'Animated Films by Karen Aqua' Contain a Vision Marked by Music

by Michael Barrett

6 April 2012

Music, bright colors, constant transformation.
 
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Animated Films by Karen Aqua

Director: Karen Aqua

US DVD: 27 Mar 2012

The 13 shorts on Animated Films by Karen Aqua contain a vision marked by music, bright colors, and themes of constant flux and transformation. The first three films are curvaceous and erotic, with amorphous figures moving through abstractly shifting landscapes. The longest of these, Vis-a-Vis, is about a woman who splits in two in order to divide her time between work and escape until her selves reconcile.

Yours for the Taking introduces stop-motion claymation by Jeanee Redmond; its hero is a cup that runs around on three legs, adopting the patterns of whatever’s around it until it finds love with a human.
  
Music is the other half of all these films, so that they could be regarded as music videos. Kanania is the most vibrantly rhythmic film here, thanks to music by Karlo Takki. Sensorium runs it a close second with astonishing clashes of colors amid dancing figures. Andaluz uses Andalusian music to score images created through shifting, minimal lines. Nine Lives, Perpetual Motion and Taxonomy are about familiar symbols and elements that constantly recombine, one leading to the next in a statement about the holistic nature of the universe.

Ground Zero/Sacred Ground, which comes pretty close to telling a story, combines the ancient figures carved into rocks around New Mexico with the fact that atomic bombs were tested there. The blast makes the figures come to life and dance.

Two films are about Aqua’s battle with cancer. Afterlife, the only mostly non-animated film here and the only with spoken words, compares the cancer diagnosis with the paradigm-shifting events of September 11, 2001, drawing a parallel between personal intimations of mortality and wider cataclysms that, because of its emphasis on images of the natural world (water, plants, etc.) doesn’t feel as reductive as it might. The epic nine-minute Twist of Fate is partly about cancer treatments expressed through frantic animation.

 

Animated Films by Karen Aqua

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