Thursday, 30 July 2009

To The Max

Bouncing ideas of visual abstraction between cinemas and music festivals throughout Europe, filmmaker and media artist Max Hattler has already seduced the likes of Basement Jaxx and onedotzero with his arresting animations. In between receiving awards, teaching at Goldsmiths College and jetsetting to international VJ gigs, Max let's jotta in on the digital dream.

We certainly won’t be starved for innovative audio-visual delights this season. Max’s stage visuals for Basement Jaxx are currently on tour, his film Aanaatt is doing the festival rounds, various live gigs are planned throughout Europe and animation screenings in London are due in September. To complete this summer of madness Max’s next short film Spin will be finished by Autumn.

What is your background and how did you become interested in this field of work?
Growing up, I was always drawing and painting. When I got my first computer age twelve, I started manipulating and animating images digitally, but wasn’t thinking about film at all. Then I discovered the computer’s audio editing possibilities and spent most of my teens making electronic music. It was only when I came across an animation module during my BA at Goldsmiths, that it dawned on me that I could combine all these previously disparate interests into a singular expression through the medium of film! Doing an MA in Animation at the Royal College of Art really brought it all together for me.

What other artists do you admire and have influenced you?
Just a handful off the top of my head…Animators Oskar Fischinger, Robert Breer and Jan Švankmajer. Painter-photographer László Moholy-Nagy, product designer Hans (Nick) Roericht, and my composer dad Hellmut Hattler.

Are you driven more by the visual aesthetics or by the technological possibilities?
The computer is just a tool (the dominant tool, ok), and everyone uses it, from accountants to writers. Having said that, I must admit that I don’t know if I would be working with moving image if it weren’t for the computer. I don’t think I would have the patience or the funds to work with film and pencil. So in that sense it is technology that drives my creativity. But I try to make it my own, to use the technology to materialise my vision.

Do you find you are constantly retraining for new software and equipment in this industry? How does this fast-paced environment influence your creative thought process?
There’s definitely an element of constant retraining going on, I embrace the new. I tend to try new things with each project, to challenge myself and keep things interesting. But at the same time, I’m quite controlled in my approach. I try to constrain things conceptually as well as technically, and try to use these limitations as a way of generating ideas within them. Technology can be crippling in its promise of unlimited possibilities.

How does your work deal with political issues? You speak of finding a space between abstraction and figuration. Can you give examples of how this ‘space’ is realised?
My film Collision deals with the relationship between Islam and America (and by extension the UK). I felt that I wanted to make a contribution to the debate that was going on, but without taking sides or being finger pointing.

Abstraction can be an interesting tool in this regard. Abstractions of sound, image, and symbolism can open up a space that is far enough removed from reality in order to create critical distance, and reflection. But it needs to be recognizable enough to make meaning. I try to work with this concept of floating between recognizable and abstraction, pulling the viewer between specific and open-ended, between narrative and non-narrative.

You work across disciplines of film and live animation, do you have a preference or do you see yourself moving in any other directions in the future?
Since my MA graduation I’ve started taking my work into a live context, through audiovisual performance. Films are currently the most important part of my practice, but it can be a solitary and lengthy process, especially when working with animation. So doing live a/v work opens it up to something more immediate and adrenaline-driven, less controlled, more fun.

I really like how both outlets complement each other. The live performances allow me to travel to perform at festivals; this in turn helps my filmmaking. I also enjoy working with bands, and often, live visuals lead to music video or film collaborations, or vice versa.

Aanaatt (Teaser) from Max Hattler on Vimeo.

More of Max's films and tour dates can be viewed at:

By Esther Bradley

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