Saturday, July 30, 2011

Animated Chat 2011: David Daniels and the Strata Cut

The first Animated Chat of 2011’s edition was with the American artist, David Daniels. The conversation was funny and delightful, just like Daniel’s work. He shared with us important moments of his childhood, which have determined the great artist that he is nowadays. One look to a cake made of clay might have changed the way he uses to see and think the world through. As he said in his interview, this epiphany took many years to be transformed into something real, that he could actually work on. He developed Strata Cut during vacations and his first attempt to put it in practice came with the production of the film Buzz Box, a very dense piece of art. After that, he did other films using Strata Cut, such as Journey from a Melting Brain and Freaked. In need of paying the bills, he end up walking away from his clay blocs and started his own firm, the Bent Image Lab.

We were really excited to see all this colorful blocs of clay. The magic was going to happen in front of our eyes and we thought that we were going to be able to see how he does that. People always say that a good magician doesn’t reveal its tricks. Well, David did try it, but no one understood a thing. He has been improving Strata Cut’s technique since the 80’s. His work involves the calculus over the velocity of the cut and the how many degrees must the knife be in relation to the clay to create one specific design. To cut a long history short: it is very complicated. The audience was really surprised to see how David could think all that through. It almost looks like he thinks in a different frequency. We all see the world through different lens from each other, but it seems that Daniels could face everything from a structurally different point of view. It is not a coincidence that, in thirty years, he has never been able to teach this technique to anyone. Maybe the long time between having that first epiphany and actually develop the technique, must have prepared his mind to this new way of thinking.

The most incredible part is trying to understand the theory behind the simple cut of clay. It is not only about doing beautiful images, there is a whole concept underneath the process that relates to the way the artist thinks space, time and even life. Strata Cut blocs of clay are an attempt to transform time into something physical and make us able to see it, simulating the fourth dimension into a 3D structure. He says that we are all blind because we cannot see the process, which he calls extrusion. We humans are only capable of seeing the image that appears when the knife cuts the clay bloc, which he sees as the “present”, but we cannot actually see the process. Strata Cut tries to reveal physically the extrusion of being in time. Extrusion is the name of a mechanical process that gives substance an oblong shape. To understand this process check Peter Jansen’s pieces of art. This artist was Daniel’s biggest inspiration when building Strata Cut.

David has been long gone away from animating Strata Cut films by hand. His is now working in a computer program in the attempt of digitalizing clay, adding new possibilities to the technique. What excites him the most is that, if the project works, he will be able to cut the clay in unthinkable angles. He confessed to us that Anima Mundi Festival and all the talking with other animators who admired his work have made him willingness to do Strata Cut movies again. We hope to hear from him in the festival next year!

To know more about David Daniels's work and philosophy, check the interview recommended by the artist!

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