Graduate Studies Research Proposal

Interdisciplinary Masters in Art, Media & Design at OCAD University
Graduate Studies Research Proposal:
MFA in Animation & Sustainable Agriculture

“Still there are seeds to be gathered, and room in the bag of stars.”
– Ursula K. Leguin

My background is in directing animated films, and my passion is for biodiversity, sustainable agriculture & permaculture. For the first time in human history we have before us an entire generation that understands that eating is an ethical act. Many of us long to return to our roots and learn about ancestral practices, about what the plants that surround us are named, and where our food comes from.

In May my partner and I are moving out to my family’s farm in Roseneath, Ontario.  Roseneath is located in Northumberland County, a little over an hour from Toronto, just down the road from the Anishinaabe Mississauga Reserve at Alderville. We intend to set up an organic farm as well as an independent production studio, where we will grow, process and distribute sustainably created goods & media. Eventually the goal is to be entirely off the grid – creating a space that is not only self-sustaining but which can also serve as a model for how artists and creative entrepreneurs can take measurable steps to reduce their ecological footprint, and live in greater harmony with the planet.

I am proposing a course of study in which I will explore the nature of this ecological experiment through the animated image. I am interested not only in recording the act of establishing this space, but also in the various lenses with which one can regard such an experiment. I am excited about the ways in which permaculture can be employed as a tool of regenerative design on land which has previously been cultivated as monocrop. I look forward to exploring both developing technologies and anecdotal wisdom to create the most beautiful and ecologically efficient growing conditions.

Some examples of investigations I will pursue include:

– Creating materials with which to animate, and working with natural resources.
(For example constructing sets of found materials, and puppets from wool from the neighbours’ sheep. Or bringing plants to life under the camera in a dance.)

– Utilizing time-lapse photography to capture progress, the change of seasons, our crops growing.

– An animated journal and comic log recreating key moments.

– Attaching a Go-Pro to a drone and filming cinematic shots of the landscape from above.

– Interviewing various members of the community about their agricultural practices, the history of the space, their relationship to the land.

– Rotoscoping live action film to play with the advantages when using animation to abstract the real, rendering it more universal.

My aim is to gather these varied materials and to assemble them into an animated documentary film, a powerful means of creating dialogue around social and political issues. Animated documentaries are inherently performative and self-reflexive, and make the hand of the artist much more visible than in other modes of documentary filmmaking.

I am interested in art’s ability to sway minds and inspire change. I am pursuing my graduate studies part-time, as it will allow me to gather materials over the course of several years. This is a project worth exploring, and with your support I would be honored to do that research at OCAD.

Works Cited

Barber, Dan. The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food. Penguin Press. 2014.

Barber, Dan. How I Fell in Love With a Fish. TED Talks. Retrieved Online. Uploaded March 2010.

Barber, Dan. In Poultry Slam 2011, Act III: Latin Liver. This American Life. NPR. December 2011.

Barry, Lynda. Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor. Montreal: Drawn & Quarterly. 2015.

Brunetti, Ivan. Cartooning: Philosophy & Practice. Yale University Press. 2011.

Bryson, Bill. A Short History of Nearly Everything. Anchor Canada. 2004.

Chef’s Table (Documentary series). Creator: David Gelb. Featuring the work of: Dan Barber, Massimo Bottura,

Fancis Mallman, Niki Nakayama, Magnus Nilsson & Ben Shewry. Produced by Netflix. 2015.

DelGaudio, Sybil. If Truth Be Told, Can ‘Toons Tell It? Documentary and Animation. Film History, Vol. 9, No. 2, Non-Fiction Film (1997), pp. 189-199. Published by: Indiana University Press

Del Tredici, Robert. History of Animated Film (Hand Drawn Coursepack). Concordia University, 2014.

Evans, Ianto & Michael G Smith. Linda Smiley & Deanne Bednar. The Hand Sculpted Home: A Practical Guide to Building a Cob Cottage. Chelsea Green Publishing Company. 2012.

