Co Hoedeman

I attended a masterclass with animator/film maker Co Hoedeman at the NFB Mediatheque today. Hoedeman is perhaps best-known for his 1977 short film The Sand Castle, which won an Oscar for best animated short film that year.

He talked about his experience working as an assistant at a film studio in the Netherland in the 50′s, and eventually making his way to Canada, where he worked for the National Film Board for over a decade. He started in the department of documentaries and educational films, before beginning to experiment with puppet animation. He shared with the audience excerpts from his old films as well his latest piece, 55 Socks, based on a poem by Maria Jacobs about living in the Netherlands during World War II.

While most of his works have been made with stop-motion animation, and even today he still tries to do as much as possible in camera instead of in post-production, in each of his films he has challenged himself to use a new material. The film below, the Garden of Ecos, for example, uses handmade paper puppets.

All in all, it was a very enlightening talk, and I hope to incorporate a diversity of materials in my own work as well. Most of the other films Hoedeman made with with NFB can be found on the board’s website.

Coalition Gallery, TELUS Spark, and Northern Lights

Just returned after a short but exhausting trip to Calgary and Chicago. With all the connections between Calgary and Chicago and back, I ended up taking 6 flights in 6 days. However, it was good to be moving, and the trip turned out to be quite productive.

Midwestern Voices and Visions Exhibit at the Chicago Artists’ Coalition Gallery

On Friday, I attended the artist reception for the Midwestern Voices and Visions Exhibition, which was running as part of the Alliance of Artists Communities’ 2011 Annual Conference in Chicago. It was great to finally meet some of the other MVV artists in person, as well as to catch up with the wonderful people behind the Alliance and the staff from the Bemis Center.

If you didn’t get a chance to check out the exhibit at the Coalition Gallery, I’ve added the piece I presented, Roller Coaster, to my portfolio. Below is the actual video:

I had taken this series of photos during my residency at the Bemis, and if you look past the balloons, you can see what the rest of the studio looked like. I had been accepted on the basis of my balloon work, but for quite some time had been interested in exploring animation. During my time, I began to play around with both hand-drawn animation as well as stop-motion. The idea of turning one of my sculptures into a roller coaster ride just popped into my head one evening, and with the help of a fellow resident artist and a ladder we found on the floor, we made this short film. I didn’t get around to mixing and editing it until about a year and a half afterwards though.

While in Chicago, I also had the chance to catch up with an old friend, Annie Peacenik, a tap dancer and historian. Two years ago, Annie and I had gone on a small tour to New Orleans, combining tap dancing with balloon twisting.

TELUS Spark VIP Opening & Shadow Rock ‘Behind the Scenes’

The next day, I took a 7 AM flight back to Calgary to attend the opening of Calgary’s new science center, now named TELUS Spark, along with the Aesthetec crew. While there, I also got to capture footage of Shadow Rock being installed and people interacting with the exhibit during opening night.

Northern Lights

During the flight back to Toronto from Calgary, the captain announced that the northern lights were actually visible from the windows. Thus began a game of musical chairs between myself and seat mates in the same row, standing in the hallway and climbing over each other to catch a glimpse of the phenomenon. It was definitely worth the havoc, and we saw shades of green as well as red. Unfortunately, I had forgotten to take any photographs, but I doubt that they would have properly captured the moment.

Jan von Holleben

My first introduction to Jan von Holleben‘s work was through his phenomenal series Dreams of Flying, shown above. It was the first time for me that a work of photography managed to capture the essence of childhood, and evoke long-forgotten memories of play and innocence.

I have since looked through his entire portfolio and have been following his work on a regular basis. Amazingly, all his work contain the same sense of playfulness and visual transparency evident in the Dreams of Flying series.

One of my favorites is You Count 10, I Run, in which he sets his camera’s timer to 10 seconds, and then tries to run away as possible before the image is snapped.


So simple, and yet so much fun.

Jan von Holleben has also explored more mature topics in his work. The following two images, titled The Teenager and The Hotel, respectively, are from the series Where We Laughed, which sexuality in society – the role it plays, and how we perceive it.

Jan von Holleben’s Portfolio

Aurora Robson

Aurora Robson is an artist who works with recycled material, plastic debris, and junk mail to create large-scale organic sculptures and collages. Born in Toronto, she received her BA in Visual Art and Art History from Columbia University.

Lift (2010), a piece commissioned by Rice University in 2010, consists of 10,000 discarded plastic bottles and 3,000 plastic caps.

Another piece, Kamilo (2011), was constructed entirely using plastic debris that washed ashore on Hawaii.


A Community of Free Radicals (2007), a collage created out of junk mail:

New website, new initiative

I finally got around to redesigning and updating my portfolio these last few weeks. The biggest challenge was finding a way to categorize the more recent work, as I’ve been expanding beyond balloons and exploring different media and formats. For the sake of the site’s usability, I needed a way to classify my projects, but at the same time, I wanted each piece to be considered in relation to my entire body of work. I think the new layout manages to achieve both.

The previous version of the site has been archived and can be found here:

New Initiative

Something I’ve been thinking about lately is making the blog section more like a studio journal, as opposed to simply a news page where I just showcase new work and announce upcoming events. A new weekly initiative I’d like to do is to write about an artist whose work I find to be particularly inspiring. There are two main reasons for this: 1) I’m finding it harder to keep track of the list of these artists in my head, and 2) I’d like to be able to look back at this collection after some time and see if I notice any themes or ideas that these artists have in common, and if I can see them in my own work.

Jonathan Harris

To start off, I’d like the showcase the work of Jonathan Harris, an American contemporary artist. In his own words, he makes “ (mostly) online projects that reimagine how we relate to our machines and to each other”.

One of Harris’s projects, We Feel Fine, is a website which is constantly collecting information from the blogosphere, looking for any sentences that begin with “I feel” or “I am feeling”. Analysis is subsequently performed to determine the mood and emotion of the sentence, while information such as age, gender, location, and weather are also collected.

The end results are displayed as a collection of dots, with their colors and sizes signifying different emotional states. Visiting the website feels like taking the emotional temperature of the internet.

Of all the “new media” works I’ve seen, this is probably my favorite. Not only is the execution of the work beautiful, it originates from an incredible concept. Additionally, it manages to leverage technology to tell stories and evoke emotions in a way that doesn’t feel at all forced or artificial.

Here’s a great talk Harris gave at AIGA last year, which gives a  summary of his work as well as his philosophy on how we should approach and shape technology: