James Duesing hosted for animation presentation

Kinetic imaging students got a chance to listen to and learn from independent animator James Duesing during a lecture Thursday.

Duesing, who has been animating short independent features for nearly two decades, presented selections of his work and spoke about using animation for art during the last visiting artist presentation of the year.

“I didn’t really think of myself as an animator until my third project,” said Duesing, who has a graduate degree in film and video and is a professor at Carnegie Mellon University.

Duesing has won a number of awards for his animation and been featured in international shows, including the Sundance Film Festival, the Berlin Film Festival, SIGGRAPH 2005 and the New York City Museum of Modern Art. Duesing also won an Emmy for TVCAGE, a television series about video art, in 1988.

Duesing’s animation is often continuous with dream-like qualities, with characters and environments changing to fit a new scene instead simply cutting away. Reality is often subjugated to emotional and relationship themes.

“I think trying to compress the complexity of a relationship is an interesting challenge,” Duesing said.

Several of Duesing’s works, including “Maxwell’s Demon” and “Law of Averages” seem to carry environmental and anti-commercial messages.

“I think a lot of them have something to do with the environment, which I’m concerned with. I’m not a scientist, but I’d try to address that,” Duesing said.

In addition to talking about the themes and purpose he has while animating Duesing also commented on other aspects of his art.

“How something is technically made is as important as anything else,” Duesing said.

Duesing is credited with being one of the first independent creators to produce animation entirely with the use of a computer with a short titled “Maxwell’s Demon” in 1991.

“It was a pretty radical idea, the idea that you could use a desktop computer to make anything of consequence,” Duesing said.

“Maxwell’s Demon” was drawn two frames at a time using a computer without modern computer animation tools.

“Sometimes it’s obvious I’m struggling with the technology,” Duesing said about portions of the short. “It’s not as fluid as hand-drawn work.”

“Oral Fixations,” Duesing’s last project, was a collaboration that integrated motion captured from live artists into a dynamic computer simulation.

The process used to generate the animation had to be developed for the project, which ran for seven hours continuously at SIGGRAPH 2005 in Los Angeles.

Instead of rendering the entire project beforehand on several computers like standard computer animation, the animation was generated as it played by the program.

Duesing also commented about the overall production process, saying that for every production he had a “script and story board and character designs.”

Duesing noted several times how important it was for artists to seek grants and funding for their work.

“These things cost a lot. My last project had three full-time assistants and cost $130,000.”

At one point while talking about his production “Tugging the Worm,” Duesing laughed and then pointed out a sequence that seemed like it was out of place in the film. “One of those things I learned during this project was how to get funding for my work,” he said. “This was a place where I had just obtained this grant and just went wherever I felt like.”

In addition to presenting his productions and lecturing, Duesing also spent time earlier in the day with students in the kinetic imaging concentration at the School of the Arts during class.

“Our students do a lot of art animation,” Pam Turner, associate professor for the kinetic imaging concentration, said. “I think it’s great to listen to an artist talking about his work. Part of our job here is to teach them about art animation and independent animation, and he is a great example of that.”

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