A selection of artists from Eastern Europe, the Middle East and the Far East, working in animation

tsbbankwallaceartscentre.org.nz

This curated screening of short animated films from various Eastern regions of the world – Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and the Far East – seeks to celebrate the richness, imagination, humanity, humour, and skilled craftspersonship of animation that is not typically found on the Western blockbuster circuit. All of the countries represented have a strong tradition of animation and graphic artistry that might be unknown to viewers. These short films have also emerged from a vibrant section of animation that can be termed ‘independent’ and experimental and is closely aligned with fine art practice, rather than more commercial fare. The animations can be enjoyed by all ages, from 3 years to 103!

A sobering reflection at this particular point in history — the years 2018 and 2019 — is the extent to which certain Western governments privilege only a proportion of their country’s demographics, and are fearful of outsiders, including those from the East. Under Donald Trump’s presidency, for instance, Iran has been virtually painted as the spawn of Satan, anti-Semitism is on the rise, and the threat of China has been used to drum up a fervent nationalism. White supremacist groups have been energised through this creation of rigid polarities.

Included in this selection are stop-motion puppetry from Eastern Europe — cut off from the West during the Cold War – together with films from the Czech Republic and Estonia, displaying the absurd humour and philosophical outlook that are strong features of animations from this region. The Middle Eastern animations have been produced in Israel and Iran — typically diametrically opposed — and take us into a world of history, myth, but also daily lives with which we can all identify. The Far East is represented by animation artists from China and Japan, who depict the urban experience, joyfully lateral juxtapositions, and pared-down abstraction.

A range of media and animation approaches has been intentionally included, with analogue and digital drawing, painting, collage, puppets, stop-motion and 3D CGI represented. One of the animations – ‘Flipping Through Belgrade’ – brings this configuration of Eastern animations full circle, as it is directed by a Japanese animator, Maya Yonesho, working in collaboration with different Serbian artists, and views of Belgrade — now the capital of Serbia, formerly part of the Eastern European Soviet bloc — can be glimpsed in the background.

Dr Miriam Harris (curator), School of Art & Design, Auckland University of Technology

I would like to thank Hossein Najafi and Fatemeh Hosseini-Shakib for putting me in contact with the Iranian animators. Thanks also to all the animators in this exhibition, who kindly gave permission for their work to be screened, and Nicholas Butler from the Wallace Arts Trust.

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