwarding, and rewinding via the control knob of a ½ inch video tape player.  The process of performing the looping results in an out of context statement that emphasizes the textural quality of the raw videotape medium while developing an aleatoric cadence.  In the second part, “Corrigan/Lund,” President Nixon’s re-contextualized statement is forced into a connection with statements by the resigning CalArts President Robert Corrigan and incoming interim president, William Lund.  The Portapak medium again reveals the passage of a set of events that would be unlikely to have been recorded with earlier methods for acquiring sound and moving image.  The intuitive wandering of the videographers gaze reveals a situation that serves to precipitate a disrupting moment in the ritual passing of the reins of institutional power.  The key tripping point of the actors reference to “Destiny’s Wheel” is underscored in the third part, “Sangsara” in which an image generated in a particularly numinous real-time videographic performance serves as an iconic representation alluding to the ongoing cyclic flow of the wheel of becoming—as it might be experienced during closed eye vision.

Recent Li

(1980, 5:00, NTSC) 

In defining the Chinese term “li,” Joseph Needham has written, "In its most ancient meaning, it signified the pattern in things, the markings in jade or fibers in muscle . . .”  The forms in Recent Li originate from the “li” generated in the layered real-time performance of a video feedback quaternity figure.

Saturnus Alchimia

(1982, 3:22, NTSC)

Study No. 13 (1983, 0:20, NTSC)
Study No, 6
(1983, 4:31, NTSC)
Study No. 7
(1983, 2:27, NTSC)
Study No. 14
(1983, 2:58, NTSC)
Study No. 16
(1983, 4:36, NTSC)

This series of absolute videographic compositions were created via the multitracking of improvised real time performance with a standard video switcher. The intention was to explore the affect made possible through the architectonic structuring of the basic elements of color, shape, texture, and rhythm.

Power Spot

(1986, 8:12, NTSC) 

As in the preceding series of absolute animation studies, the video images in Power Spot were created through a process of live improvisation.  The simultaneous and successive deviation of recurring visual elements lends formal meaning to the work.


(1986, 7:00, NTSC) 

In contradistinction to the relentless rhythms and dense structures that perpetually fill the screen space in Power Spot, Solaire is composed with an open spatial flow that employs simpler and more clearly discrete elements.

Adagio for Jon and Helena

(2009, 5:00, HD 1080p) 

A continuous take digital recording from a live solo liquid light projection performance utilizing a technique I developed in 1968.  This piece is dedicated to my liquid light teachers Jon Greene and Helena Lebrun. As with much of my absolute animation performance work, it is the affective power found at the edges of gestural control and indeterminate chaos that interests me.


(2010, 6:30, HD 1080p) World Premiere! 

This work is another in a series of continuous take high definition digital recordings of live solo liquid light projection performances.  Limn incorporates a dark field technique to enhance the detailed structures derived from the chemical reactions employed in the performance.

Last edited by dthatt on Dec 08, 2011
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