A captivating piece I saw at the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art recently was a stop-motion animated film by Allison Schulnik entitled “Mound.” Shulnik created over 100 figures for the film over a period of several months. The December 16, 2011 New York Times article “Allison Schulnik: Mound” by Ken Johnson eloquently describes the odd and entrancing animation:
In this 4 minute 20 second video, dozens of lumpy, ghoulish figures — crudely made mostly of clay, fabric, feathers and other materials — dance, gesture and undergo all sorts of changes to the heart-tugging sound of “It’s Raining Today,” a 1969 recording by Scott Walker. The clay, which is mainly white but with color marbled into it, is in constant motion, as if imbued with a manic agency of its own, apart from the figures and objects it represents.
Eyes open into scary hollows and then close into doughy bulges. Mushrooms turn inside out and morph into diverse species. Near the end, a troupe of long-haired ballerinas in cloth dresses performs a mournful, synchronized choreography.
The twitching of the clay within the figures is both disturbing and intriguing. I found myself wondering what techniques she used to create the motion and what exactly she was thinking when she dreamed up the film. Speaking of dreams, Schulnik credited her inspiration to dreams, nightmares, and remembered or forgotten influences past and present.
“Mound” features intriguing figures, some of which retain their individuality throughout the film, while others morph into each other, or are never fully separate from other clay creatures. The movements among the the conjoined figures mirror the movements of the clay within the figures, creating an overall impression of agitation and transformation.
My favorite part was the last section where cobweb curtains are swept aside to reveal 3 skeleton dancers. They are later joined by 2 more, and their movements are haunting and delightful. I was also captivated by the large conglomeration of figures (pictured above) which to me epitomized the title. The figures within this figure writhed, disappeared and reappeared, bringing to mind the tortured figures of Rodan’s Gates of Hell. For such a short film, “Mound” left me with much to mull over.
Image credits: Nerman Museun of Contemporary Art