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Animating Masterpieces: “bring them to life”?

From the eerie production of Beauty to the recent blockbuster Loving Vincent, I often read the phrase “bringing them (masterpieces) to life” on social media and news outlet. First of all, they -I mean masterpieces- were painted on a canvas and framed to be hung statically on museum walls, as a result of an artist’s creativity. Second, what are they trying to bring to life? Is the end-result (the painting) not a clear message from its creator, the artist? Lastly, is the act of animating masterpiece a celebration of the birth of animation (technology) or the art itself? The phrase is as ambiguous as the act of animating masterpieces.

If the subject, the creator and the result are all present, and at the same time, open to interpretation, what more can they “bring to life”?

My questions arose from a YouTube video of an animated version of Magritte’s Le Groupe Silencieux. It was a one-minute video created by Christie’s to promote their upcoming sale of the picture. I instantly forgot a time when I stood in front of a real Magritte painting. After watching the video a few times, I started to compare the experience with when I read Michel Foucault’s This Is Not A Pipe- a book so inspiring yet informative, in a way Foucault presented his thoughts and taught me how to look at Magritte’s art. Nearly every turn of the page of This Is Not a Pipe was psychedelic. His words inspired me create a visual film in my head about Magritte’s art. It was an imagination which belonged to me. However, both the video and the book were disrupting my psychological experience of standing in front of a real Magritte. But the video caused more “harm” as it was more likely to replace my experience of looking at a real Magritte by enforcing a ‘readymade’ imagination to my brain. I felt violated because it was limiting my freedom of imagination.

“They are words drawing words; at the surface of the image, they form the reflection of a sentence saying that this is not a pipe. The image of a text.”
- Michel Foucault

My point is not to criticise video-making. I applaud people who are making art-related videos as a form of art education by teaching valuable facts and information. The concern I wish to make aware of is the deprivation of imagination by videos, or technology as a whole. It can limit our freedom of imagination and causing the dumbing of the audience. The Oscar-nominated Loving Vincent was a gesture honouring the skills and technology of the filmmakers rather than the art itself. Have we arrived at a time where we are so obsessed and dependent on technology that we have forgotten to re-invent the self? I hope not.

Vincent Van Gogh played by Robert Gulaczyk. Courtesy Good Deed Entertainment and Loving Vincent #animatedpaintings #masterpieces #lovingvincent #michelfoucault #foucault #thisisnotapipe #renemagritte #magritte #christie #video #film #art #vangogh #vincentvangogh

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© 2020 By Henrietta Y. Mansfeld