Animated wonders in ‘art walk’ on the wild side delayed by Covid
As we begin to take our first tentative steps to break out of lockdown, all kinds of work that has fallen victim to the coronavirus restrictions has now come out of the mothballs.
One of the more intriguing projects is Restless Worlds, a self-defined ‘kinetic sculpture art walk’ that carried over from the 2021 edition of the annual Manipulate Festival of Puppetry, Visual Theater and Animated Film.
The pandemic has had a bad habit of dashing hopes, and so it was with Manipulate’s desire to bring Restless Worlds back to the streets of Scottish cities in January and February. Now, however, like a vaccinated 50-year-old venturing into a beer garden, this diverse set of bustling facilities has been dusted off and placed in front of the public.
The first screening, in the front windows of the Royal Lyceum Theater in Edinburgh (where it has already ended), was more of an exhibition than an “art walk”. However, walks from one work to another are promised for Aberdeen (until May 16) and Glasgow (May 19-24).
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The original idea of the project was to present ‘puppets’, in the broadest definition (i.e. moving objects), in a manner suited to the era of physical distancing imposed by Covid . Kinetic sculptures – as fans of the famous Sharmanka Kinetic Theater well know – are, in essence, puppets without puppeteers.
They move, generally, by their own mechanical will (as with Sharmanka sculptures) or with electronic assistance. In the case of Restless Worlds, they come with soundtracks that play through an app through your smartphone (so be sure to take headphones).
A number of exhibits on display relate directly to the public health crisis. Guy Bishop’s The Diktat Sythesizer is a particularly delightful commentary on pandemic politics.
The titular “synthesizer” is a machine that generates our leaders’ many coronavirus reports using good old-fashioned mechanical power. However, look to the right side of the craft and you will find that a gray humanoid figure is also animated by the wheel. There is nothing he can do but bang his head against the wall.
Jessica Innes’ Mr Holdcroft is a beautifully constructed living room that hosts a charming animated short about the old man in the title. All in all, this is a delightful take on the issue of isolation and loneliness among the elderly, an issue that, like so many other issues, has been exacerbated by the pandemic.
Samuel Watterworth is here. We’re not so much a kinetic sculpture as we are live animation (or maybe distortion). Looking at a large screen, we see ourselves altered as in an electronic mirror room.
Combined with a soundtrack made up of audio from various radio frequencies, the piece is, paradoxically, a fabulously abstract yet precise evocation of the strangeness of locking.
There is subtle humor and humanism in Shona Reppe and Tamlin Wiltshire’s Still Life with Willow Pattern, which is inspired by Kintsugi, the Japanese art of mending things with gold lacquer.
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The only disappointment, the day I visited the work in Edinburgh, was that the most beautiful of the installations visually, Apple Eaters by Sharmanka Kinetic Theater and novelist Heather Parry, did not work.
The piece is constructed, typically from Sharmanka, from a combination of wonderfully expressive human and animal figures, which have been exquisitely carved from wood and various mechanical metal objects.
Not seeing this visual poem about the fragility of the human experience come to life, as if by magic, was almost a metaphor for the false aurora we have endured throughout the pandemic.
For more details on performances and tickets, visit manipulatefestival.org