breathdeath breathdeath

Stan VanDerBeek Retrospective in Ottawa


There’s a lot of good stuff happening at the Ottawa International Animation Festival this week. Eric Goldberg, Henry Selick, David Silverman and Ronnie del Carmen will be speaking up there, Don Hertzfeldt, Suzan Pitt and Jim Blashfield are having retrospectives, and there’s the to-be-expected impeccable selection of shorts as well as features like Mary and Max , $9.99 and My Dog Tulip. Inbetween this animation frenzy, I hope you’ll take the time to check out the retrospective of filmmaker Stan VanDerBeek. His films screen Friday, October 16, and Saturday, October 17, at the Arts Court Theatre, both nights at 7pm.

It’s a disservice to label VanDerBeek (1927-1984) merely a filmmaker because he was so much more than that. He was a multimedia artist years before the term even existed. He was constantly getting his hands dirty with new technologies and trying to figure out artistic and educational applications for them. This included creating huge murals via fax machine, projecting film onto steam, and designing interactive multi-screen TV shows. No surprise that VanDerBeek was also a computer animation pioneer who starting experimenting with CGI in 1965.

His short films–often surreal, often funny, and always a visual free-for-all–combine animation, collage, cut-out, photography and video, with manic cutting that looks more contemporary than ever. Terry Gilliam has said in interviews that it was VanDerBeek’s cut-out films, and specifically Breathdeath (which will be shown in Ottawa), that inspired his animation style for Monty Python. I’ve personally been influenced by VanDerBeek’s work since I first saw it last year, and I recommend you check him out in Ottawa later this week. The screening will include examples of his analog and CG films, as well as rare film clips of VanDerBeek at work and at play.

See Saw Seams

  • Something tells me they won’t be projecting his work on fog that he created. This was shown in the lobby of NY’s Alice Tully Hall during one of the last years of his life. It was an amazing feat. The man was one-of-a-kind.

  • Tom Horne

    We need a DVD collection of Stan’s work. I was disappointed that the otherwise excellent Treasures from American Film Archives Vol. 4 didn’t include any VanDerBeek.

  • VanDer Beek rocks! He was also the one wit his film “A la Mode”, who influenced Arthur Lipsett to create “Very nice, very nice”. Several months ago I saw VanDer Beek films with Claes Oldenberg – what a blast! He is a genius, cannot wait for this screening! A magisterial figure! I cannot understand how no one did a DVD with his works yet…

  • acetate

    I’ll give it to Stan for being way ahead of his time in experimenting with the art form, but as a teacher and a personality he left alot to be desired. I had Stan as an animation teacher at UMBC in the early 80’s and was incredibly disappointed in with the guy. He would frequently skip out on classes and lectures leaving the students with a projector and a couple 16mm prints to watch in his absence. Whenever I went to him with a question about something his stock reply was “Oh I don’t know, that’s a whole nuther ball game”.
    Maybe artists shouldn’t teach. Thats what I came away with.