Essay, Magazin

New Alphabets

Der experimentelle Animationskünstler Nicholas Bertini (geb. 1987 in Verona) ist derzeit in Norditalien sehr erfolgreich. Mit seinem neuen Film Un Segno Nello Spazio (A Sign in Space) gewann er im Juni und Juli diesen Jahres gleich mehrere Preise: den Publikumspreis auf dem River Film Festival in Padua und den Veneto Wettbewerb und den Preis für die beste Musik auf dem Lago Film Fest in Revine. In seinem Beitrag beschreibt er, was er in seinen künstlerischen Werken im Spannungsfeld von Wort und Bewegtbild erforscht. Doch zuvor ein Filmbeispiel, die Animation Amelia aus dem Jahr 2015.

It’s not easy to explain how one of my films comes to life. Experimentation is fundamental, and the power of a certain visual composition is often the sparkle that illuminates the whole project. I feel closer to a painter than to a poet. A painter without canvas, pigments and brushes but other tools suitable for creatings moving images.

The creation of a film is always preceded by a proficient period of reading. Not necessarily poetry, it’s actually mostly narrative. The resulting meditative mood helps me acquiring the sensitivity I need to create a poetic composition. By ›poetic composition‹ I don’t refer solely to the text, but to the context of images, movements and words that together concur in creating an emotion.

Encoding and decoding signs and shapes is the main focus of the research behind my work. It’s legitimate to say that communication is based on an alphabet, or better many alphabets, that lead back to writing. But what happens if, instead of a blank sheet having width and height, we have one including the dimension of time? Paradoxically a blank sheet that erases the hic et nunc of a mark, or that can contain hundreds or thousands.

Here shapes and signs, besides appearing in their two-dimensionality can mutate over time, allowing a level of communication that writing as we know it can not transmit. That’s what interests me in my research: the possibility to communicate through signs that can be decoded as new alphabets, thus including movement as part of the alphabet, like a sign or word.

In this process traditional writing is not left aside, there’s no intention to discredit or surpass it. Instead I find myself mixing this two languages, morphing and fusing them together.

I’m deeply attracted by the expressive strength of this union; with this approach one can see, or actually create, a mutation of the language, and its extremely fascinating to experiment with it. I’m talking about experiments because it’s about finding possible methods, not solutions.

Words, letters, signs and movement are the visual tools I have to create the new alphabet. My approach is somehow primitive, the writing that emerges is never unique, signs and movements leave space for new possible words or incorporate concepts. Like a prehistoric paintings my writing can be interpreted.

Since no univocal meaning is encoded in any sign or shape, the reader is free to choose the interpretation that is natural to her or him. I used the word ›reader‹, but is it possible to ›read‹ a film? What other term can refer to the fruition of images, words and sounds that concur in creating an emotion? What I mean is that a film can be watched but also read, interpreted. This mode of fruition requires a higher effort than the passive one we adopt, say, when watching television. We could call it ›active fruition‹.

What is a film, then? What power hides behind such a standardized media? In my work I’d like to demonstrate that the moving images aren’t only those we see in television or cinemas (or smartphones), but are a phenomenon that, thanks to its mutable nature, it’s in constant evolution and hides a communicative strength that can go far beyond the standards we are used to. I could say that this has become my mission; the creation of narrative and visual experiments that study the intrinsic strength of signs.

That’s also a reason behind the almost exclusive use of black and white. I’d like my work to be read like a text, I look for a degree of neutrality to be simple, essential on the reader. The feeling of color, when needed, will emerge in her or his interpretation.

My biggest joy would be for my work to assume the weight of an essay, to become a reference for those who perform research on movement, or better on the Phi phenomenon.

The keyword to describe my method is ›experiment‹. I’m a technician of the image and I am familiar with each aspect that concurs in the creation of a visual composition.

Often I proceed by stratification: the process that gives place to the image results from various steps, and the research of the appropriate sign is enforced by the specific properties of the chosen media. For example the technique that was adopted for the short film Amelia (2015) uses the properties of a black and white laser printer that encodes the digital image in a fine printed grain. The resulting prints are then acquired with a scanner and re-encoded as frames.

I embrace the use of various tools, from computer to pencil. Each experiment has its precise and unique method, no matter if it doubles or reduces production time since the goal is to research. I think that researching the sign is a poetic act on its own. As the writer plays, changes and combines words in a perfect hendecasyllable, I find myself in a very similar role but applied to the moving image. Who devotes to this kind of research will discover the poetry behind the semiotics of the visual language.

My conclusion focuses on a single word that stands outside the methodological context: ›sensibility‹.

The analogy that first comes to mind is with the camera film, but going backwards and to the core of this matter I want to focus on the eye. Light rays constantly bounce through our pupils and are decoded as the reality that surrounds us. Their interpretation follows a common and objective conscience, but in my opinion this is only the visible surface, our sensibility is wider than that and the codes of the language we have are not enough to fulfill our perceptions completely. The mean to fill this gap is art, that fills and decodes all those deep feelings that don’t yet have a name.

I guess because of this sensibility I find myself swimming in this sea of perceptions and sensations that sometimes take shape of words, others of movements, and I have the duty and right – like everyone – to give it a shape.

About the Artist
Nicholas Bertini is an Italian author and animator born in Verona in 1987. Since 2008 he is involved in graphic design studios and works for communication agencies. During these years he approach the animation passing by motion design and traditional techniques. Currently he is working as a freelancer for animation agencies, in parallel of development of experimental short films.

His work is based on a constant research in non-conventional visuals and experimenting creative process. The mood of his films is characterized by minimal black and white shots obtained with different styles and media.