The 58th Street Manifesto

The 58th Street Manifesto: Thoughts, articles, crafted words and miscellaneous expressions. Exploring the symbolism of the eight-pointed star, and recontextualising cultural appreciation.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Reviewing the work of: Jan Svankmajer: "Food"

The layman's idea of the work of Jan Svankmajer, based on available information, would set the expectations of a Tool video's stop motion puppetry with dark imagery with tones of urban and biological decay. A twisted surrealism permeates the modern stop-motion aesthetic. It is indeed certain that Jan Svankmajer's work accentuates these dark surrealist tones. However, he is seen by many in the stop motion animation world as a founding father of the genre (he has influenced artists from Tim Burton to The Brothers Quay), and has constantly exceeded the boundaries of what is expected of the artform with his use of live action, non-puppet animation, and even narrative dialogue.

"Food"(1992) Immediately assaults the visual sense with a quick succession of pictures of - well, food and slams the watcher right into the first "movement" of the piece, entitled "Breakfast". In what may be the best of three vignettes due to its total lack of spoonfed explanation of motivation a man seats himself before another, motionless individual. The clothing all throughout the piece is drab and grey, matching the sparse and dingy room. This image repeats in Svankmajer's work.

The motionless man is an automaton, and during "Breakfast" we learn a cyclical lesson about the relationship between the real and the inanimate.

"Lunch" follows. At the risk of spoiling, suffice it to say, two men eat each other.

"Dinner" is a twist that reassures the watcher that humor is indeed a pillar of surrealism; a point often forgotten in favor of the darker stop motion style of decaying doll heads and meat being pushed through drainage pipes.

Svankmajer is an innovator. In the silence of dignified quality he has set off an explosion of influence that echoes in today's music videos, children's cartoons, and television commercials. We can take refuge in the knowledge that establishment media has roots in the surreal.

Enjoy the first movement of the reviewed work: "Breakfast", part of Jan Svankmajer's "Food".


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