Be prepared to set aside a sizeable chunk of your life for Watch Me Move, because for their summer blockbuster the Barbican Art Gallery have assembled the biggest ever exhibition on the history and influence of animation, and once there its hard to tear yourself away from these colourful, dynamic, sparkling moving images.
It’s more of a mega-installation than just an exhibition, as the space has bee designed for you to negotiate this sprawling creative biography that dates back as far as the first captured moments of moving image back in the late 19th century. A warren of veiled darkened cubicles introduce the early days of image capture and basic animation like a nickelodeon for modern audiences, while as the animation grows more contemporary, so does the design of the space it occupies – upstairs the hall of suspended screens is spectacular. There are rooms of viewing booths, sofas set in front of screens and a shiny white room showing Tron.
So diverse and comprehensive is the show’s coverage of animation, from makers
including the Lumiere Brothers, through Disney, Pixar, Tezuka, Semiconductor,
Lotte Reiniger, Ari Folman, Roy Harryhausen and Christian Boltanski using stop
motion, claymation, puppets, drawing, CGI… that this review is in danger of turning
into a list. So instead of reiterating how great these great names of animation are (as indeed the lesser known names who appear here), it’s suffice to say that to have them all available to view is a great thing, but to have them choreographed over seven carefully themed sections is sublime.
Structured to cover the early development, later technologies, character development, narrative ticks and experimentation in animation, as well as the gamut of themes and concerns within these films from through time and around the world, Watch Me Move is so comprehensive it’s impossible to take it all in during one sitting. But it’s worth a try. There’s something intrinsically magical about animation that captures us from an early age and Watch Me Move shows how mesmerizing it can be at any age.
Watch Me Move: The Animation Unitll 11 September 2011 Barbican Art Gallery