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Tin House Reels: Rivkah Gevinson

This week, Tin House Reels screens Rivkah Gevinson’s short film Shut Eye, an animation of elaborate parts—buttons, cupcake liners, lace, teapots, cloth dolls with outsized shoes—set to a song that relates the pieces.

Gevinson capitalizes on the surprises that happen as an animator transitions from single, still images to the way those pictures move forward on film. Gevinson builds a video through that wild dialogue between static and moving art: “An animator is blind to how [a sequence actually moves] until watching what’s been recorded. My narrative only begins to develop once I’ve begun to see how the images run in playback. Once I have a sense of that, I’ll tailor the sequences towards the story. This process is a great lesson in letting go of control in the moment, and editing later. One moment is determined by what came before it and what comes after it–no moment is in a vacuum.”

Shut Eye, her response to a song of that title by Stealing Sheep, surprised her with its darkness. Her first images “turned out to have a very eerie tone that I hadn’t anticipated or planned. I began with the drawings of the girls with their faces cut out–and when I registered how they appeared in playback, it was totally creepy. I decided to go with the creepiness, and eventually hints of characters and narrative emerged, as well as new sets and choices of pacing. I can only get a sense of tone or atmosphere by way of movement once I’ve recorded several frames.”

The result is a video that feels fresh and powered by something other than the thinking brain.

Gevinson describes video, like music, as a way to explore time. Videos and music demand that we experience them at their own pace—and giving way to pace means giving yourself over to the art in a specific way. When looking at photographs or paintings, she said, you have “personal time; you can be with them alone, up close.” There is room for dawdling, “for nostalgia and daydreaming.”

But in moving images, one frame is ushered off by the next, which comes with a new set of demands: “Music and film are a sequence of moments. The viewer can only refer back to moments by way of memory.”  Both arts ask for acts of memory from the audience. “When I listen to music or watch anything time-based, I have to allow the piece to unfold; I resist pegging the piece as any one statement, but rather am carried by the changing soundscapes and visual transitions, patient and trusting of the piece. It’s like being carried.”

This process “reminds me of the process of events in my life. It makes it easier for me to let go of certain things, which ultimately encourages me to accept failures and take risks.”

Rivkah Gevinson graduated with a BA in art from Skidmore College. She is Norwegian-American, soon to be based in Berlin. In June, she went to Norway on a grant, photographing the country for 6 months, exploring the summer light and how it changes with the coming of winter. Her project considered light’s role in Norwegian culture, values, and everyday life, and she is working on a resulting photo book. Gevinson is currently animating a video for a Norwegian song by Nina Gaarden, alled ‘Uskreven Sang,’ or ‘Unwritten Song.’ “The sentiment of the song is very close to my love for the kind of automatic creative processes that stop-motion is conducive to. The first line of the song is translated to, ‘Sometimes I have to find answers in an unwritten song.’”

Tin House Reels is a weekly feature on The Open Bar dedicated to the craft of short filmmaking. Curated by Ilana Simons, the series features videos by artists who are forming interesting new relationships between images and words.

We are now accepting submissions for Tin House Reels. Please upload your videos of 15 minutes or less to Youtube or Vimeo and send a link of your work to tinhousereels@gmail.com. You may also send us a file directly.

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