Have you heard of Bruce Bickford, an animation writer? The name alone may be like, "Who is that?" If you've ever seen some of Frank Zappa's films (especially in the 70's), you've probably seen Bickford's animations. "Oh, that's the amazing anime that keeps changing with such great momentum!" When I saw the animation for the first time, the shock was intangible.
FRANK ZAPPA - INCA ROADS (A TOKEN OF HIS EXTREME)Eagle Rock (DVD: A Token of His Extreme) Bickford's animation starts from 2:40.
I was totally fascinated and in shock when I finally managed to get Bickford's footage. "The Amazing Mr. Bickford". Of course, the imported version prior to its release in Japan. This was, of course, released under Frank Zappa's supervision.
As media shifted to DVD, Frank Zappa's past live shows finally began to be released in Japan (Baby Snakes, A Token of His Extreme, Dub Room Special, etc.). It was like Bickford's work finally entered the tea-room 20 years later. Now with the internet society, I discovered his site, but his activities were still veiled. For such a long history of activity, the available works are overwhelmingly few (and out of print and expensive!) That is also the case here. Since the 80's when he left Frank Zappa, Bickford lived like a hermit in a garage on the outskirts of Seattle, silently continuing to create works. Rather than publishing the work on available media, he continued to produce works mainly as artistic activities. It is said that there are a huge number of unpublished works.
But now the name of Bickford is in the spotlight. It's the same in Japan as well.
Bickford was introduced as one of the great animation artists at GEORAMA2016 in 2016. In the same year, curated by Naohiro Ukawa (DOMMUNE), there would be a live event where Japanese musicians collaborated to Bickford's works. Musicians who gave their name include Shintaro Sakamoto, Komuai (Wednesday Campanella), small BIGs (Keigo Koyamada & Yumiko Ohno), EY∃ (* The last E is left-right inverted), Tokumaru Shugo, and Kikuchi Nariko. Bickford came to Japan and tickets were sold out on the same day becoming a legendary live show. The event was named "Channeling with Mr. Bickford" and was an improvised event where each artist responded to Bickford's unreleased video work with sound.
Here is the design.
Mr.Bickford in WWW
Mr.Bickford in LIQUIDROOM
And in 2019, the live documentary was screened for only two days. Is there any other animation that beats the music of these musicians' performances? It was an intense collaboration that really made me think.
Unfortunately, Bruce Bickford passed away on April 28, 2019. I want to let more people know about the artist's works which together is worthy of being called a solitary feat. A full-fledged memorial screening in 2020, which is the one year anniversary of his passing, has been announced. According to New Deer Co., Ltd., which introduces wonderful anime works both in Japan and overseas, "We would like to work harder to find and release unreleased works by Bruce Bickford." I want as many people as possible to enjoy the "sensation" and shock of being able to make a natural trip using only video.
Prometheus Garden (1988) (Photo: NEWDEER)
There will be many opportunities to see this memorial screening in Shibuya, Kyoto and other places from February. It is composed of two programs: his works and a documentary. In particular, the documentary “Monster Road (2004, US)" is an ambitious work that pursued the personal life and thoughts of Bruce Bickford. For details and screening times, check the official website below.
[Bruce Bickford / Profile]
Born in the United States in 1947. He began making self-taught clay-mations with the 8mm film he got as a high school student. After serving in the Vietnam War in the United States Navy, he started full-scale animation production. He was recognized for his talent by Frank Zappa and collaborated on "Baby Snakes". After returning to his birthplace near Seattle, where he inherited his mother's house, Bickford concentrated on producing cosmic metamorphose animations where the tiny and the inevitable mixes. His clay works include "The Garden of Prometheus", and line drawing animation works include "This comic can ruin your brain". The Monster Road documentary, released in 2004, reveals his astonishing life and personal endeavor to live up to the age of 255, attracting other writers' attention. In his later years, he worked on graphic novels of over 1,000 pages in length. It is said that the garage at his home has an original line drawing animation of more than an hour length that has not been seen, and the creative world of Bickford is not exhausted even after his death.
Bruce Bickford (1947-2019) Memorial Screening: Bruce Bickford, (USA) and the Universe
Shibuya Image Forum February 1, 2020 (Sat)-Kyoto, Demachiza February 14, 2020 (Fri)-Others
(Image courtesy of New Deer Inc.)