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Art Bytes

Watch Animator Jonathan Monaghan's Weirdly Uplifting Headless Sheep Fantasia

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Watch Animator Jonathan Monaghan's Weirdly Uplifting Headless Sheep Fantasia
Still from Jonathan Monaghan's Rainbow Narcosis, 2012

Digital artist and animator Jonathan Monaghan brings a cinematographer’s eye and a video game designer's skills to the finely-wrought virtual scenes of his short Rainbow Narcosis (2012). Using the head of a decapitated lamb as a platform for worlds within worlds, the looped nine-minute animation reveals each successive scene to be supported by yet another headless lamb in a kind of “turtles all the way down” progression with metaphysical implications. Said worlds contain many of the artist’s favorite motifs: ornate crowns, modern and classical architecture, and dismembered animals and body parts, each model exquisitely rendered with the artist’s evident talent. 

Just before the climax, the virtual camera finds itself in a beautiful loft apartment, complete with hardwood floors, modernist furniture, and an On Karawa (Oct. 31, 1978, to be precise) on the wall. As you watch, a glowing sinkhole colored like the Mac “spinning beach ball of death” cursor opens up in the floor, and the scene shifts yet again, to a snow globe setting that is (at this point unsurprisingly) revealed to be the space where a huge sheep’s head should be. And so on. Evoking The Sims and Shrek in equal parts, Monaghan’s surreal animation is set to an uplifting techno soundtrack that offsets the visceral discomfort of some of the imagery. If you find yourself wanting more, Monaghan has a show of new work (including 2- and 3-D prints and a new animation) on view at bitforms gallery through May 3. In the meantime, sit back and enjoy this bizarre, baroque composition.

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