[Untitled] (Animated Fictional Details: Dying Stick Figure)
Video, 32 sec.
Collection: Courtesy Mai 36 Gallery, Zürich.
Starting from drawings, Matt Mullican (b. 1951) has for over three decades used the most varying of media to investigate how we perceive the world around us, and to demonstrate that 'reality' is a construct of our imagination. Mullican creates a personal universe of signs and symbols to reflect his own intuitive and subjective view on the world. His stick-figure drawings, involved in any kind of activities and usually accompanied by an explanatory caption, comprise an important component of this practice.
Ever since the 1970's, the artist has brought an imaginary individual to life through these drawings. In his studio, he attempts to prove the drawn figure Glen(n) is really susceptible to feelings of pain. In hundreds of drawings Mullican investigates the vitality of his figure by, for example, having Glen(n) prick his own finger, or by bringing life-and-death into focus by positioning a dead stick figure next to Glen(n) in the room. As ultimate proof of Glen(n)'s autonomy, Mullican claims not to even know if his name should be spelled with one 'n' or two.
With Dying Stick Figure the artist returns in a simple but overpowering way to his iconic stick figure from the late Seventies. The animation shows a figure who staggers, sinks to his knees, falls to the ground and, finally, lays there motionless, as if dead. Childlike simplicity paired to immense power of expression harks back to the earliest animations from Émile Cohl, who created the first animated cartoon, with a stick figure in the starring role, around 1908. By animating the figure, captions became superfluous. It is striking how such a simple representation can so convincingly evoke the fleeting nature of life and the inescapability of death.
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