Noel Palazzo

Noel Palazzo


Identity Construction in Abstract Animation

PRESENTATION: Tuesday, July 2. 13:30 @ Q21 MuseumsQuartier / Raum D

There is no denying that abstraction -as the driving force behind all avant-garde movements- is the result of an identity crisis; it seeks to atomise the subject matter and sever its connection to physical reality. Pure film strives for the absolute and the self-contained; it aims at overcoming language, narrative, the individual, in pursuit of the universal, the experiential, the non-mediated, the ineffable. A longing for removing oneself from the fractured ordinary life in search for all-encompassing landscapes; a playful acceptance of the pointless nature of existence, and the freedom that comes with it.

In this talk, Punto y Raya Festival’s co-founder Noel Palazzo, will discuss how contemporary abstract animation offers new approaches to our notions of identity, memory and time. To discuss this complex subject, the presentation will be structured around two main axes:

1. Mindscapes

The appreciation of nature for its own sake started in the nineteenth century, partly as a way to abstract away from growing industrialisation and urbanisation. When gazing at a landscape, viewers are invited to let their eyes wander across the canvas/screen and freely project their own thoughts and moods onto the work. It’s not a coincidence that painters such as Malevich, Kandinsky or Mondrian were fascinated by landscapes. They would return to a same place and, little by little, reduce the number of strokes to ‘depict’ it, while still conveying its identity and magnificent presence. Malevich was also an aerial photographer, so looking down on Earth from his airplane, he would gain a new insight into how to abstract mega-shapes and structures as simple gestures, painting landscapes as coloured patches and shapes on different planes.

A landscape has no strict beginning nor end. There’s no inherent action or narrative. It can be timeless or respond to a cyclical time, rather than follow the linear path of the seemingly cause/effect time we experience in everyday life. Landscapes can be complex and hectic, and yet, lay peacefully at our disposal for wandering and discovering.

The search for an absolute landscape that also encompasses the artist’s moods and allows the viewers to project their own feelings or step right into it, is one of the major explorations of abstract art and animation.

2. Identity and Memory

It is hard to define where the ultimate identity of things or persons lie. Some would think that cultural identity, heritage and DNA define a large part of our personal traits. This is particularly interesting because, as demonstrated by many archaeological findings, since ancient times hominids have been exploring abstract patterns and gestures not only as adornments, but also as a way of constructing identity: body paint and tattoos, patterned pieces of clothes or artefacts, abstract markings in caves and sacred tools or stones… Biographers, for instance, would mainly focus on the individual’s life to define Identity; the experiences we have gathered throughout the years and serves as a frame of reference for future decisions. Others would go as far as to probe subatomic particles in search for the ultimate building blocks that create the wonderful diversity we call Reality.

For abstract artists, identity seems to be that which persists and still IS the Thing or the Person once you’ve removed all secondary effects. In fact, abstract animation is the main tool used not only by artists, but also by physicists, biologists and data analysts seeking to gain insight into this elusive, ungraspable aspect that underlies our everyday experience.
The mentioned approaches aren’t incompatible, but speak to an ancient problem at the core of the matter: is there an actual Reality beyond our understanding and perception of it, or is the universe a mere human construction?

Memory seems to play a major role in the construction of identity too. But how reliable is it? Memories shift constantly as time passes, losing its details and factuality. Much like vivid dreams at dawn, memories slip helplessly through the cracks of consciousness. It’s quite evident why the acts of remembering, dreaming and envisioning are everyday food for abstract animators; very much like in animation, Time is an emergent property of Space, and once narration and causality have been removed from the equation, animators can explore the ever-shifting state of reality and our perception of it in unusual ways.

Palazzo’s talk will be complemented with a screening at Blickle Kino, featuring abstract animations exploring Identity, Memory and Mindscapes.


Co-founder and co-director of Punto y Raya Festival since 2007.
She has directed a couple of internationally awarded films and also lectures and writes essays as a film critic.
She acts as a juror for international film & animation festivals, and has curated special programmes focused on avantgarde animation.