In Conversation with the Brothers Quay


 This intimate and illuminating evening in the company of Stephen and Timothy Quay was both informative and entertaining. Personally I have no great knowledge concerning animation but am in fact a recent convert to its cause and aspirations. The work produced by these twin brothers however seems tp operate in a sphere all of its own ,quite literally on occasion, as it seems to back itself into a corner and explore every inch of that corner from every conceivable angle. Disorientating, dark, surreal, esoteric and provocative are just some adjectives that can be used to describe their work but it is so much more than all these things also.

 The conversation was easy and amiable with anecdotal references to accompany the several clips which were shown. The first of these was a piece called’ Hopscotch’ which featured a bludgeoning, static techno soundtrack which irritated and enthralled in equal measure co-ordinating perfectly with the thudding visuals. A piece which as a work for a museum  was designed only to be seen in passing and felt even more disorientating in its entirety.. The brothers then revealed that it was a move to Holland which allowed them to explore their animation ambitions and afford their work the aesthetic they felt it deserved.

 A second piece based on Polish writer Bruno Schultz followed this and by not following a traditional narrative an even darker more claustrophobic work materialised. This was after the brothers revealed that the soundtrack came first and much of what subsequently evolved was fashioned around this.

 Talk about the metaphysics of matter and an axolotl which became a rotating screw continued to hold the attention of an already rapt audience. The fact that they work as a team of two also offered up some explanation as to why their work continues to be as experimental, as a larger team of animators would require the co-operation of many and would make following their diverse and unique process less viable. Likewise working with real actors also provided a different set of problems as unlike puppets actors are capable of talking back although they did inform us they treated the actors with the same respect as their puppets and vice versa..

 This was an extremely entertaining and informative talk and revealed the brothers as having a hermetically sealed universe where shadows and light play tricks on each other. The final film of the night ‘In Absentia’ was originally commissioned by the BBC and its evocative and disturbing imagery and soundtrack merely left me and the rest of the audience wanting more.


In Conversation with the Brothers Quay was at Summerhall.

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