Flow Magazine International. Editor-in-chiefs: Astrid van der Hulst and Irene Smit.  English Edition – Quarterly since 2014. Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Formenti!, Cristina. The sincerest form of docudrama: re-framing the animated documentary.  Studies in Documentary Film, 2014!. Vol. 8, No. 2, 103–115.

Fortier,Jean-Martin. The Market Gardener: A Successful Grower’s Handbook for Small-Scale Organic Farming. New Society Publishers. 2014.

Inhabit: A Permaculture Perspective (Documentary). Director: Costa Bousitkaris. Producer:
Emmett Brennan. Funded via Kickstarter. 2014.

Kahn, Lloyd. Home Work: Handbuilt shelter. Shelter Publications. 2004

Kriger, Judith. Animated Realism: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Animated Documentary Genre. Amsterdam: Focal Press. 2012

LeGuin, Ursula K. Dancing at the Edge of the World: thoughts on women, words, places. “The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction.” New York: Grove Press. 1989.

MacLeod, Scott. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. New York: Harper Collins. 2004.

Modern Farmer Magazine. Editor-in-Chief: Sarah Gray Miller. Quarterly. Founded 2013.  Hudson, New York.

Nash, Kate, Craig Hight & Catherine Summerhayes, Ed. New Documentary Ecologies: Emerging

Platforms, Practices and Discourses. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2014.

Nichols, Bill. The Voice of Documentary. Film Quarterly, Vol. 36. No. 3. (Spring 1983). 17 – 30.

Oliver, Jamie. Teach Every Child About Food. TED Talk. Retrieved Online. Uploaded February 2010.

Roe, Annabelle Honess. Animated Documentary. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2013.

Rothman, Julia. Farm Anatomy: The Curious Parts & Pieces of Country Life. Storey Publishing.  2011.

Stout, Ruth. The No-Work Garden Book: Secrets of the Famous Year Round Mulch Method.  Rodale Press. 1971.

van Lengen, Johan. The Barefoot Architect: A Handbook for Green Building. Shelter Publications. 2007.

Inspired by the practices of the following companies:

Bread and Puppet Theater | Artistic Director: Peter Schumann | Glover, Vermont
Web Presence:

Encyclopedia Pictura | San Francisco, California
Web Presence:

Some Graduate Faculty Members I am Interested in Working With:
In Alphabetical Order

Catherine Beaudette, Drawing & Painting
I am inspired by her use of forms in nature and collected objects through watercolour and oil. Beaudette’s studies in composition are strong. I would love to study with her and pursue paint-on-glass works, bringing paintings to life.

Philippe Blanchard, Digital Media
There is a fantastic sense of light and colour in his installations & projections / animation. Blanchard’s work is visionary and enchanting.

Ian Clarke, Sustainability / Biology
I am, of course, interested in sustainability and in the biology of this work. To have the eyes, the questions and critical input, of a scientist who is also an artist will be invaluable to the development of this project.

Shannon Gerard, Independent Publishing, Artists’ Books and Multiples, Hyperbolic Crochet
There is so much I love about her work, but what really stand out to me are her large scale paper animation experiments. I love Gerard’s aesthetic across mediums.

Rae Johnson, Painting
I am inspired by Johnson’s use of vibrant and strong colour, and the incredible atmospheres she creates. I believe she could help me create strong backgrounds and atmospheres in my work

Selmin Kara, Documentary, New Media, Film Studies
I am really intrigued by Kara’s writings on artivism in documentary film, and would love critical input from her on my project.

Dorie Millerson, Textiles, Craft History & Theory, Drawing
Millerson’s delicate fibre work is incredibly beautiful. I believe she could teach me an immense amount that would help with the construction of my stop motion puppets.

Luke Painter, Drawing, Animation, Printmaking
I love his strong lines and bold graphics. Painter’s work has incredible personality and joyful energy.

Of course the graduate faculty is extensive and I look forward to becoming familiar with
the work of more members over the course of my studies.

Share: Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus