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Animators Unearthed - Raimund Krumme

Every Monday, Chris Robinson serves up Animators Unearthed, a short profile of prominent and not-so-prominent indie animators.

'Crossroads' by Raimund Krumme

Raimund Krumme – the man whose work opened my eyes to indie animation way back in 1992 - turns minimalist line drawings into complex, imaginative, and often humorous meditations on class, power, mass media, and with an ironic twist, animation itself.  Structured around an allegorical journey, Krumme’s exiled Keatonesque ‘everymen’ travel through barren, absurd, and often cruel landscapes in a quest for self-knowledge. The landscape also functions as an equation of a character’s state of mind, often reflecting a deeper inner torment.

The key to stabilizing the characters’ torments is through power.  But power itself is an ever-changing and often superficial entity.  In Rope Dance (1986)), power comes through knowledge and love.  In Spectators (1989), power is illusory, seemingly achieved through the mass media, while Passage (1994) comments on the absurd resiliency of hierarchical power.  And finally, power is reflected through Krumme himself, who through a series of Brechtian self-reflexive strategies (e.g. Using his materials as an active part of the fiction) attempts to keep the audience at an emotional yet meditative distance, while playfully reminding his characters that they are just that, characters.

But what makes Krumme’s work so special is not his existential queries, but rather his ability to treat these issues in an often comic and imaginative fashion.  Watching Krumme’s creative manipulation of space is not unlike viewing the films of Buster Keaton, Jackie Chan or Gene Kelly, whose physical manoeuvers and astonishing use of space as a supporting character, defy all reason.  While academics can ponder over the sociological and philosophical implications of each scene, there is an emotional element at work, contrary to Krumme’s Brechtian ambitions, that is quite simply hypnotic. 

Krumme’s work merges a deceptively simple story and technique into a creative and complex imagining of contemporary society.  And, in what is perhaps his ultimate irony, Krumme’s basic black and white drawings allow us to see that the reality we take for granted is not black and white.

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A well-known figure in the world of independent animation, writer, author & curator Chris Robinson is the Artistic Director of the Ottawa International Animation Festival.