Saturday, 30 April 2011

Artists who use dolls

Before I start filming, I want to consolidate my ideas by exploring artists who have used dolls in their work,
here are a few of my favourites:

Hans Bellmer

According to good old Wikipedia, Bellmer 'was a German artist, best known for the life-sized pubescent female dolls he produced in the mid-1930s'. He recreated the doll girl in a variety of contorted forms, all of which I find extremely scary. The fear they provoke is owed to their resemblance to a real body, combined with their Surrealist abstraction from it; they are both human and not-human. Like the dolls I have been using to depict the horrors of the pageant world, Bellmers 'poupees' give a sense of something not quite right. This is not surprising when we consider his inspiration was unrequited lust for a young girl. Like me, Bellmer manipulated his 3D object to create photographs, but he built it himself rather than using found objects.
' In acknowledging his objectification of the nubile form Bellmer seems to have stumbled across something much deeper, the tragedy of being that nubile form. Young women, though beautiful, often seek validation in a variety of ways. Society pushes such an archetype to be complacent and accepting of any affection given to them, even forcing them to play the role of the victim.'
- Interesting words from an extensive article found at

Jake and Dinos Chapman
From Six Feet Under (1997)

It would be hard not to choose these brothers, as I used to see them in the pub opposite my work! Long before this, I had found images of their strange mutant doll sculptures in books and been shocked by them from a young age. They manipulate life-sized plastic dolls to shock audiences, like I hope to. Though I'm not using life-size mannequins or mutating the body shape, I want a similar sense of obvious artificiality (hard, shiny plastic) which is unsettling in its imitation of human characteristics. I can see a lot of Bellmer's influence in their work with dolls.

Tracey Moffat
Doll Birth 1972

I had not come across this photographer before researching this project. I was taken aback by this image of two boys playing, from her 'Scarred for Life' series. Though it looks like a simple snapshot, this image uses the doll as a prop to show the tragic and the comic; in Moffat's words 'there is a thin line between both.'

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Last animation lesson!

Today I had planned to make (and edit) a lot more experiments, but I ran out of time as we had peer reviews.

I decided, instead of experimenting with a range of different camera angles, zooming and repetition, to try and do them all at once, kind of blindly as I didn't have time to try out a lot.

Here's what I came up with:

I wanted to see if I could make the mouth movements a little more realistic in time to words, but this still needs a lot of work (though I don't need it to be perfect as evident artificiality is integral to my film). I can polish this by studying human speech and drawing how each sound shapes the mouth, along with looking at existing examples for reference.

I have done very minimal editing here (only spent about 5 minutes doing it) because of time restrictions, but hopefully the main ideas I was trying to animate are evident.

The effect of dispensing with the mirror and vast expanse of background is that the viewer is confronted fully by the doll (particularly when it is facing forwards and zoomed in) and this is unsettling. It is as though the face on the screen is trying to communicate with the audience, which is fairly sinister, but I was aiming for this.

The idea of spinning the head round was fairly spontaneous as I had originally hoped to shoot some frames from different angles (high up, low, far away, from the side...) but was unable to do this. I like the effect but I don't really know what it's saying, apart from perhaps trying to turn away/ escape the viewers gaze.

The wink at the end was just for fun, I was trying to see if I could get it to look creepy and it did. I only shot 4 frames of the eye closing at different stages, then copied these in reverse order to get the eye open again at a consistent speed. I think this was a good trick and saved some time, I could do the same when I've made more mouth shapes - I could have about 10 of them and use them in different orders to create the effect of words; shooting each word separately in sequence would be tedious.

New Ideas

I have decided to make some changes to the soundtrack of my animation, which will completely transform it. I have continued to watch more documentaries of child beauty pageants after being fascinated/horrified by the Living Dolls one I saw in the early stages of this project.

I have taken some audio clips from 'Toddlers & Tiaras' (all of which is available on YouTube) of girls as young as 3 talking about their daily make-up routine...

I am going to experiment with setting these to music as kind of snippets of speech that break up the animation, a structure which has allowed me to think of a narrative and begin creating a storyboard (coming soon)