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Interview with Gina Thorstensen

Animac is turning 25 and someone has to take over from Carles Porta. Who is responsible for the poster and the opening of Animac 2021?

Gina Thorstensen (Gjerdrum, 1980) is a multidisciplinary Norwegian artist who experiments with, mixes and juggles animation, illustration, mural painting, sculpture and even virtual reality. A graduate in art and design from the Massana School in Barcelona and with a master’s degree in film and new media from the Norwegian Film School, her work has been recognised in publications, festivals and exhibitions around the world. As a director, animator and designer she has made several videos with Nacho Rodríguez and Tomek Ducki and is one of those responsible for the background design and art design of Marona’s Fantastic Tale (2019), the most recent animated feature film by Anca Damian. And her shows “Brotan” (2016) and “Cosmogonías” (2018) were held at the Galeria Cromo in Barcelona.

Gina tells us about her artistic journey full of metamorphoses and the creative process of her opening for the 25th anniversary of Animac. Welcome!

How did you enter the world of illustration?

I studied art and design at the Massana School in Barcelona with the intention of going into industrial design, but gradually I entered the world of drawing. The circle of illustrators around the Massana School inspired me immensely, not only because of the illustrations but the creativity and poetry I found in their work and that was new to me.

Your illustrations have life and movement. How do they relate to animation?

It seems I always think about things that relate to each other and processes of all kinds. I find a lot of inspiration in nature and especially in transformations in plants and animals. Maybe that’s why it seems as if everything is already moving.

From learning about experimental animation at the Massana School I began to take an interest in animation because I saw that it could be a way to experiment and combine different forms of creating. I worked with collage and articulated dolls, but I didn't turn them into animation until the animator Nacho Rodríguez saw my work and suggested that we work together on a video. That was 10 years ago and now almost all of my projects are related to animation in some way.

We like your multidisciplinary approach when it comes to creating. How do you work with such different formats?

Working with very different formats and techniques and combining 3D and one dimension has always come naturally to me. What I like most is experimenting and letting unexpected things come up during the process. So I flit between intention and chance until the meaning appears.

What did working on Marona’s Fantastic Tale mean for your career? You’re working with Anca Damian again (who was a guest of Animac in the past). What can you tell us about this new project?

I learned a lot working on Marona because it was the first time I’d worked on such a large production. Sarah Mazzetti, Brecht Evens and I were on the art team, and we followed the project from the first sketches to the premiere. However, I don’t think it has been a very conventional production because the director, Anca Damian, has her own ways of doing things and executing her ideas. But we got along really well and now I’m artistic director on her new project The Island, which is in production. It’s a rather crazy animated feature film, but very different from Marona.

You’ve just had an immersive experience, which seems to make a lot of sense in your universe, which is now everywhere. What do you think immersive technologies can bring to the world of illustration and animation?

Yes, I am interested in the immersive aspect of Virtual Reality because I’ve always wanted to include the viewers in my works, so that they feel part of my world, rather than watching it from the outside. I’ve tried to achieve this with large murals and human-sized dolls, but now I’m working on it in this new dimension. I’m developing a project where I take advantage of the immersive and interactive to create closeness and empathy with an environment to which humans don’t have access, and thus hopefully open up new perspectives on environmental issues.

At first technology pushed me backwards, but now I find a lot of potential for playing with different experimental and aesthetic techniques. I think it would enrich these technologies if more illustrators and animators got involved with their personal vision.

How did you hear about Animac?

I discovered Animac through friends in Barcelona and I have very good memories of the festival!

What has working on the poster for its 25th anniversary meant to you? What did you want to reflect and how would you like the audience to see it?

I’m really excited about it, and it's even more special as it's the 25th anniversary. I got to know the wonderful work of Carles Porta through his posters for Animac and I’ve worked hard to live up to his standard.

To reflect the anniversary I wanted to express the 25-year journey as a creative process. I started thinking about complex and perhaps absurd mathematical numbers and equations but that were equal to 25. Then the ideas took on more abstract forms and were incorporated into my universe. I hope the poster conveys the idea of a long journey full of creativity and surprises typical of animation and Animac.

How are you approaching the opening, which you’re also making?

I’m working with Nacho Rodríguez on the opening and we’re exploring the same concepts as in the poster, but seeing it as if we were inside the poster. You could say that in the poster we see a frozen moment of the journey, but in the opening we follow everything, from the first drop that fell in the Segre River 25 years ago to the celebration of the anniversary, as if it were a myth of creation.

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