Robin Starbuck

BA, Salem College. MFA, School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Postgraduate certificate in film/video editing and postproduction, Tisch School of the Arts, Film Program, New York University. New York-based experimental filmmaker and animator. Work in experimental video, installation art, animation, and media design for theatre exhibited in museums, cultural centers, galleries, and festivals in the United States, Europe, and South America. Recipient of multiple awards and fellowships for artist residencies, both nationally and internationally. Her studio orientation is in experimental film, animation, and intermedia installation. Current projects include a documentary film on the Apsaalooke Tribe of Montana, experimental film projects for installations, and the ongoing production of video and animation projections for theatre and opera in New York and Europe. A full-time professor of experimental film and animation, she has been a visiting artist-in-residence at several studios and institutions, including the Media Technology Center of the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta and the Experimental Sound Studio in Chicago. SLC, 2014–

Undergraduate Courses 2017-2018

Filmmaking and Moving Image Arts

First-Year Studies: Fundamentals of Nonfiction Animation

Open , FYS—Year

In this yearlong First-Year Studies beginning production course, students learn the basic principles of animation, develop an understanding of visual language, and attain skills in constructing short nonfiction narratives. Using a mixture of classical animation and 2D digital tools, students will complete practical exercises intended to familiarize themselves with basic animation skills and language. Animation will be treated as an approach that embraces documentary and other nonfiction media as an art practice. Screenings and discussions will help develop the specialized thinking needed to understand the discipline. Practice in this course is integrated with theory so that production is held within the context of critical thinking about the possibilities for nonfiction storytelling. In the first semester, we will undertake a series of short individual and group exercises in response to technical labs. Spring semester, each student will spend the majority of the term making a single nonfiction animated short on a subject of his or her choosing. With the recent explosion of interest in documentary film production, this course offers first-year students the chance to discover their own unique style for the telling of real stories with animated images. Technical instruction includes workshops in concept development, rotoscope drawing, cutout animation, miniature puppetry, lighting, cameras, and the software AfterEffects, Toon Boom Harmony, and Dragonframe. Prior drawing experience is not necessary.

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Media Sketchbooks

Open , Seminar—Fall

This one-semester production course is for adventurers, artists, and budding filmmakers interested in exploring the media of video for artistic expression and social inquiry. The images and experiences developed through experimental film and video are as varied as the artists who make them. There is, by definition, no formula for this kind of work. Like paintings or poems, each film reflects the artist as much as the content driving the work. This course is designed to introduce the language of experimental film and strategies for the use of video/film and audio design as an expressive tool. We will investigate the idea of radical content and experimental form by establishing the normative models and procedures of cinema and video and then exploring ways to challenge these conventions. Through a series of video and animation assignments, the class will consider moving-image forms and styles that blur the boundaries between and among narrative, documentary, and abstract filmmaking. Projects will be furthered by screenings, readings, seminar discussions, and field trips. Topics will include, but not be limited to, issues of identity, the performative body, border crossings, cultural equivocation and mannerisms, blemished topographies, ritual and transformation. Labs are designed to help students develop proficiency with film equipment and editing systems, including AfterEffects.

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Previous Courses

Digital 2D Animation: Short Stories

Open , Seminar—Year

No prior experience necessary. No specfic drawing skills required.

In this class, students will develop animation and short-storytelling skills by focusing on the process of creating animated shorts. Instruction will include story development, visualization, character development, continuity, timing, digital drawing, and compositing. Stories may include original scripts, adaptations, or documentary. All of the production steps required to complete a short animated film will be demonstrated and applied through exercises aimed at the production of a final short, full-color animated film, PSA, or documentary by each student or team of students. Participants will develop and refine their personal style through exercises in story design and assignments directed at translating these into moving images. Digitally drawn images (with the option to include live action and photographs) will be assembled in sync to sound. Compositing exercises will cover a wide range of motion graphics features, including green screen, keyframing, timeline effects, 2D and 3D space, layering, and lighting. Exercises will provide students with a working knowledge of the professional animation software Harmony by Toon Boon. Harmony is a creative, efficient software used in the film and TV animation industry.
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Experimental Stop Frame Animation

Open , Seminar—Fall

No prior experience necessary.

