‘The In-Betweens’ of animation and memory

Alison James’s stop-motion animation exhibit questions our documentation-focused society

Image provided by artist

While some may believe animation is an art form left to either children or anime fans, the reality is making film using drawn or created imagery has great potential for artistic expression.

U of M alumna Alison James launched The In-Betweens — a new example of animation as pure artistic expression — at the Martha Street Studio Nov. 1. Using screen prints and stop-motion animation, the exhibit features a series of looping animations of James’s episodic memories, recreating her lived experiences that can’t be found documented through some material form.

The In-Betweens is a reaction to our documentation-focused society and a personal reaction to the majority of James’s memories being based on documentation, finding that her own “memories were […] not experiences that I actually remember.”

According to James, our memories are based on photographs, videos, feeds and verbal communication, something that can often lose the ingrained emotional experience we live. James created a list of important memories that lacked any documentation.

This included stories never shared with anyone, that happened alone and that contained intense emotional experiences. She then went about adapting several for the exhibit.

She chose animation as her medium because she “was really drawn to art mediums that are heavily process based.”

“Which I think is why I think I am so drawn to making animation, generally, because there are many steps that go into making the final product,” she said.

James also admitted that she feels like she is “kind of damaging these memories in the process of making them into animations because I am reconstructing them and kind of changing them each time I think about them.”

However, she specified that “it’s not really about sharing all the details of the memories with the audience, it’s more about hoping the audience will reflect on their own episodic memories.”

James’s work suggests we can only ever create imperfect shadows of our experiences and memories, and she is certainly on a unique and exciting track in how we can convey experience.

“I am really interested in how our relationship with documentation and how we document our lives is kind of mixed together with what we actually remember,” she said.

The biggest step forward in James’s artistic career was moving beyond the U of M and finding her place at the Martha Street Studio.

“Just creating a body of work outside of school walls feels like an accomplishment in itself when there isn’t a ton of support in it,” she said.

James said she has seen animation become a lot more present in the fine art world too.

“I think it’s having a good moment right now.”



The In-Betweens runs until Dec. 5 at the Martha Street Studio. Admission is free to the public.