Studio Session: Amy Yoes on Equator

Jennifer Lange, Film/Video Studio Curator

Sep 10, 2020

A still of blue-tinted geometric shapes from the Amy Yoes animated short Equator

Artist Amy Yoes's Equator is a dance of cyan-tinted lines and geometric shapes set to a mechanically percussive score of ticks, clicks, and rattles. You can watch it here for free through September 30.

In working with the Film/Video Studio to complete the two-minute stop-motion animation, Yoes earned the distinction of having the longest residency for the shortest film. Below, Film/Video Studio Curator Jennifer Lange asks the filmmaker about her choices in materials and aesthetic, the connections between her films and her work in other media, and her experience with the Wex's in-house editors. 

Your work started with painting and has evolved to include sculpture and video (and the convergence of all three in installation). Can you discuss the differences or similarities in the way you approach these three mediums? 

One of the common threads is the idea of images in sequence. Paintings and photographs suggest a past and future action, like stills from a film do. I often have a mental soundtrack going on for each piece, so synesthesia plays a part, and moving into video allows me to bring out the sound. Distinctions between disciplines erode as a natural consequence of working in many media, as ideas tend to unfold one from another and the shifts become organic. Facets of the same world are manifested in different ways.

Can you talk about the palette you were working with to make Equator? The use of color and tone and texture is quite painterly and yet evokes a number of other possible references (you’ve mentioned Tron and certainly the experimental animator Oskar Fischinger). How has your training as a painter influenced your work in video? 

Limited color allows for spacial confluences that are both unified and simultaneously fractured. It brings situations captured from the real world or from constructed sets into a tonal consistency that emphasizes abstraction. The passages that are animated in stop-motion use hand-made shapes, or simple materials such as plexiglas, paper, tape. Each component of the set has been moved by hand countless times. The realities of such a low-tech enterprise, the not-so-smooth action of the animators, the fluctuating, random lighting conditions that I incorporate into the result -- they are all key elements of the painterly language I’m using. And so is the overall blueness of the piece, reminiscent of early hand-tinted experimental movies and of architectural blueprints.

A table full of everyday materials including a cake mold, plastic beads, and a paint scraper. All were used by animator Amy Yoes for her stop motion film Equator

Items used in the making of Equator

I'm sure it wasn't intentional but this piece in particular resonates with the architecture of the Wexner Center itself, an icon of de-constructivist architecture. In Equator we see architectural elements and space being simultaneously constructed and deconstructed. The effect is sometimes confounding (not unlike the confounding nature of the Wexner Center). Can you discuss your relationship with architecture?

Architecture is a stage set that anticipates interaction, and whose characteristics express the ambitions of a time and place. Structures in flux, like those in construction sites, illuminate the organic flow of cities. At the core of Equator’s structure are passages of architectural footage including metal window mullions (none from the Wexner, but similar) used as framing devices and perspective cues. Their fragmentation enhances a sense of spacial disorientation.

Your residency at the Wexner Center currently holds the record for the longest amount of time spent working on for the shortest piece! I think it’s important to talk about the role of process in this work and in your subsequent animations. They are incredibly work-intensive and, in a way, the structure is quite controlled. But they also allow for—and maybe even rely on—a certain degree of chance and the “happy accidents” that often result. What is your process for making animations and how has it evolved past Equator?

Unlike my other animations, which tend to be a pure record of action with little editing, Equator has a layered, collage aesthetic resulting from an intricate editing process. Numerous sequences are cut away and added to, resulting in unexpected collisions, mismatched perspectives, contrasting scales, shifts in texture, juxtaposition, and obliteration. Multiple vanishing points play out over time.  

My installation and sculpture projects often involve research into materials and techniques, fabrication, and building. Collaboration plays a big role. Working with editors Mike Olenick and Paul Hill during my Film/Video Studio residency allowed for an in-depth exploration of a complex editing process that echoes my approach in other media.

Certainly the sound is just as dense and multi-layered as the imagery. And it, too, has a handmade quality that belies its meticulous final structure. Can you share your process of thinking about sound—at what stage do you start conceptualizing it and then, quite practically, how you go about creating the sounds and designing the soundtrack?  

Sound, in combination with the visual, creates a foundation of authority that I find interesting to exploit. Echoing effects and reverbs push further the ambiguous scale of the set, suggesting the atmosphere of a huge space or a vast landscape. The soundtrack of Equator mixes digital instruments and sound effects, mostly recorded by me, some picked from libraries. Sounds are used to enhance specific movements, or changes in focus. Sudden shifts in exposure, and bumps to the set, get highlighted by sound accents, in an organic way. The machine is running in perpetuity.


Images courtesy of the filmmaker

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