Digital Scratch (Rolling over Blinkity Blank)

Five minutes clip of Rolling over Blinkity Blank, in Annecy, June 10 2014.

Capture of Rolling over Blinkity Blank at the Animation Summits in Montreal.

List of Digital Scratch performances

This performance started as an accident at the improvised music club Area Sismica in Meldola, Italia, on October 3 2009. I was booked there to present a Romanolo version of the Only the hand… performance (this is the vernacular language of the area) and an improvisation (in the line of my Animation exercises) with my friend Andrea Martignoni from Bologna. Shortly before, ùi got a message from Ariele and Gioni who run Area Sismica, complaining that they had never seen me do a live scratched on film performance and I knew that Andrea would prefer playing with me doing live scratched animation rather than working with my digital setup. Those are the circumstances of friendly sollicitations that I decided to go for a composite performance, simultaneously scratching live pon film and operating digital setup that had become my usual performance system since 2002 when I beleived I had definitively stoppes scratching film. The show was very interesting but since I did not expect this composite setup to lead to any future consequence, I filed it under Animation Exercises. But things quickly evolved differently. On October 23 and 24 2009, at the Sound Play Festival in Toronto with stefan Smulovitz and on December 4 at Cinémathèque québécoise in Montréal with Karl Lemieux, I used again this same composite setup. But from the presentation of May 30 2011 at the Vienna Independent Shorts Festival, in Vienna, at the Stadt Kirche, this form became exclusively associated with my collaboration with Andrea Martignoni. It is at the Animator Festival, in Poznan, Poland, on July 14 2012, that the title «Digital Scratch» appeared and separated the project from the Animation Exercises series. The current version of the project, under the title «Rolling over Blinkity Blank» is an homage to Norman McLaren at the occasion of the hundred anniversary of his birth. It was first commissioned by the Center for Contemporary art in Glasgow were it was performed on June 1st 2014, it was performed again during the Annecy animation festival at the Musée-chateau de l’agglomération d’Annecy on June 10. This is most likely the form in which Digital Scratch will develop in the near future.

As already mentioned, this is a composite performance where I work alternately in two different setups. On the one hand, there is adigital set up that I regularly use in my live animation performances. On the other hand, there is a 16mm projector in which a 16mm 45 seconds black leader loop is running endlessly. I scratch images on the loose part of the loops that is temporarily out of the projector until the gears pull on it. Then I let it go and start working on another segment of the loop that became available. And so on until cumulatively the loop became covered with animation.

Those sctratched images are projected on the same screen over the images coming from the computer via a video projector. All through the performance that last about 50 minutes, I regularly run from one setup to the other, under the public watch. This combination of live scratched animation and of drawings processed digitally is totally appropiate for an homage to Norman McLaren, first because he was with Len Lye on of the early users of animation drawn or engraved directly on film stock and, second, in connecting it to digital processing it gives an historical depth to the archaic technique, that the French critic André Martin in describing McLaren’s work as opening to all possible cinemas. In a similar way, Andrea Martignoni creates the sound track by engraving sounds directly on a loop of film, as McLaren used to do.

The performance is made from visual themes taken from the famous McLaren film Blinkity Blank by adapting the complex use of intermittent animation found in this mythic film to the context of live improvised work. The references to the film are clearly recognizable while they are re-interpreted by the formal system that I had developped with the Animation Exercises. In return, this system is further developped through the borrowing of the blinking inventions of Blinkity Blank.

Tech rider



Digital Scratch in Poznan, July 14 2012.

Complete capture of the Rolling over Blinkity Blank performance.