Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared is a video short created by Becky Sloan and Joseph Pelling of the London-based THIS IS IT Collective. I found the video via a post on motionographer.com by Brandon Walter Irvine. His post interviews the artists about their experiences and aims with the piece.
Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared: http://vimeo.com/27003856
Brandon Walter Irvine was spot-on in describing Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared as “Black Swan meets Sesame Street”. The video features odd characters and a talking sketchbook in a room constructed primarily of felt. The sketchbook urges the puppets to “get creative” and suggests ways to do this. However, when one puppet begins to make a painting of a clown, the talking sketchbook responds, “Whoa there, friend. You might need to slow down!” This reaction seems odd from such an enthusiastic sketchbook, and makes you start to wonder what exactly this weird video is about. From this point on the video becomes increasingly odd and increasingly macabre, as the characters “get creative” with a chunk of viscera that resembles a heart. It ends with the talking sketchbook saying, “Now let’s all agree to never be creative again.”
Felt Room and Puppets
I was intrigued by the take on creativity that this piece presented. Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared exhibited common and immature forms and sources of creativity (looking for shapes in the clouds) initially, and more unconventional and shocking forms of creativity near the end (mutilation of a hunk of meat). This seems to reflect the flexibility and extremely broad definition of “creativity”. The talking sketchbook’s limiting comments (“Green is not a creative color.”) evoked consideration of potentially arbitrary and unnecessary limitations that we place on our creative processes. The title of the piece is also reminiscent of limitations and fears.
more (macabre) creativity
The transformations of the characters were also quite interesting. At the beginning, the characters are puppets made of felt. When they start to “get creative”, they become computer generated 3D characters. Then they become life-like, each played by a masked and costumed person. Finally, the characters return to their felt puppet forms at the end of the piece. These transitions are very effective, with each form crafted convincingly and matching the present mood of the video. I had never given much thought to integrating such disparate materials into a single piece, but Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared does so quite successfully.
I browsed coroflot.com and rhizome.org looking for artists that had websites that appealed to me. I found that I preferred simple, memorable sites that were striking, but not overly complex or cluttered. Here are a few I especially liked:
Eric LeMay – http://ericlemay.org/
The huge full moon background is simple, aesthetically pleasing, and quite memorable. I also liked the video that played only when the mouse was hovering over its box and the subtle, unobtrusive music. Eric LeMay’s work is organized well, with picture icons for various works that offer more information if the mouse pauses upon the image.
James R Ford – http://www.jamesrford.com/
I also really liked James Ford’s background of a plate of gummy worms. These memorable backgrounds immediately offer a bit of personality to the sites. This site has the artist’s name with four white headings beneath it, clearly and simply organizing his work and information about him. Ford’s “Works” page once clicked on is very clean and effective with engaging images above the name of the piece.
One more site I admire for its design is a humorous blog by Allie Brosh: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/
Its banner graphics show some of her most memorable drawings that have accompanied past posts. Brosh’s purposefully crude and amateur style of drawing adds immeasurably to the humor of her posts. This style is continuous throughout the entire design of the site, including in links on the side of the site to facebook and twitter, and even the copyright message at the bottom of the homepage. Brosh’s style instantly and forcefully gives her blog personality and a very unique aesthetic.
After I initially rendered my animation, I went back and played around with the colors of the ‘walls’ and the different materials and light sources.
I have become much more comfortable in Maya in the past few weeks. I know I have only just scratched the surface of what Maya is capable of, but I am less intimidated by the program now and feel that it somewhat more intuitive than I originally thought.
Last Monday Evan Roth came to talk to us and introduced me to the hack. Of course I am familiar with the term “hacking” as it pertains to computers, but Evan provided a much broader definition. According to Evan Roth, a hack is “a clever (often playful) intervention into an existing system which alters the originally intended purpose and turns it into something new.”
He gave us funny and interesting examples such as floating a balloon in front of a security camera, silencing a speaker outside a store, and graffiti in general. Art in Airports was a series of “hacks” he used to entertain himself during frequent flights and time in airports. In Skymall Liberation, Evan cut out the faces of the SkyMall catalogue arranging them by gender, race, and in other ways. TSA communication was a collection of metal plates with messages emblazoned on them that he would stash in his bag. He could pick different messages depending on how he was feeling or what he felt like communicating that day. How to Keep Motherfuckers From Putting Their Seats Back was another hack that simply involved securing an industrial size zip-tie to the chair in front of you on a plane to keep the passenger from reclining their chair into your space. I had never really considered these clever acts, that seem similar to jokes, to be art. But they are calling attention to something, making you think in a new way, changing the context of materials and situations … that sounds a lot like art to me.
Evan Roth also quoted Eric Raymond saying he aimed to be “Lazy like a fox.” He said he aimed to make the most impact with the smallest amount of effort. Hacks can be simple acts, requiring simple materials (i.e. a zip-tie) and yet still have a big message and impact. This concept is rather unfamiliar to me. It seems we’ve always been taught to work hard, do things right, and that the best things take the most effort. It is quite intriguing to suddenly switch this philosophy.
Maya and Photoshop are alike in that at the beginning of this class I was completely new to both of them. However, they are totally and completely different as I become more comfortable with them. Photoshop was more intuitive to me, probably because it is used more broadly and widely than Maya. Also, I had heard terms and the names of tools of Photoshop before in conversation. (And some aspects of Photoshop are similar to simple “Paint” programs. Working in 3D also makes Maya much more complex. You never get a full view of your work and have to be conscious of all sides and the object’s placement in your scene. Maya’s capabilities for animation are quite amazing though. Characters can be created, stored, and manipulated. This is wildly different than the storyboard animation process I always envisioned.
I have had some experience with digital 3D modeling in the past in my Calculus classes. We had to use Maple, a program in which we plugged in equations and graphed the resulting functions in space. Maya is quite different in that the 3D creations within it are malleable with tools, whereas in Maple the only tool of transformation was the mathematical input.
I am much more comfortable working with my hands than on a computer, so I never imagined really utilizing programs such as Maya in my work. However, as I become more comfortable and competent with Maya, I am sure I will realize ways I can utilize the program in my own work. Also, I am realizing that at least rudimentary skills in these digital programs are essential to be competitive and up to date in today’s art and design world.