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Posts from the ‘anthropomorphism’ Category

Can a house be a puppet?

July 9, 2013

renebaker

While preparing the courses I will be running at the Norwich Puppet Theatre Professional Development Summer School 2013, I have rediscovered Satu’s Smoke Puppet.

This snippet of film shows the first experiments by Satu Kivistö – then a first year puppetry student at the Turku Arts Academy – to animate smoke by using her breath as the control mechanism.

Watching the video brought back fond memories of that particular course on Making Puppets From Found Materials.

The challenge – or was it a provocation? – was there from the very beginning when someone asked “can a house be a puppet?”  Immediately the group was thrown into a discussion about what might make the difference between imbuing a house with life scenographically – be it realistically or symbolically – and bringing a building to life as a character.

A house can’t get up, look around, walk two steps and look around again – the (stereo)typical actions commonly used to show that an object has come alive – but nevertheless it can become a puppet. Well, it can as long as we agree that the term ‘puppet’ may include any object that gives the impression of being alive and not only a specially made figure or recognised puppetry technique (see wikipedia’s definition of object-puppet).

So when does a door slamming or water trickling down a window become the expression of a house-puppet-character and when does it simply create a scenographic mood or atmosphere? The same action can be interpreted either way. People seen through the window may be the inhabitants going about their lives or they could be imagined to be thoughts running round the house’s mind.

We eventually came to the conclusion that we would believe a house to be a character if the closing door was understood to be its reaction, decision or some other emotional response and that an object becomes a puppet if it is believed to have thoughts, feelings and a will of its own.

In the video, Satu’s smoke puppet had only just been invented and was still being tested to see what kind of movements it could it make and how these movements might be interpreted in emotional terms. The next step would be to create a situation in which it could act and react. As far as I know, Satu’s smoke-fire project is still waiting to come fully to life.

If you are interested in giving life to puppets and objects – be they a crafted figure or a found material – you might be interested the masterclasses being held at Norwich Puppet Theatre Professional Development Summer School 2013 (Norwich, UK).

Manipulate and Play with Liz Walker (3-4 August) will develop technique, expression and play by using two person puppets, materials and objects to create short improvisations based on character and movement.

plastic_princessWhen Objects Come to Life with Rene Baker (12-13 August) shows different ways to convey the impression that a puppet has its own thoughts and feelings.

Making Puppets From Found Materials with Rene Baker (15-16 August) draws inspiration from the object’s intrinsic qualities to develop a character.

For further information or to book a place, please visit Norwich Puppet Theatre’s website or call on 00 44 (0)1603 629921.

What people had to say about a previous When Objects Come To Life masterclass:

“Rene’s love and passion of puppets is very inspirational (And infectious!) Great deal of inspiration – and very useful tools to take home and use!”

“This masterclass has really helped me develop my understanding of the puppet and how its movements and intentions can be read, which I feel will be very beneficial to me as I progress in my learning of all things puppet!”

“What a wonderful gentle way Rene has of guiding us through the techniques of animating puppets. There was no tension, just caring encouragement”

Exercise in anthropomorphism

November 8, 2012

renebaker

As a continuation of yesterday’s post about anthropomorphism and puppetry, here is an exercise in interpreting nature. The leaves were filmed from my balcony in Turku (Finland) yesterday lunchtime.

The best is to first watch and see what occurs to you. The imagination works better without being told what to do.

And if you would then like to analyse the “performance”, here some focuses that may be useful for puppeteers:

  • Watching the leaves as a group or following an individual leaf gives different information.
  • How does the wind cause the leaves to move and how does their shape affect the movement?
  • Interpret the leaves imaginatively: find atmospheres, characters, stories, feelings.
  • What creates these impressions? What role do rhythm and space play?
  • What attracts your attention?  Why?
  • How could you re-create one movement or the whole atmosphere as live puppetry animation? (not necessarily with wind and leaves).

Please feel free to comment or share what you see in the leaves.

Anthropomorphism and puppetry

November 7, 2012

renebaker

This morning I encountered a seductive blinking light at some roadworks … hmm, what is it that made that light so flirtatious?

Anthropomorphism is a dirty word in some puppetry circles because it is considered that humanising an object limits it, a puppet is more than an imitation human being.  And I agree whole-heartedly but it all depends on what you understand by anthropomorphising and how you use it.

To me, anthropomorphising doesn’t necessarily mean giving objects a head, eyes, arms and legs or making puppets gesticulate like a person.  If I see a car going by and imagine it to be sneaky, it is not gesturing but is probably moving in a stealthy rhythm.

Which reminds me of three cars I saw driving along the river bank.  Their steady speed made them “determined” and “concentrated” and the even distance between them made them a team.  They were three agents on an important mission.

I believe that exercising our anthropomorphic sensibilities teaches us a lot about expressive movement and actually helps to not over-humanise puppets.  

By playfully interpreting our surroundings in emotional terms we become familiar with how form, rhythm, space, grouping, colour and texture communicate and we gain more tools for bringing objects to life, even the human-looking ones with head, arms and legs.

And next time we turn a piece of paper into a puppet we won’t feel obliged to twist a head and arms into it to make it seductive.  Now what was it again that made that light so flirtatious?