Creative pursuits are often used as a way to distract from reality. For animator Toberg this is definitely the case, and right now who can blame him!
“Impulsively, I want to make absurd dystopian or political things, but I’m attracted to pure escapism, often I just want to make trippy ‘systems’ that are as far removed from reality as possible, poking at some notions of abstraction and virtuality,” he tells It’s Nice That.
Growing up between Stockholm and the suburbs of Los Angeles, Toberg (real name Toby Auberg) got his first break when he “slipped out of highschool” to work as a post-production and animation assistant on indie film My Suicide. He then returned to Stockholm “to get super serious about motion design at a strange cult-like institution called Hyper Island” – a place referred to by some as the Digital Harvard. Moving away from an institution like this, he came to London and eventually ended up on the MA Animation programme at the Royal College of Art.
This varied experience and training at world-renowned institutions has clearly helped to provide Toberg with an extremely strong skill set. Watch any of his work and you can see that he is a technically adept animator that is able to concoct beautiful scenes and movements – his other-worldly take on a nature documentary, Causisms, is a perfect example of this.
The project, which he created whilst at the RCA, was borne out of experimentation with 3D physical simulations and strange characters, which would, “animate themselves within conditions that I made for them,” he says. “When those abstract character systems interacted with other systems, it started to resemble a microcosm. So I let the systems steer me into designing an abstract ecology, and when the functions of this simulated ‘mini-ecology’ are explained narratively it just naturally fits the familiar format of a nature documentary.”
Not all of Toberg’s work can be categorised under one umbrella term though, and he definitely has no uniform style. For instance, his latest piece, Pile, is much more akin to something you would find on a weird corner of the internet than a virtual Attenborough. The subject is human constructs, and touches on “material progression, economic stratification, human history and the hierarchy of needs,” all in one continuous upward pan. The film will be released next year after it has done the festival run, and he hopes that until then his words can do it justice" “It’s a tricky one to explain,” he says. “I think it's more of an intuitive concept visually, I hope!”
The decision to have no signature style just yet is a conscious one, and it is not something that particularly worries him at this moment in time. “I haven’t figured out what my style is, there’s definitely some common themes, moods and techniques I use across my work, but as for style I’m happy to leave it a bit open for now,” he explains. “Partly because I like variation but mostly because I just can’t commit to a cohesive visual language across different pieces. That being said, I totally see myself falling into a more consistent and focused style someday.”
At the moment Toberg is currently working on a backlog of short film ideas that he has in the bank, balancing this with freelancing and teaching at Kingston School of Art and the Royal College of Art.
With such a varied style and more projects in mind, it is likely his work will continue to become more diverse in its aesthetic, but not in the subject matter, which is something he continues to focus himself on. “I’m fixated by the idea of humans cognitively leaving this experience of life for a completely new one that exists on its own terms, departed from representations of our reality.”
This is good news for us though, because as the news continues to be a less-than cheerful read, it seems like we will need as many of these kinds of distractions as possible!
About the Author
Charlie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in December 2019. He has previously worked at Monocle 24, and The Times following an MA in International Journalism at City University. If you have any ideas for stories and work to be featured then get in touch.