My response to Street of Crocodiles

First of all, watch this animation before reading what i’ve got to say about it (if you want to have a clear personal response for yourself) 😀 But yes just watched this stop-motion animation, I stumbled across it through reading about Nine Inch Nails ‘Closer’ music video being inspired by this animation. Now that music video is fucked up (but awesome), so to see what inspired that must be interesting!

Watching this film gave me a range of different emotions. At the beginning it has close-ups of different materials moving with different functions, a very mechanical feel to it, which made me think of post-modernism. As it morphs into stop-motion animation, the scenes show many old toys and glass cases, which was quite nostalgic for me as it reminded me of Aberystwyth museum, a museum I used to visit regularly as a little girl.

The whole animation is pretty grotesque, with atmospheric, eerie music – mainly using the strings section. There’s an underlying feel of magical realism, despite the use of props and materials, the way they move is very real.

Here is the ‘plot’

“A man closes up a lecture hall; he reaches into a box and snips the string holding a gaunt puppet. Released, the puppet warily explores the darkened rooms about him. The desolate ambience and haunting musical score are meant to convey a sense of isolation and futility. As the short continues, the mute protagonist explores a realm of what are described by the director as “mechanical realities and manufactured pleasures”. As the protagonist chooses to join this world, the camera slowly reveals how unfulfilling the surroundings actually are.”

At the end of the film, the creator speaks (translation)

“In that city of cheap human material, no instincts can flourish, no dark and unusual passions can be aroused. The Street of Crocodiles was a concession of our city to modernity and metropolitan corruption. The misfortune of that area is that nothing ever succeeds there, nothing can ever reach a definite conclusion. Obviously, we were unable to afford anything better than cardboard imitation, a photo-montage cut out from last year’s mouldering newspapers… Obviously, we were unable to afford anything better.”

So the film is clearly about modern society and our materialistic obsession. Maybe its talking about a social hierarchy and acceptance through costs of products in relation to where you stand socially. And maybe, through the costs of these material objects comes something not so great after all, a con.

But through the materials they used to create this animation, ironically created a beautiful piece of art.

Liberation

“Liberation rests on the construction of the consciousness, the imaginative apprehension, of oppression, and so of possibility.”

From: Donna Haraway, “A Cyborg Manifesto Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the late twentieth century”, In Simians, Cyborgs and Women. The reinvention of nature (New York, Routledge 1991) PP.149-181

Stanya Kahn

Stanya Kahn < Link to video piece

Stanya Kahn is an American video artist. “Using humor as a central device, Kahn combines storytelling with visceral performances, blurring the lines between the fictional and the real to show how language is forged out of trauma.” “Kahn’s characters are contemporary flaneurs, and each is steadfast on a physical or linguistic dérive that takes the viewer through narratives of mortality, trauma, family, and the ethics of civic and ecological responsibility.”

“The collaboration of Harry Dodge and Stanya Kahn has produced an exciting series of character-driven videos whose protagonists are, above all, under pressure: economic pressure, ecological pressure, and the pressures of class and gender (and, for that matter, genre) regimes. These pressures catalyze affective mutations and a sense of dislocation, a felling of (not so transcendental) homelessness.

Responding to eco-social circumstances, Dodge and Kahn work from the ethoi that the personal is political and the aesthetic is ideological. In their work, then, the aesthetic — including, crucially, the anaesthetic, and the anti-aesthetic is leveraged politically. These videos draw attention to the aesthetic itself as a fraught category, using the heightened consciousness created by the frame only to crash it, transmitting/effecting cognitive-cosmic dissonance via their signature punk-slapstick.”

– Source Ubuweb