What’s On: The In-Betweens // Alison James

Image: detail of animation components from Cut, by Alison James. Screen printed papercut stop-motion animation, 0:05, 2015.

Exhibition Dates:
Friday November 1 – Thursday December 5, 2019

Opening Reception: Friday November 1st, 5-8 pm
Artist will be in attendance

Artist Talk: Saturday November 16, 2pm
ASL interpretation available by request. Requests must be submitted by 5pm on November 13th by emailing askmartha@printmakers.mb.ca or calling 204-779-6253.

These events are free to attend and open to the public.


Episodic memories lay the foundation of evolving human identities. A key aspect of long-term memory, they are a collection of personal experiences that occur in a specific time and setting and contain the emotional and contextual knowledge of each event. Their vital role in personal identity drives Alison James to ask: why are some experiences encoded, consolidated, and recalled successfully while others are not? What distinct characteristics do they share? What is derived from them?

The In-Betweens addresses these questions through a series of looping, stop-motion animations of James’ episodic memories. Constructed from screen printed papercut figures and sets, the animations highlight the emotions of each memory portrayed. Unnerving movements of vivid screen printed papercuts draw viewers into quiet scenes fraught with emotion. The techniques used reflect the reconstructive nature of remembering. The process of screen printing is reconstructive; involving the construction of an image, its deconstruction to create positives and the subsequent reconstruction of layers when printing. Assembling of the papercuts reaffirms this notion. Continuous looping of the animations evokes the memories’ repeated recollection over time.

Alison James is a multidisciplinary artist based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. In her research-based practice, she utilizes the technical processes of printmaking and animation to investigate the reconstructive nature of autobiographical memory and personal identity. Alison holds a BFA Honours degree from the University of Manitoba and has exhibited her work nationally and internationally. Past exhibitions and screenings include I Had a Feeling, Atelier Presse Papier, Trois-Rivières, QC (2016), Gimli Film Festival, Gimli, MB (2015), Les Sommets du cinéma d’animation, Montreal and Québec City, QC (2014) and Animasivo, Mexico City, Mexico (2014). Alison has participated in residencies at Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, Frans Masereel Centrum, and Atelier Graff.

The artist would like to thank the School of Art at the University of Manitoba for their support.


Artist Statement:

We are what we remember. This notion troubles me. In the last number of years, I have come to realize that the majority of my episodic memories, and thus my life narrative, are tied to documentation — photographs, home videos, and verbal storytelling. What does this mean, when such records are created and presented in a way that makes life seem to largely consist of a string of joyful experiences — smiling faces partaking in celebrations, vacations, holidays?

My recent work converges on the in-betweens — personal episodic memories that do not conform to life scripts documented in my family’s archive. Through screen printing and stop-motion animation, I endeavour to reconstruct strong episodic memories that share three common threads; they do not exist in the form of material record nor were they relayed to me as a story, I seldom shared them, if at all, and most notably — they possess a significant emotional charge. What does it take to encode such a memory, I wonder? Are they truer than those connected to documentation? More meaningful?

When recalling a memory, it is impossible to conjure a perfectly preserved experience. Rather, we reconstruct the past from a personal present, introducing errors and imbuing the memory with our present-day mood, values and outlook on life. I meditate on memory reconstruction through screen printing: a highly deliberate technique that involves  composing an image, deconstructing it to create layers, then reassembling it through the printing process. Animation breathes life into these constructions, seeking to conjure the elusive core of the memory — emotion.

October 17, 2019