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Pictures from the Brainbox: Animators on Animation - 'Mind Frame'

Jake Fried talks about the making of his trippy caffeinated short, Mind Frame (2016)


'Mind Frame' by Jake Fried

Jake Fried (1984) began his artistic career as a painter, but as he went through the process of layering and modifying images, he realized what truly interested him was the way the images metamorphosed in the course of making a painting and he changed tracks to become an animator. In recent years his films have been widely shown internationally, including at the Tate Modern, Sundance Film Festival, and on Adult Swim and Netflix. Fried works with ink and white-out, sometimes adding gouache, collage and even coffee to generate hallucinatory vistas, modifying and shooting the images over and over to create mind-bending animations that evolve at a frenzied pace. He currently teaches at the Massachusetts College of Art & Design and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

So, how’d you make this?

Mind Frame was created on one high-grade piece of paper, consecutively scanned as I added ink, white-out and coffee. I created about 10 frames a day for a total of 1500 frames for the film. After all the frames had been drawn and scanned, I compiled them at 25 fps and carefully composed an audio track for the film.

My films are not really pre-planned, they become themselves through the process of making. I try to let the work tell me what's next. I fundamentally believe art-making should be a discovery process, otherwise I have no interest. I want to learn something new or follow some unknown path, rather than executing a plan.

A big part of the philosophy behind my work is that it's always evolving and changing—the journey being more important than any destination or final image. Everything that comes before informs what comes after as the work builds on itself. The nature of my work is destructive. The final film is greater than any one frame, the destruction is necessary.

Why this technique?

My animation work came directly out of my painting and drawing practice. For many years I had been reworking and layering my paintings for weeks and months, like an endless search, never arriving at a final state. I just wanted to keep building them up, changing them forever. Eventually I realized I was more interested in the evolution of an image than any final state.

So the animations aren’t that different from what I’ve always done; I just didn’t ‘see them’ until I began recording the process. Every drawing I make is just a small part of a much bigger picture - through slow and steady work I can create something deeper and more complex than any single image could ever achieve. The process I developed allows room for constant discovery and lets the work reveal itself over a matter of months, instead of hours, days or weeks. For me it feels like a more honest or authentic way to create. The work isn’t impulsive or temporary, but slowly and thoughtfully arrived at over time.

How long did it take?

9 months.

What was the most challenging part of the process?

My process doesn’t allow me to go “backwards” or “fix mistakes”, so the greatest challenge is to stay focused and present every single day I work on the film, to keep the level of quality consistent. The nature of that challenge is also what makes the work so exciting to work on.

Is there any part that now makes you cringe a bit?

Not really, although it can be vulnerable and uncomfortable to authentically express yourself, I think that’s what makes the work worth making and largely what people respond to in art that moves them. I find it difficult to put the quality I’m after in my work into words. I discover the work as much as I make it, there is mystery in the work for me as well.

Do you feel better having made it?

Absolutely. When it comes down to why I create my animations, that’s hard to say. But I just simply love to draw and to get lost in the act of drawing. The intense intellectual and visual stimulation required to make this work is a kind of meditation or deep focus that I find very satisfying and cathartic. And creating my films speaks to others in ways nothing else I do can.

Chris Robinson's picture

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.