In this ongoing series, we profile the most interesting independent animation filmmakers working today — the artists who, through short films and other projects, change our ideas of what the medium can do.
This week’s subject is English animator Paul Bush, who sadly lost his life in a motorcycle accident earlier this month.
In a sentence: Whether working in scratch animation, stop motion, time-lapse, engraving, VR, or even video collage, Bush was part archeologist, part philosopher who explored (with a lot of humor in case you were worried) the world and our stuff and how we perceive it all.
Where to start: Furniture Poetry (1999). A playful philosophical stop-motion dance inspired by a Ludwig Wittgenstein quotation: “What prevents me from supposing that this table either vanishes or alters its shape when no one is observing it and then when someone looks at it again changes back? But one feels like saying – Who is going to suppose such a thing?”
What to watch next: (Episodes From) Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (2001). In this flickering, schizoid wonder, Bush takes a scene from the famous story but adds a twist by having two people play Dr. Jekyll. Their bodies change continuously. An inspired take on the fluid thing called identity.
Other key works: His Comedy (1994), Still Life with Small Cup (1995), While Darwin Sleeps… (2004), Ride (2018)
Influences: “When I was 14, my school showed us The War Game by Peter Watkins and Family Life by Ken Loach and they opened up the possibility of film as something terrifying and thought-provoking. By the time I was 18, Godard and the U.S. experimental filmmakers (Brakhage, etc.) gave me the possibility of making films myself. After that, so many influences but I would choose the brilliant maverick Chilean director Raul Ruiz as the most important. In art I was influenced by conceptualism and minimalism, but the most inspiring – Dadaism. As a teenager I consumed book after book – my favorite authors: Beckett, Thomas Bernhard, Milan Kundera, Vladimir Nabokov, Thomas Mann, Italo Calvino, Jorge Luis Borges.”
Says: “I never learned animation and have no techniques worth mentioning or even passing on to anyone else. Therefore I don’t feel there is an area that is not open to explore. Ideas lead from one to another. I don’t want to continue to make the same film again once I’ve achieved a result I’m satisfied with.”
Currently working on: At the time of his death, Bush was pitching a high-concept psychological sci-fi titled The End of Forever. His final work was the vr experience I Horizon, which received a special mention at the 2022 Encounters Film Festival and competed at this year’s Animafest Zagreb.