Gateshead-based Hungarian animator Petra Szemán is heavily influenced by the early filmography of Japanese director Makoto Shinkai, and watching the works of Hungarian experimental animators such as Marcell Jankovics while growing up in post-communist Hungary. In 2018-2020 they were awarded a MEXT Research Scholarship to fund two years of research and development in Tsukuba, Japan, where they began reworking the ‘hero’s journey’ structure with the principles of the gaiden, a nonlinear narrative used in manga and anime that translates to mean ‘(out)side story’.
Petra’s work follows the journeys of Yourself, an avatar protagonist on a pilgrimage through landscapes that have become oversaturated with fiction. A deeply personal avatar, Yourself is used to interrogate the potential of animation to challenge binary fictions such as East-vs-West, real vs not real, academia vs pop culture, here vs there. A body tied to animation posits a realm of possibilities, and Petra asks ‘rather than inquiring into its relationship to the real, it may be better to ask: what new territories may be opened up?’ Moving between the intersection of artists’ moving image, animation, and video games, they layer real life footage with 2D frame-by-frame animation and game landscapes, searching for holes in world-building and contexts where the narrative falters.
Petra is one of five artists commissioned to create new work for On Animatics, a project culminating in a series of online exhibitions and the publication of a book co-authored with Jamie Sutcliffe.