futile/gestures, 7:35 (2023)
live action / drawings used as replacement animation frames


2023 San Francisco Dance Film Festival
2023 Celaya Experimental Film Festival (Guanajuato, Mexico)
2023 Bogotá Experimental Film Festival — CineAutopsia (Bogotá, Colombia)
2023 Irrational Exhibits 12 (Los Angeles)
2023 Happenings at CalArts' 50th Anniversary Celebration
2023 Fisura, International Festival of Experimental Film and Video (Mexico City)
2023 Berlin Indie Film Festival
2023 Wide Open Experimental Film Festival (Oklahoma City)
2023 UNDER_the_RADAR (Vienna, Austria)

My MFA thesis project, futile/gestures, had three main iterations. In March 2022, we put on a performance with two dancers and two musicians, choreographed and composed to evoke conflict, deadlock, and deepening divides. The performance also featured 100 drawers sketching the dancers feverishly, producing roughly 2,000 drawings during the 30-minute dance. This dance/drawing performance was valuable in itself; it also generated raw material for my animation, which involves carefully analyzing, sequencing and photographing selected drawings to use as individual animation frames. The final result is “hand-drawn” animation that bears little resemblance to most hand-drawn films in its technique or its aesthetic of motion.

In April, we created a gallery installation with two large-scale projections juxtaposing my animation with a short live-action dance film directed by my primary collaborator and choreographer, Yolanda-Tianyi Shao (韶天怡). Along with those two projected pieces, five CRTs in the space showed various stages of choreography development, and we hung 250 drawings randomly selected from the mass of 2,000 on monofilament in three stacked rows that bisected the space, forming  a “wall” of disorganized drawings. The hallways leading toward the gallery were hung with roughly another 250 drawings—these drawings were ordered into coherent sequences, giving people a sense of animation as they walked to or from the installation. On opening night, we played music from the show in the space and the dancers performed for an hour.
The single-channel film featured on this page is a more carefully edited and coordinated version of the dual projection from the April 2022 installation, with a significant number of new animated sequences completed in late 2022. This final film version premiered at UNDER_the_RADAR in Vienna, Austria (April 2023), a leading European experimental film and animation festival. New performative iterations of futile/gestures were installed/performed as part of the Happenings at the CalArts 50th Anniversary Celebration (April 2023) and as part of the annual Irrational Exhibits performance art exhibition in Los Angeles (May 2023).

Aaron Holmes
Yolanda-Tianyi Shao

Yolanda-Tianyi Shao

Noah am Ende
Ryan Nebreja

Drew Sensue-Weinstein
Kanoa Ichiyanagi

Yuwei Hu

Holden King
Rachel Lambright
Ruohan Li
Nina Ma

Kat Parker
Aaron Holmes

Lily Windsor
Jack Nop
Jesse Korson
Isaiah Ferguson
Drew Bacon
Pax Nelson

Aaron Holmes
Pax Nelson

See film for complete credits, including the names of everyone who contributed drawings. 

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