For Yana Pan, “animation is the closest thing to magic in real life.” It’s a medium she’s loved for as long as she can remember, recalling a childhood absorbed in Chinese animations and Japanese anime. Now, it’s an industry she can count herself as being a part of. After studying computer art at New York’s School of Visual Arts and a couple of stints working in advertising and as a designer, she enrolled at Calart to study an MFA in experimental animation. And writing to us from across the pond, the now LA-based animator tells us about her latest work.
Titled 0000E8, the three-and-a-half minute film details a mystical object suddenly appearing in the world. It has a mysterious effect on Earth’s people and societies, a surreal tale told through warmly lit hues and airbrushed textures. “I don’t want to talk about what I think the film should be too much,” explains the animator, “as I want people to have their own interpretation.” And in this way, she created the setting for the animation, an abstract, slightly sinister environment revealed alongside a monotone voiceover.
Interestingly, the animation opens with the line: “It all began on the day it came. No one had seen anything like it before.” She was 70 per cent through the production process when those peculiar lines sort of came true with the Covid-19 outbreak. One of her tutors even joked, “Yana you kinda predicted the pandemic no?” the animator tells us. So with a strange sense of foreshadowing, the animation reveals a parallel universe where events are not that different from reality. But in this universe, the humans have no faces and are made up of static geometric shapes in an assortment of colours.
“My visual language is usually very colourful,” she says of these aesthetic decisions, “sometimes I call myself the saturation queen (because I can’t control my hand in making everything over saturated)” she jokes. The foundations of Yana’s visual language are built on such colours and basic geometric shapes (as seen in 0000E8) due its seeming simplicity. On further inspection however, the viewer can discern that each colour and shape is ascribed a deeper, emotional meeting.
Drawing inspiration from science fiction and surrealism, Yana cites artists such as Max Ernst, Leonora Carrington, Satoshi Kan and early films like Man Ray’s Emak Bakia as influential references. Visually, 0000E8 injects surrealist compositions with a contemporary colour palette, but conceptually, it draws on the theories of crowd psychology to pose questions on mass culture and how it effects the mind.
Gustave Le Bon’s 1895 book A Study of the Popular Mind was an important reference for Yana in developing 0000E8. In the book, the writer states there are several characteristics of crowd psychology including “impulsiveness, irritability, incapacity to reason, the absence of judgement of the critical spirit, the exaggeration of sentiments, and others…” In turn, Yana subtly evokes these tensions in the film, hinting to mentalities that are not too dissimilar from the current state of the world. As for the future, Yana’s planning to make another short film this year with the hopes of an even longer one in time.