Interview - Anna Vasof

An interview with Anna Vasof, who participated in the 2015 'Artist in Residence' Program at the Toronto Animated Image Society (TAIS).

Anna Vasof is an artist who works with the 'non-stop-stop-motion' animation technique. She was accepted for the 2015 Artist in Residence program at Toronto Animated Image Society (TAIS) where she was able to create her newest animation "Travel to the Window". 

Alexandra: When did your artistic career and practice begin?

Anna: What does this mean? A child practices art. 
From my childhood I was drawing, building toys, imagining stories. As a child, I was always inventing machines, in order to play with. I remember I invented a ‘drawing machine’ when I was nine, it was a very simple construction with plastic cups which would pour random colors on paper. I liked to look at it and see forms that I wouldn’t be able to imagine otherwise. I was always playing with things like that as a child, so I think that is when my artistic career started. In the beginning I decided to study architecture, but during my time studying architecture it became very clear that I really wanted to practice time-based media, and that was followed by the moment that I thought “Ok, I’m going to do art as profession and I’m proud of it". I always knew that I wanted to be an artist, somehow. 

Alexandra: So, as an animator, how do you approach your work? 

Anna: I don’t feel like an animator.

Alexandra: You do not identify as an animator?

Anna: No, I wouldn’t say that I am an animator because this would be really unfair for the real animators and their work. The technique and approach that I use is different. The first of my projects that used the style I’m working in now was called Stair Stories. I had the idea to create an animation using my walking, taking advantage of the timing this action takes (since the stairs have uniform transitions from the perspective of the ground plan and section plan). So I placed same/similar incremented objects on a public staircase, I put cameras on my shoes and I started walking up and down the stairs. The result was more like a pre-cinematic film. 

Alexandra: What do you mean by pre-cinematic?

Anna: Well, I mean these old machines (like the zoetrope) played with persistence of vision in a very simple and beautiful way, and they were invented before the camera or the projector. I observed that since anyone can easily make a video with their cellphone, the awareness of how the illusion of motion can be created becomes less transparent. Through Stair Stories, I found that the short video increments placed in sequence would mimic the visual aesthetic of illusions created by those pre-cinematic machines.

After finishing my experiments with the stairs this question popped up - where could I really find a mass of same/similar objects? Then I noticed that in Vienna that there is a lot of free press, newspaper. So this inspired my next work, 'Heute gibts keine Heute' , which means “Today there is no Today”. In this project I used a stand full of HEUTE (Today) newspapers. Every newspaper formed a frame of a video. When a person removes a newspaper, a hidden camera records the action. When all the newspapers have been removed the video is completed. The first part of this video shows the whole process of collecting the newspapers, forming them and setting up the stand in the public space.

Over the next years, I made my videos using performative, mechanical objects.
Down to Earth is a work that took me about one full year to complete and it is a good example to show what I mean with performative, mechanical objects.

Alexandra: How did you come up with the variety?

Anna: This video shows 18 pair of shoes- kinetic sculptures, but I actually made over 50. I was observing every possible everyday object and I was wondering how I could activate it by my feet. I really like giving life and new dimension to things I find. The telephone booths for example in Vienna are usually placed facing away from each other and as I find it sad, I decided to connect them.

Alexandra: Do you usually work independently?

Anna: Most of the times I work alone, but I have friends who help me on a volunteer basis with the documenting process, or perform or carry stuff for me. Since all of us are working artists, it's natural for us to help each other. With Walking in Circles I had to find a big open air space that had to be extremely flat, otherwise the perspective would change dramatically every position. All the measurements had to be very precise, so this 'non-stop-stop-motion' work required collaboration.

Alexandra: You call your technique the ‘non-stop-stop-motion’: Where did the name come from, or perhaps you heard it mentioned somewhere?

Anna: The name ‘non-stop-stop-motion’ was my idea, because I use video cameras which film non-stop. The visual stop motion effect is caused by the properties of the space or the mechanism of the set up. My film Domino was one of the most characteristic examples of this technique.

Alexandra: Where was Domino shown?

Anna: It was shown in many exhibitions, it won the Best Austrian Animation prize and it was also nominated from the Austrian academy for the best Austrian film of 2015. It was shown two times as an object, once in an exhibition in Moscow and once in Vienna. I continued to explore the possibilities of the 'non-stop-stop-motion' technique during my residency at TAIS. For this movie I created a situation in which a fixed video camera filmed a series of curtains hung parallel to a window. Each curtain had an image printed on it which would make the animation sequence. The illusion of motion took place when I pushed the curtains aside and ended with the view of the window to the real world. The story describes a journey from an inner world to the actual, real, outside world.

Alexandra: How did you come up with the idea for Travel to the Window?

Anna: I usually observe things that are around and try to figure out what could possibly have a stop motion property. It may be a curtain, or scissors, or shoes etc. But once I decide on the object I need to solve various problems. One of the most common problems is the depth of the space seen from the camera's perspective. With Domino I solved this by following the falling frames with the camera, with Machine I solved this by having very few frames.

In Travel to the Window I decided to keep the room perspective and incorporate it with the story, so the space that I got to use at TAIS was a big influence in my decision to animate a movement that would naturally move to-and-fro, between the camera and the window. 

To keep up to date on Anna's work, check out the links below
Anna Vasof's Website:
Non-Stop-Stop Motion Youtube Channel:


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