Transition, transformation, fragmentation, development… A cluster of words that are wandering in my mind after getting the chance to talk with Ivan Ivanovski, Macedonian artist, one of the guests at this year’s 7th edition of StopTrik animation festival in Maribor.
I found myself discovering with him the conscious or unconscious process behind the creation of his films. His technique is distinct and expressive. He pays attention to the atmosphere of the context – as he told me, it is essential to “keep things small, to stick to the initial story-board – you have to have one, otherwise you will end up wasting too much material for nothing – and from that moment, just to see how you can get this thing done”. His input on the creative process could really echo the experiential path and aesthetic approach that he employs in his works. It is a long procedure, it takes a bunch of cut-outs, floating ideas, improvisation, stream-of-consciousness thought and self-challenge. But the distinct feature of all these provoking creative steps is his urge and craving to say something important, not just something visually stimulating, set-up in nice artwork. We also talked about the importance of the narrative, as seen in his last output, a stop-motion short which we had the chance to watch in its premiere, here on the 1st day of the festival. Form B16 flirts with the inter-connection of different stories, with fragmentation and transition, a grotesque insight into characters who get to have the “smallest piece of the pie – which is basically the case for 98% of the people”. Watching four of his works, I found some recurring themes; a conscious and personal critique on corruption, a personal naivety of characters, a simplicity, a strive for resolution and surpassing of inner-conflicts, a “quest” - as Ivan stated – of the characters, seen from every possible angle.
We also discussed about the animators’ community in his hometown, Skopje and the possible improvement or development he sees in the horizon. The Macedonian animation scene is getting bigger and bigger, especially since the establishment of the National Film Agency in 2008. It appears that artists were really in need of this funding vessel, since, as Ivan told me, even if it is an entity closely related and connected with the state - meaning that issues of state involvement and control could emerge in the creative process - it is still the only chance of getting the proper funds for a Macedonian emerging artist. The agency has done a great job in supporting the endeavors of many newcomers to the field during the last 9 years.
Right before the screening of his selected films, Ivan presented a new book called The Illustrated Biblical Ethics, a collaboration by him and 7 fellow Macedonian illustrators who tried to visualize their personal perspective on a series of Bible verses, taken from a pocket book that he found at one of his friend’s home who is also a contributor to the illustrations. The discussion that accompanied the presentation filled me up with questions concerning the objectives of animation, in terms of controversial topics, such as religion and politics. So, I kept wondered what was the thought process during the making-of the book? Could it be seen as a provocation on organized religion? A challenging of the established and obsolete Biblical values? A personal critique on the inseparability of state and church? If something else, then what? Ivan gave me a simple but realistic and honest answer: “there are 8 of us, so apparently there are 8 different ways to see it. Some of us may indeed try to criticize religion, some may not. But the core of all this accumulates to an attempt to figure out how the conscious grew though the time”. Although this might not be seen as a direct comment on religion or the nature of religion as such, we both could not help but see the explicit irony when you come across Biblical quotes such as “do not steal”, where in reality the government, clearly connected with organized religion, is quite corrupted in Macedonia. A connection that really seems to be the case in my home country, Greece, as well.
“Critique on religion may be modern but necessary at the end of the day” Ivan says and this is actually quite true. It is also true that we like to see the development of animators who can see their art as a way of filtering their anxieties and who can honestly critique their disturbing surroundings.