Whether dealing with abstraction or narrative sequence, experimental films reflect the unique vision of their makers. While most forms of animation serve the particular needs of commercial media, discoveries made by experimental animators have the ability to deconstruct an idea or movement and reassemble it in a new way. This course introduces the concepts and practical study of stop frame film production as it relates to both sequential and nonsequential narration, movement, space, and time. In a series of short independent and collaborative projects, students will learn the techniques and materials necessary to explore a variety of hand-animation practices. The central focus of this course will be on concept development and material exploration for the completion of several short films. Students will work in a variety of frame-by-frame animation techniques in under-the-camera destructive and constructive animation, including object animation, paper cutout animation, abstract drawing for animation, sand animation, and puppetry. Through technical instruction, readings, discussion, screenings, and experimentation, we will seek to refresh, extend, and redefine traditional modes of animation production. The aim of the course is to explore freely with materials in order to trailblaze fresh narrative and aesthetic possibilities. Final projects will be executed as animated projections with sound.

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Concepts in Media Self-Portraiture

Open , Seminar—Spring

With the advent of newer modes of expression—video, the Internet, and performance art—the definitions and parameters of self-portraiture have departed dramatically from traditional forms. What is consistent, however, is that self-portraits remain a means of self-exploration and self-expression. Through video production, experimental animation, and performance, this course examines the richness of modern and contemporary self-portraiture and its compelling relationship to the personal construction of identity. Self-portraits in film, animation, music video, and performance art will be produced within contexts such as documentation, impression, formation, gender, persona, race, gesture, and style. Students will be encouraged to explore their own self-concepts and identities through autobiographical narratives, a look into the uncanny overlaps of contrived and lived realities, and the invention of persona. Through the process of media making, we will explore—both individually and collectively—the humorous, intellectual, sardonic, freakish, complex, shy, imaginative, mythical, and paranoid use of self in media and performance. Presentations, readings, and discussion cover aesthetic theories, media technology, and histories that drive the production of contemporary self-portraiture. Artists under consideration will include Michal Rovner, Mwangi Hutter, Janaina Tschäpe, Adrian Piper, Mike Kelly, Dara Birnbaum, Robert Mapplethorp, Tiger Maremela, Karen Finley, Shana Moulton, Kimsooja, and many others.

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Digital Animation: Short Narratives

Open , Seminar—Year

In this course, students will develop animation and short-storytelling skills by focusing on the process of creating animated shorts. Instruction will include story development, visualization, character development, continuity, timing, digital drawing, and compositing. All of the production steps required to complete a short animated film will be demonstrated and applied through exercises aimed at the production of a final short, full-color animated film, PSA, or music video by each student or team of students. Participants will develop and refine a personal style through exercises in story design and assignments directed at translating these into moving images. Digitally drawn images (with the option to include live action and photographs) will be assembled in sync to sound. Compositing exercises will cover a wide range of motion graphics features, including: green screen, keyframing, timeline effects, 2D and 3D space, layering, and lighting. Exercises will enable students with a working knowledge of the software Harmony by Toon Boon. Harmony is a creative, efficient software used in the film and TV animation industry.

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Experimental Film: Stop-Frame Animation

Open , Small seminar—Fall

Two sections of this small seminar will be offered. No prior experience necessary.

