One of my wishes for 2013 was to see more in NYC. That means not to give excuses for not seeing shows before they end. I listed pros and cons in my head while laying in bed early Sunday deciding if I should go or not. They went something like this:
Pro: I should see it, you know you will love it.
Con: But that means I have to get out of bed and the blankets are so warm!
Pro: It ends tomorrow, you will never see it again.
Con: But my pajamas are so cozy! And I wanted to wear them all day!
Pro: You will get in exercise and get Fuel points. You will be doing 2 great things!
Con: But I want to go the store and buy supplies to make chili.
Pro: You can go to the store on the way home and buy those.
Con: But I have work to do, editing needs to be done.
Pro: Just stay up later, stop being a baby, you don’t want to miss this show! Also MOMA has good chocolate croissants. And you get in free with your faculty cards!
Con: I want to stay in my pajamas.
Pro: MOMA always has their Christmas cards on sale in January. And I know how much you love those cards. I know how much you spent on them last year when they weren’t on sale.
Ok, I will go!
So I got myself out of bed, threw on a pretty skirt, and took the G to the E and went to the MOMA.
Turns out this was a great choice because the exhibition was pretty amazing. It was 3 floors worth of their video work, props, sets and drawings. I also learned that they grew up on the Schuylkill River in Pennsylvania, and I’m from Schuylkill County, so we’re basically friends. The Quay Brothers just don’t know this yet.
Background information that I’m summarizing from Wiki/myself: Stephen and Timothy Quay (born June 17, 1947) are American identical twin brothers better known as the Brothers Quay or Quay Brothers. The Quay Brothers reside and work in England, having moved there in 1969 to study at the Royal College of Art, London after studying illustration at the Philadelphia College of Art. They are influential stop-motion animators and set designers that are known for their dark, creepy style. Most of their animation films feature puppets made of doll parts and other organic and inorganic materials, often partially disassembled, in a moody atmosphere. The Quay Brothers’ works show a wide range of often esoteric influences, starting with the Polish animators Walerian Borowczyk and Jan Lenica and continuing with the writers Franz Kafka, Bruno Schulz, Robert Walser and Michel de Ghelderode, puppeteers Wladyslaw Starewicz and Richard Teschner.
Their exhibition at MoMA in 2012 featured work spanning their entire career tracing back as early as childhood (including photos of their ice skating mother), with much of the material shown for the first time.
Some of the highlights for me:
I love Kafka’s Metamorphosis so very much, so I was delighted to see that the Quay Brothers adapted the story and created their own stop motion film on it that incorporates stop-motion animation, puppetry, and live-action pantomime. On display was one of the actual sets which I just stood in front of for minutes with a giddy smile on my face while others walked by creeped out by the bug (or by the girl with the big smile). Unfortunately I wasn’t able to see the film, but hopefully I will be able to someday…
I had no idea that the brothers did the stop motion animation for Peter Gabriel’s amazing video “Sledgehammer”. Word on the street is that brothers weren’t very pleased about the outcome but I love it.
Lastly, I found this interview that the brothers did and wanted to share some of my favorite parts as I can definitely feel a connection to what they’re saying.
How much do you think that your commercial work of the past ten years has fed into your film shorts and features?
Timothy: It’s just the opposite. We’re hired to do commercials because of previous work. I don’t think there’s been any commercial [job] that’s informed us. The only thing that a couple of commercials did was allow us a bit of post-production work, digital post-production, which we got familiar [enough] with to know “Ah, we can do this.” Commercials have big budgets. Whereas usually, like on Street of Crocodiles or any of our animation films, there’s never any budget for post-production. None, ever. You try to do as much as you can inside the camera.
What is your scheme, then, for pushing yourselves ahead, creatively speaking?
Stephen: Ideally, what we’d like to do is Bruno Schulz’s novel Sanatorium.We don’t have grand schemes. It’s better that we be pushed into a corner. Our idea is to be pushed further and further into a corner where another kind of infinity opens up. I mean, to do In Absentia II would be great. We wanted to do it from the husband’s point of view, but nobody’s bitten. Every time we’ve had a project, like Benjamenta, it’s closed doors for us. Absentia closed doors for us. On Crocodiles, we got Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer out” of it. Otherwise, basically, we don’t get any work.
Do you — either of you — ever have a desire to work alone, apart from the other?
Stephen: No, you’re sort of joined both psychologically and metaphorically at the hip or at the heart. I think the kind of work that we do is very demanding. Most animators tell us how they envy our duality. We’ve grown up together our whole life. We went to art school, and we each did our own art, but when it comes to film, we have to come together — they’re not going to give you two budgets to make two films. And it’s forced us to work things out. And who better than identical twins could feel at home with the other? If Timothy has an idea, immediately you sort of build on it, and it goes quickly. It’s really just focusing it, where you’ve got lots of bottles of wine on the table and notepaper and the film evolves. Timothy: There’s a lot of intuition. And when we start to actually make the puppets and build the décor — it’s a stage where you really open up. That’s where the journey really starts to take place. So it’s very important, that expiration, that sigh, it’s very important for us. And if it was somebody else you were working with, they’d [say] “Well, what are you doing?” and you’d say, “I’m exploring.” They’ve usually got storyboards, and it’s all blocked out. But we don’t have storyboards, we have it here [points to his head], between us. On a commercial, they ask for storyboards and we do it, reluctantly.
I’m so happy I ended up going and getting able to see all their work. I would definitely recommend checking out their work if you like what you see above.