Director and animator Michael Marczewski talks about collaborative project Coexist – which brings a warped Wonderland feel to your social media feeds – and gives us some exclusive behind-the-scenes clips of how he creates these oddly hypnotic videos.
Instagram may not be the sort of art-only platform that we get with the likes of Dribble and Behance, but it's still the only social app that you're likely to find the best up and coming new artists alongside feeds from people you know on first name terms. It also has the advantage of being one of the best platforms for showcasing video, especially with the death of Vine, the corporatization of Tumblr, and the emoji-saturation of Snapchat.
Using the platform in weird and wonderful ways is freelance director and animator Michael Marczewski, the London-based creative you'll know from that fiery Film4 promo from 2015, and the aquatic-bounciness of the ITV2 rebrand idents. The work that's caught our eyes recently though has nothing to do with TV channels or sneakers, and is instead a series of short Instagram videos that place stock footage clips within a bizarre digital world of mutated zits, toy dinosaurs and accursed exercise machinery, as collaborated upon with artists like Jack Sachs and Peter Tarka.
Coexist is the name of the series, and Michael was kind enough to let us into his mind to answer a few puzzled questions.
GL: For Coexist you've worked with artists like Berd, Skeevaa, Jack Sachs, John Van Unen, Peter Tarka and Zachary Corzine. Is it your first collaborative project of this sort?
MM: "Yes, first collaborative process for a creative project. As a series that lasted over the course of a year it was a great opportunity to work with artists whose work on Instagram I was a massive fan of. Everyone was very excited to take part in the project which made the process fairly easy for me! I offered feedback and help with animation. But, at the end of the day, I wanted people to have fun being involved so I mostly left them to it."
GL: Coexist is made for an audience on social media, Instagram in particular. Why does this platform appeal to you more than, say, Snapchat, and how does it influence your work?
MM: "I prefer Instagram because it is a lot simpler and cleaner than other social media feeds. It's more of a portfolio to showcase work as opposed to Facebook or Twitter, which are both less simple and have too much other clutter. And Snapchat is too temporary."
GL: How did you and your collaborators create these pieces?
MM: "I'd come up with the concepts for each one. The environments were mostly inspired by the stock footage. For example, putting the old man with the VR goggles in the boob cave was a random spark of a thought.
"Whereas the guy throwing out his old DVDs inspired the idea of throwing away extinct things, such as dinosaurs, into a gaping void.
"In most cases I would create a Cinema 4D project file with the footage and basic action set in place, and then pass it onto my collaborator for them to add their magic touch."
GL: A lot of the stock footage you use has a lower middle-class, American suburb feel - would you agree, or all these pieces both out of place and out of time?
MM: "Yes, I went for the more average looking people, nobody too special or anyone trying to be stylish, or trying hard to impress in front of the camera. I was interested more in the mundane looking clips. I would scour through hundreds and maybe thousands of clips. Sometimes randomly, but mostly I first had a vague concept in mind that I thought would be funny, and then went on the hunt for the appropriate stock footage.
GL: Does Coexist have a message, or is it all purely for fun?
MM: "I'd like it to make people to think outside of the box. Haha, not really. I'd like people to enjoy it as an unusual idea and a fun concept of combining two media together. I was fascinated with how mundane some of the stock footage actually was and couldn't imagine how it would ever be used, other than in a comic way. But also I thought extending the boundaries of the frame of the footage was a fun concept to play around with."
GL: What inspired these pieces - your fellow artists, or any pop culture from perhaps outside of the art scene?
MM: This series was not necessarily inspired by anything in particular. The idea just came to me as I was playing around. I became a bit addicted to it and created quite a few.
"My thinking was that you see a lot of CG animation tracked into live action footage, but never the reverse of that. I tried to keep them visually similar so when it came to compiling them together they flowed nicely. I chose to use realistic sound design from Zing Audio to further tie them all together and keep them fairly grounded in reality and let the visuals provide the humour."