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Why Analog Is Back in Style: Meet Animator Janie Korn

Janie Korn, analog animation
Photo courtesy of Janie Korn

Analog is back in style.

Well, maybe not analog per se, but a return to form that isn’t entirely dependent on the digital universe. Take artist Janie Korn. Her work as a muralist and illustrator led her to self-taught lessons in sculpture, with the goal of adapting one of her graphic novels into a fully immersive, 3D installation. Sculpting led to animation. But not computer graphic animation. Nope. Korn employs old-school claymation and stop-motion techniques, a hands-on art form that defies the challenges often associated with a lack of CGI training.

Even though this style of animation showcases less “academic” techniques, or perhaps because of it, it’s innovative and groundbreaking. Korn joins a community of like-minded artists comprising female-identified and non-gender binary animators who use alternative animation to explore how textures of found objects, claymation, mixed media, and puppetry serve as a reaction to the trend of CGI and digitized art to present a unique, more human voice.

At 8 p.m. on Wednesday, October 18, at The Wythe Hotel Screening Room, join Korn and her co-curator Artie Niederhoffer for a screening of Outsider: Women in Alternative Animation, which highlights the alternative animators and artists working in this community, each exploring her own narrative through a purely physical format.

“I don’t want to ever stop feeling things. I am very inspired by the absurd and the grotesque.”

What inspires you to create?

Janie Korn: Living in a chaotic, crowded city, I have to create, first and foremost, for therapeutic reasons. We absorb so many interactions that are funny and horrifying and sad, and if we don’t stop to purge and analyze them, we no longer become sensitive to the experience. I don’t want to ever stop feeling things. I am very inspired by the absurd and the grotesque. So, of course, dating in New York has provided me with a lifetime of material. Fear, isolation, and rejection are what I really seek to explore, but always with humor. I want my work to be vulnerable, but in a cheeky way that isn’t overly revelatory.

Janie Korn, Brief Stories of Vulnerable Men
Brief Stories of Vulnerable Men
Janie Korn, A Haunting
A Haunting
Janie Korn, A Runaway
A Runaway

Tell us more about the less academic animation techniques. What role do they play for you and for the animators you’ll select for the screening?

Janie Korn: I became exposed to the world of experimental animation through my own creative journey. For a long time, it was an area of deep shame for me that I did not have the technical background that is needed to make clean, professional animations. It discouraged me from attempting projects that I had been dreaming of making. Privately, in my studio, I started to make rudimentary animations that didn’t look like anything seen on TV or in movies. But they felt special and more human. I discovered that there were so many other women out there like me, who were making work that feels different and new because they are making up their own techniques. They are doing this because they either do not have a technological background or because they are seeking to innovate. I find this work so deeply exciting. It’s both retro, referencing simpler production styles, and futuristic.

What challenges have you encountered on your artistic journey that you didn’t expect at the beginning?

Janie Korn: Because I am an introverted person, my favorite part about creating art has always been that it is inherently a solitary, meditative behavior. At the beginning, I figured if my work was good, people would want it. I didn’t question how people would find out about me, I just thought the world would seek me out and want all of my pieces.

New York teaches you very quickly that hustle is just as necessary as talent. People are not going to automatically know your virtues, so you have to tell them. Also, networking doesn’t need to be sleazy and insincere. “Networking,” to me, means building a community. By talking to people, and yes, by some Instagram DMing, I’ve built a social circle with incredibly talented, smart, wise creative minds who can give advice and share wisdom. When I have the opportunity to curate a project and promote someone else’s work, I do it. Why? Because when your peers succeed, you do, too. Helping each other and growing together is so key.

“Anytime I produce work with saleability or monetization in mind, the work suffers dramatically. It looks uninspired and feels empty.”

Do you find it difficult to nurture your creative spirit while also addressing the business side of being an artist?

Janie Korn: Anytime I produce work with saleability or monetization in mind, the work suffers dramatically. It looks uninspired and feels empty. I teach myself that lesson all the time. You have to create some duds as a reminder that you must be authentic to your voice. I’m emerging now from a multi-month-long creative rut, which, for some artists can be a thing of shame—or has been for me in the past, at least. But getting through the rut, and being able to silence all the other voices, is the most gratifying experience in art creation. I’m now exploring new materials and creating these more abstract, minimalist sculptures, all of which feel deeply true to me.

What would you like to tell the world through your art? What feelings do you hope to inspire in the viewer?

Janie Korn: My work discusses the loneliness and vulnerability of being a human in the world. We all float around with these hidden wounds and stories. At the same time, my work is funny. People are absurd and the way we behave can be irrational and ridiculous. I make my figures a little crude and cartoony to reflect the idea that while we have this abundance of feelings, we are all these silly, folded pieces of flesh.

If you weren’t an artist, what would you do?

Janie Korn: There was a time in my life where I was very serious about joining the foreign service. I’ve lived for extended periods of time in Peru, Chile, Spain, and Nicaragua and traveled extensively throughout the region. It’s funny, about six years ago I was planning to move back to Spain for an embassy-run program, and a few days before my fingerprinting I sliced my thumb on a can of beans. Because they couldn’t fingerprint me, even after all of my vetting, I was suddenly disqualified. I think if I had ended up going to Spain my life may have been different. Or maybe it would have just led me on a curvier path back here.

“Artists should be aware of the realities of the world and be active, visible, and present—because it is urgent.”

Do you think that artists are obligated to be socially and politically engaged?

Janie Korn: Everyone needs to be socially and politically engaged right now. There are so many important causes and communities that need support; inaction is not acceptable. Artists should be aware of the realities of the world and be active, visible, and present—because it is urgent. At the same time, I deeply respect each individual’s unique creative process. Work is allowed to be abstract or speaks to another personal issue. If art isn’t your protest tool of choice, fine, but be a conduit for change.

Tell us about your next big project.

Janie Korn: I am a huge fan of many of the women participating in the “Outsider: Women in Alternative Animation” showcase, held October 18. I deeply admire many artists in the community, so it’s an honor to present their work to new eyes, and at a venue like The Wythe Hotel, too.

As for other endeavors, right now I am writing my longest film project, which, when finished, I will film as a stop-motion animation. It will recount the stories of three pairs of sisters: my grandmother, who spent her most formative years in a concentration camp, and her sister who was taken in by a German commander as a maid, and their relationship post-war; the fraught relationship between my mother and her sister; and the ways these inherited experiences influenced my relationship with my sister.

Then there is my “Vulnerable Men” series, which is a series of small talisman-like sculptures of male nudes on stones. It’ll exhibit in Paris, October 3–28, at Giu Giu + Shy Shop Pop-Up (19 Rue Notre Dame de Nazareth).

Follow Janie Korn and Artie Niederhoffer.

Janie Korn, Elections 2008, 2012
Elections 2008, 2012