Whether dealing with abstraction or narrative sequence, experimental films reflect the unique vision of their makers. While most forms of animation serve the particular needs of commercial media, discoveries made by experimental animators have the ability to deconstruct an idea or movement and reassemble it in a new way. This course introduces the concepts and practical study of stop-frame film production as it relates to both sequential and nonsequential narration, movement, space, and time. In a series of short, independent, and collaborative projects, students will learn the techniques and materials necessary to explore a variety of hand-animation practices. The central focus of this course will be on concept development and material exploration for the completion of several short films. Students will work in a variety of frame-by-frame animation techniques in under-the-camera destructive and constructive animation, including: object animation, paper cutout animation, abstract drawing for animation, paint on glass, sand animation, and puppetry. Through technical instruction, readings, discussion, screenings, and experimentation, we will seek to refresh, extend, and redefine traditional modes of animation production. The aim of the course is to explore freely with materials in order to trailblaze fresh narrative and aesthetic possibilities. Final projects may be executed as animated films or animations for video projection.

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Secondary Currents: Experimental Video Art

Open , Seminar—Spring

This video production seminar explores, in depth, the rich world of film/video making as artistic expression. Students will participate by completing a series of assignments and through lecture, discussion, and screenings (artist interviews, documentaries, and artist work). We will explore moving-image forms and styles that blur the boundaries of narrative, documentary, and abstract filmmaking. There is, by definition, no formula for this kind of work. Rather, this course introduces the language and techniques of film production, alongside strategies for the use of film and audio design as creative expression. In this one semester course, we will direct our concerns to an exploration of our relationship to the aesthetics, politics, and language of place in its broadest context. We will look at and analyze the pioneering work of many experimental film/video artists, including Tacita Dean, Doug Aiken, Pipolotti Rist, Michael Snow, Bill Fontana, Nigel Ayers, Young Hae Chang, and others. Readings will include selections from several texts, including: MM Yvette’s Figuring the Landscape: Experimental Film and the Ecological Movement, On the Beaten Track: Tourism, Art and Place” by Lucy Lippard, “Identity and Place in Contemporary Art” by Don Krug, and others. Labs are designed to introduce the tools and techniques for each project.

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First-Year Studies: Animated Documentary

Open , FYS

This introductory course provides students with an opportunity to create short animated films that emerge from a rethinking of the traditional documentary format. The focus is on learning animation techniques and approaches that embrace documentary film as an art practice. Through class workshops and the screening of both short documentary films and animated documentary films, students will develop familiarity with a variety of traditional and digital technologies to produce works that explore ideas in animation and in animation coupled with live footage. Practice in this course is integrated with theory so that production is held within the context of critical thinking about the possibilities for documentary storytelling. In the first semester, we will undertake a series of short individual and group exercises in response to the work of other animators and our own research. The second semester will focus on individual projects that integrate the core principles of animation and fully explored documentary concepts in work of the student’s own design. Conference projects may be executed as short animated films or Web-based animations. With the recent explosion of interest in documentary film production, this course offers first-year students the chance to discover their own unique style for the telling of real stories with animated images. Technical instruction includes workshops in story development, rotoscope drawing, cutout animation, miniature puppetry, lighting, cameras, and the software AfterEffects, Toon Boom Animate Pro, iStopMotion, and Final Cut Pro. No drawing or other art studio experience is required.

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Collaboration in Audio and Moving-Image Technologies

Open , Joint seminar—Fall

Permission of the instructor is required.

This team-taught course introduces artistic strategies, narrative structures, and compositional methodologies for the creation of sound and image installations, networked media, and live performance projects. Presentations, reading, and discussion cover the aesthetic theories, technology, and histories that drive these congruent media. Through intensive collaborative workshops, students will experiment with the relationships and potential dialogue between the audience and the artwork and apply their observations by designing and building their own projects. Classes will be organized around hands-on activities, lecture, and technical training. Students use basic building blocks of digital filmmaking, sound and music technologies, and installation art. In addition, the course will cover key genres of sound and installation art that include noise art, sound poetry, serialism, minimalism, site specificity, temporality, process, etc. A major component of the course will be the ongoing analysis and critique of student work. Students should be prepared to give and receive constructive criticism on their work and the work of professional artists presented.

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