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68 Minute Running Time
Program: Spotlight on Animation
Bruce Bickford is a sixty-one-year-old artist who achieved cult status for his collaborations with Frank Zappa in the 1970s. His two-dimensional line animation is remarkable; his clay animation is legendary. That said, it is nearly impossible to furnish the unintiated with satisfying synopses of Bickford’s films. They appear to be onscreen streams of consciousness—streams that have run for months or even years through the mind of an animator ever engaged in the process of creating and photographing frame upon frame. They are organic, fluid montages—vibrant pseudonarratives that defy logical comprehension. They are, in short, purely cinematic—meant to be experienced and wondered at, not literally understood.
Still—whether or not by conscious design—Bickford’s animated universe does reflect some of the metaphysical properties of our own, properties such as the interplay of matter and energy. Everything in a Bickford work either is alive or could come to life at any moment—though its average life expectancy is around five seconds. The cycles of birth and death are as accelerated as in a time-lapsed nature documentary.
Scale relativity is also exaggerated in Bickford’s cosmology—and thus serves as a key to its moral order. What is enormous one moment becomes microscopic an instant later—and vice versa; scene after scene features little guys who, bullied by larger menaces, triumph in the end thanks to their quickness, wit, or magical powers.
Bickford can transport us back to early childhood, when everything is new, when we are constantly in a state of amused awe—when a blade of grass, a tree, a sword, an eerie smile are all great mysteries to us. Things appear and disappear; cause and effect is inexplicable; both danger and splendor are always just around the corner. All is at once beautiful and frightening.
Bruce Bickford is an iconoclast and a visionary of the highest caliber. His work is important and deserves a wide audience.
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