Everything is Possible

What do the video clip for Gotye’s ‘Somebody That I Used to Know’, the opening sequence of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and ACMI’s lightwell screens have in common? All three are prime examples of stop motion animation.

During these most recent school holidays, twice a day, visitors to ACMI could invent their own animation in ACMI’s lightwell.

Based on William Kentridge’s work ‘Breathe’, small pieces of black paper were manipulated on a light box to create pictures and shapes.

Situated in the lightwell at ACMI (just up the stairs from the Kentridge exhibition and across the hall from Screen Worlds) visitors worked together to develop recognisable form. ACMI Education staff and volunteers then animated and screened the work.

Here are some observations from watching this popular activity.

Children – who don’t know each other – team up to make pictures.
“How about a school of fish?”
“With a lot of bubbles. And fish guts.”
“I want a starfish.”
School of fish almost finished, when a little boy says, “Oh no, Mum, I got off topic and made a seagull.” Off topic? He’s about 7.

The evolution of an octopus.
“Oh no, it looks like a monster.”
“Oh no, that’s a spider.”
“Wait…not enough legs.”
“Oh, now it has too many legs!”
“Only six legs.”
“Where will we get more legs?”
“Wait, now it’s a centipede.”
Finally it becomes an octopus.

Grandmother and grandfather and little girl come to the table. After much discussion they decide to create “a little black dog named Ronnie”. Much work from all concerned. Finally it’s finished, and we praise it. The girl says, “Yes, that’s Ronnie. My grandfather sold him you know.” Chagrin from Granddad.

Boy makes a trumpet, carefully creating every piece of the instrument, naming each one as he goes. Same boy then creates a guitar. And then a drum kit, with three drums. Another boy adds drumsticks. They have made a band.

Little boy, age 6 or 7, with his Dad. On his own, the boy makes a cat, a dog, a tiger, a clothes hanger and his name. The father suggests a dog. “Yes.” And a dog is on the box. Dad suggests the dog walk. “Yes.” He moves the legs back and forth so the dog is walking. He understands the concept. “Let’s make the dog bark.” And here the little boy says, “Oh no, Dad. Can’t do THAT. You can’t see the dog’s lips.”

Generalisation: children’s favourite part = blowing the paper bits away and off the table.

The ACMI Lightwell

Adults take less coaxing to come to the table and work together.

A group of Gen Ys – who don’t know each other – work hard to make a snake, and a mouse for the snake to eat. The mouse works its way down the snake’s digestive system, while the snake flicks its tongue. An excellent animation.

The lightwell activity was most happily utilised by a group of children with disabilities who came in with their carers. There were ten children. They made a tennis court; a tennis racket; “my lunch” – a banana, a pizza with anchovies and olives, and one with a slice missing; a bowl of spaghetti; a happy face with a lot of freckles; and a car with a driver. There was applause for the screening of their creations.

Yes, at ACMI, everything is possible.

– Pinky Watson

The lightwell table is open every Mon, Tue, Thurs and Fri from 3pm and every Wed from 2.30pm until 27 May. Come and get your Gotye on!

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