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Fifth Eyeworks Festival Celebrates the Creativity of Experimental Animators

By Amy Ross

Far from the confines of Pixar and DreamWorks, unusual looking characters and unconventional stories will come to life this week at the annual Eyeworks Festival of Experimental Animation. Surreal narratives and abstract animation don’t have it easy in the competitive markets of major studios. However, independent showcases like Eyeworks allow artists to bridge the gap between their creative techniques and audiences curious to try something different.

The fifth Eyeworks Festival of Experimental Animation will kick off this Tuesday, Nov. 11 at 6 p.m . in a free screening of shorts at the Museum of Contemporary Art, in Chicago. The selection includes animations from 1992 to the present. The following screenings will each have a cost of $10 each or $30 for a full festival pass. These will be held at the Nightingale Cinema (1084 N. Milwaukee Ave.) on Friday, November 14th at 7:00 p.m. and Saturday, November 15th at 5:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.

Festival directors Alexander Stewart and Lilli Carré selected around 30 pieces from all over the globe and for the four screenings. The lineup includes films by Australian artist Neil Taylor, the classic “69” by avant-garde master Robert Breer, “Eager” by Allison Schulnick, which was awarded Best Experimental Animation at Ottawa earlier this year, and “Jeu de Paume” by Joshua Mosley, which was included in the 2014 Whitney Biennial. Eyeworks’ mission is to showcase experimental work of both amateur animators and professionals whose productions often fall outside the boundaries of the commercial realm. According to Stewart, this avenue is particularly important in the field of animation since most festivals in the United States tend to be oriented toward sales rather than art.

“Animation is very time consuming and much is done in studios and teams, but we are responding to animation expressing the individual creative vision,” Stewart said. For Stewart, there is an important difference between visibility and commercial viability. However, having an avenue to display particularly original or compelling creative work can potentially open doors to new opportunities. “Visibility through festivals or online distribution can give artists momentum in their careers. I know many animators who have started with experimental films and have used it as a springboard to the industry, especially in LA.” For more seasoned animators, spaces like Eyeworks also provide a creative outlet that enables them to go back to the basics of the craft and rediscover their singular style, albeit in an alternative setting.

Frequently in the industry, the most basic and elemental animation is shipped overseas and in that sense, animators get “promoted out” of tasks like drawing and 3D modeling. “I have many friends who work in industry and get burned out. Some do this work on the side, although it doesn’t fit the industry expectations,” Stewart said. Aside from exhibiting modern experimental animation, Eyeworks will include classical films like John Whitney Jr’s”Terminal Self” (1971). The festival also encompasses a broad range of animation techniques from paper cutouts and stop-motion to 3D computer animation.

For more detailed lineups, information, or to buy tickets, you may visit the festival website at