The Niche at UVA points media in a new direction


Visual artist Sarah Klein uses “hand-drawn images and stop-motion animation to create humorous and often dark narratives on domestic life and other related themes.” Photo courtesy of the artist Visual artist Sarah Klein uses “hand-drawn images and stop-motion animation to create humorous and often dark narratives on domestic life and other related themes.” Photo courtesy of the artist

The flat screen is unassuming—a 60″ monitor mounted to the wall in UVA’s Fiske Kimball Fine Arts Library. Surrounded by chairs and headphones, The Niche currently plays a loop of video from the stop-motion animation program “Stop & Go: Made from Scratch.”

Sounds benign, but associate professor of new media Lydia Moyer sees it as a tool of insurrection.

“We’re used to narratives that start at the beginning and go to the end, but it’s not the only way to use media,” Moyer said. “There are other ways of working with moving images that aren’t necessarily narrative, and that expand the way we perceive things and think about things.”

As curator of The Niche, Moyer hopes to break the contemporary cycle of media exclusivity through moving image exhibitions.

“Movie studios have software where you can plot in plot points, genres, and stars, and you can come out with a calculation of how big the opening weekend gross is going to be,” she said. “There’s a formulaic way that decisions are made about what gets produced in the mainstream media.”

Moyer aims to present work that challenges traditional media constructions and represents other points of view. “I try to find work mostly like a moving painting or photograph. It’s not like a narrative, where if you miss the beginning you won’t know what’s happening,” she said.

“Stop & Go: Made from Scratch” is the fourth installment of a screening series curated by Sarah Klein, a San Francisco-based visual artist who began experimenting with animation 10 years ago. “I found some audiotapes in a thrift store of a man’s retirement speech. I’d done a lot of live action, but I didn’t know where to go with them until I drew a little character of the man telling his story and thought, ‘This is it. I can create him and his world and pair that with his audio.’”

A former sculptor, Klein fell in love with the genre, which she said “appealed to me as a very tactile and visceral experience.”

The craft is incredibly time-intensive, requiring artists to create and move hand-drawn cutouts on a paper background and film them frame by frame. “The longest piece in ‘Stop & Go: Made from Scratch’ is nine minutes long,” Klein said. “That’s beyond heroic.”

Klein developed the series to showcase emerging work in the stop motion field and “Made from Scratch” centers on crafting, horticulture, and food. Klein, who was interested in exploring a sensory-driven screening, described each of the program’s four chapters as “courses,” the second of which is on view at The Niche.

Beyond the intellectual and visceral appeal, Klein said stop motion animation allows artists to create entire worlds without a crew. “There’s a magical quality where everything is static, you’re filming, and then, when you play them in line, they move, become animated and alive. A lot of times you can see the moment of discovery and delight when an artist went, ‘Wow, look what I’ve done.’”

Seeing the world with new eyes complements Moyer’s goals as much as Klein’s. “Animation in an art context is a way of pushing against mass media,” Moyer said, since “so few people see it anywhere other than a in T.V. show or a movie.”

The project also goes against the grain with a highly Charlottesvillian aesthetic. “High production values will not always serve artists’ ideas best,” she said. “Just because something is handmade or old fashioned in process doesn’t mean it’s not interesting. It’s an appreciation, almost a senti-
as if something in the culture is calling for that sentimentality.”

In other words, intellectual hipsters, don’t sidle by so quickly. There’s a challenge to the status quo over here, and you’re gonna want to see it.

The second course of “Stop & Go: Made from Scratch” runs at The Niche through July 3.