Interview with Kristian de la Riva

Kristian de la Riva tells us about the influences and process behind CUT, his Animate OPEN film.


When did you start to use animation in your work? And why?

Around seven years ago. I had always been intrigued by Phillip Gustonís series of paintings from the 1970's onwards, especially interested in the cartoony style and black outline of figures and objects. This interest was repeated again when I saw some of Angus Fairhurst's early animations. I did some research into animation techniques and found the rotoscoping process one that was loaded with possibilities primarily because it allowed to combine performance with a craft based process (myself having come from a painting background). So that the final product became almost a residue of performances past. Because I worked in a collaboration at the time with my then partner, this seemed like a great way to carry on working within the collaborative cornerstone of performance but in a way that once removed you from the audience. Thus offering an element of protection through the work.

The violence in CUT is shocking and funny in turn - and although the drawing style isnít cartoon, thereís almost a cartoon-like absurdity to some violence you portray - what did you want to explore with that?

The fact the figure is continually reborn after each incident is indeed intended to reflect the sub real use of violence in shows, such as the Loony Tunes Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner cartoons. Yet as with a lot of my work the comic aspect is there to allow layers to develop within the work. Initially the piece was conceived as a way to portray loss within a relationship. The lone male figure taking to the extreme the saying "that to lose a lover is like losing a limb". With each extraction of a body part he is trying to banish the memory of relationships past and lost in order to move on. The cartoon-esque style of violence allows this idea, however distorted, to remain just within the realms of palatability and at the same time reflecting the idea of repeating the same questions in ones life on daily basis without answer.

Why did you choose to strip back the action to line drawing a naked figure?

As I previously mentioned, when I first employed the animation technique of rotoscoping I was working within a collaboration. We would use ourselves as the basis for the animated images. In doing this we wanted to appear within the work but only at a distance. So what you would see is a once removed version of ourselves. The lack of detail - facially etc - emphasised this. Not only did this offer protection, because as a couple making art together there is an element of exposure that is not always healthy, but it also made the characters generically male and female rather than specifically the authors of the work. I retained this style as the idea of specificity dilutes the work - his anonymous features make him an Everyman and his lack of clothing do not define him to an era or trend. In this way the field of reference for the work is broadened.

Whilst the film is a series of discrete incidents, thereís a cumulative impact Ė how did you set about ordering the incidents?

I aimed to create 30 scenarios but because of time restrictions ended up with 24. The actual ordering is structured - but loosely - as the piece was never intended to be seen as a three minute video. It was made with the intention of looping continuously so that there is no middle, beginning or end. Having said that though, the continuing build up of all these collective scenes does naturally create a lead up to something, I think itís partly just the way we read things visually.

Who are your influences or heroes/heroines Ė films, art, people?

Having come from an art background I have always remained influenced stylistically by the drawings and paintings of Phillip Guston and structurally by the repetition in Bruce Nauman's work. Beyond art, Manga drawing and animation has always remained a constant interest as do the books of David Mitchell and Kafka which hint at disruptions within social structures throughout he psychology of the self which I find fascinating.