Old Texts


































































James Lowne - Someone Behind the Door Knocks at Irregular Intervals - Animate Open - Digitalis - July 2011

The winner of the Animate Open: Digitalis is James Lowne, with his animation Someone Behind the Door Knocks at Irregular Intervals (2010). This is an extraordinary piece of work both technically, in terms of computer animation (animatography), and creatively, in terms of subject matter.

Having said that, it is difficult to pinpoint what this subject matter is categorically. It is like a dream or hallucinatory experience; an exploration of the central female character's mental space."The very style of the dream, like the personality, reflects the broad combination of object relationships, anxieties, and defences that mould one's personality." [1]

© James Lowne, courtesy Animate Projects


The animation opens with the woman lying across a country lane, as if recovering from an experience of violence either inflicted on her or self actuated. The stuff of the fields surrounding her is handpainted (in software terms), as is the character's hair. Her multiple lipsticked mouths, which are a texture projected onto the roughly modelled face, hint at psychological disturbance, or split off parts of her personality, resurfacing within the 'dream' or the phantasy of the animation.

The trees quiver in the breeze and we, like her, are drawn to the LEISURE CENTER. The collapsed figure of the woman looks at her hand, and then the same hand opens the door of the shower room at the leisure center, where blood drips from the shower heads. The woman climbs into the jacuzzi, and we follow the dream, as she partly recollects what has happened. We never fully discover this.

There is a male figure jumping from leg to leg, who we view through a steamed up window. There is a woman's face who mouths silently and seductively at us; at the central character. Her face is condensed with that of a man who's lips also move seductively as he talks to our protagonist.

He gives her a geometric object which absurdly floats through space and disappears into her kneckline. In this way Lowne feels free to draw attention to the properties of the medium he is using: animatography, and its basis in geometry.

© James Lowne, courtesy Animate Projects

The female protagonist appears as herself to herself; her doppelganger, at the door of the shower room, blending with the seductive female image sequence. This part of her personality or self, she likes to think of as seductive, but perhaps she is also angry with herself for 'falling for the seductive man'.

Next we see her with an axe, walking through a forest and along the seashore. The 'dream content' suggests that she confronts this part of her subconcious, the part that is confused by her feelings for 'the seductive man'.

Of course this is not an actual dream, but art as dream; as phantasy. The properties of the medium of animatography lend themselves to visualising mental space in a purely iconic way, in contrast to the indexical aspect of film. The 'realism' or simulacra of computer animation is disturbed by the animated textures. The female protagonist is roughly modelled, to suggest her relative realism and imperfection compared to the 'seductive female'who might have been remembered from film. Whether intentional or not, this imperfection works.

"... a dream is a way of expressing and elaborating an unconscious phantasy. What Freud called a 'compromise' takes the form of a wish-fulfilling phantasy, satisfying contradictory wishes and defences. That phantasy is expressed and further worked through in the dream." [2]

That this is a portrayal of the phantasy of the central female character is extraordinary and new for computer animation. It displaces collective phantasy, as seen in film, to that of a highly personalised point of view.

Lowne's production drawings, also available on the Animate website give further insight into how the work was conjured from imagination and interaction with the landscape.


Sarah Thompson 06.09.11


[1] Hanna Segal, Dream, Phantasy and Art, The New Library of Psychoanalysis, Brunner-Routledge, 1991, p11

[2] ibid, p64