A strange submarine-like box sits in ACMI’s Screen Worlds; six feet high with an exaggerated horn protruding comically out of the top like a periscope. Of course, this ‘periscope’ has no function, for there is no sound. This shipwrecked vessel (otherwise known as The Cabinet) houses a silent animation film which is viewable through any of its number of peepholes. As I sit down on the bench in front of the main peephole, the screen I can see inside The Cabinet invites me to ‘press the red button’. So I do. The fun begins!
The Faulty Fandangle is the name of the work that lives inside The Cabinet; Anthony Lucas creates a magical world through a combination of silhouette animations and mechanical objects in this mesmerising tale. Stylised mechanical vehicles reminiscent of the work of W. Heath Robinson fly, peddle and lurch their way across the screen, first as animations and then, in added layers, as real objects sailing past on mechanical dollies. These mechanical objects add a sense of depth to my 2D experience.
Walking around to the side of The Cabinet, my 2D experience becomes wholly 3D as I am able to peek inside the mechanical workings of the piece through peepholes. Objects glide along rails in sync with the animation in the background, and I can see paddle-pop sticks stuck to the back of mechanical shadow puppets. This side-on view is a key element of Lucas’ work. ‘It seemed like a great way to show everyone how the silhouettes work; how you stack up the layers to create a whole image,’ he says. ‘It’s a bit like those movies in Hollywood where you go behind the set and see the scaffolding. I’m trying to show you the scaffolding and show you what’s involved in that layered way of creating images’.
Anthony Lucas discusses his creative process for The Faulty Fandangle
So what is a fandangle exactly? Well, there is no ‘exactly’ about it. In fact, the whole concept of the fandangle is positively vague. A whirring, turning, clockwork jungle on legs, we only meet a faulty fandangle, that in its urge to be useful around the house breaks a vase of flowers and paints the cat. It is indeed broken. The hero of the story, the Fandangle Repair Man, makes a business call to a house in the sky to fix the faulty fandangle, and chaos ensues.
Lucas’ work effectively creates a stylised, magical world, combining the graphic purity of the silhouette with the intricacy of fine mechanics. The work evolves from 2D to 3D in front of our eyes as we turn the corner to peek through The Cabinet’s side peepholes. With multiple layers, mechanical dollies and the sleek magnificence of The Cabinet itself, one could be forgiven for forgetting that this whole thing started with just some cardboard and some light.
Visit The Cabinet and watch The Faulty Fandangle yourself in ACMI’s free Screen Worlds exhibition, open daily from 10am to 6pm.