Projecting animations on a screen is nothing new—but what if that screen was made from water being blasted out of high-powered water jets? That’s not an everyday occurrence, is it? German animator and visual artist Max Hattler has used exactly this technique to present his latest animation, X. If you’re not familiar with Hattler’s work, his style is colorful, haunting, abstract, geometric—a spectacle for the eyes that can jar you from a daydreaming slumber or equally hypnotize you into one.
He’s also made tour visuals for Basement Jaxx and created audiovisual mind feasts for the public to gulp down at festivals and clubs. His latest directorial work takes its inspirations from the conflicting nature of oil and water and features animation by himself, Matt Abbiss, Tony Comley, Valeria Fonseca, Siobhan Mcelhinney, Luiz Stockler, with music by Eduardo Noya Schreus.
The piece is a perfectly synced dance of light and sound, featuring abstract geometry shifting about to sci-fi-esque music, which is given added depth and surreality by its presentation on the hydro screen. I asked Hattler some questions to learn more about this unorthodox animation project, which was presented at the King’s Cross Filling Station (KXFS) on Regent’s Canal in London.
The Creators Project: Was the piece created specifically for the water screen of did you customize a previous work so it would be optimized for this environment?
Max Hattler: X (below) is a completely new piece of work, created with the water screen in mind. As I was developing the work, I was thinking 21st century Oskar Fischinger, but also Tron, Asteroids, and lasers. This came mainly out of wanting to create a piece that is highly energetic, and works well with the water screen. So it was somehow logical to work with glowing lines on a black background (that appears transparent when projected).
Max Hattler’s “X”
What were some of the obstacles and challenges you faced in preparing the piece for the screen?
The image is best in the middle of the water screen, and it never looks too good if objects just leave the screen. So I had to bear that in mind at all times, and work accordingly. It’s all animated in Adobe Flash. I made key frames, which I gave to the animators who all worked remotely, asking them to animate between these key poses, leaving a lot of the movement up to their interpretation, and then revising movement and timing through a process of constant feedback and revision.
The animation has a kind of alien-spaceship-communication-system feel to it, with the noises and geometric shapes. What was the idea behind the piece?
The starting point for me was oil and water, referencing Regent’s Canal and the history of KXFS as a petrol station. Oil and water as essential opposing elements struggling for balance. This then developed more broadly into ideas around visualizing the balancing of different elements within a system. The end result of the work is completely abstracted into the kinetic relationships of basic shapes, the movement and energy balances of geometric systems.
What other unorthodox screens do you think would make a good surface for projecting your animations?
An oil screen!