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Indefinable Moods (2001)


The animated short film Indefinable Moods is a journey through a vividly coloured Australian landscape. A series of images – both abstract shapes and representational objects – appear and metamorphose. The final shot is an assemblage of panels comprising animated scenes from the film.

Curator’s notes

'Indefinable Moods holds its viewers in extended spatial, temporal, and narrative suspension, such that it is impossible to emerge from the experience unchanged.’
Victoria Meng on behalf of iota center, from a screening at Melnitz Theatre, UCLA

Created whilst Kathy Smith was artist in residence at the Division of Animation and Digital Arts at the University of Southern California, this experimental film breaks away from character-based narrative, allowing the imagery to drive the film. Although she now lives and works in the United States, Smith continues to be inspired by the Australian landscape – its mystery and our psychological connection with it.

Smith is interested in the links between animation, dreams and the subconscious. On her website, she writes that Indefinable Moods aims to convey ‘the universal symbolism of dream landscapes and the relationship of the human psyche to the environment’. Drawn from 23 oil-painted panels that were based on dream or subconscious imagery, Indefinable Moods combines 2D and 3D elements of both recognisable objects with abstract forms.

Smith is influenced by Renaissance and French Romantic art and the figure on the raft in the film is directly attributable to Théodore Géricault’s 'The Raft of the Medusa’ (1818–19). She was particularly inspired by the form and content of this painting, including the characters’ ‘lack of control … over the seascape in which they are trapped’.

Smith considers sound to be the backbone of her work. She writes on her website that in this film, she ‘purposely threw rhythms and timing out of beat to disorient the viewer and to reflect the imagery’s constant collapse and reconstruction’.

Having worked with painting, installation and animation since 1982, Smith believes that digital technology has led to the rebirth of animation, although the full potential of animation as an art form is not always realised.

Indefinable Moods has had over 40 international screenings, and was officially selected for the Sundance Film Festival in 2002. Its awards include Best Animated Short at the US Film Festival in 2002, First Place Winner in the Experimental Category at the 2001 Rhode Island Film Festival, and First Place Winner of the City University of Hong Kong Computer Graphics International–Digital Media Art Track Award in 2001.