Butter Elbow at the Opportunity Shop

by Robin Dluzen

Butter Elbow animation sceenings at the Op Shop.

“But this is not a gallery,” Samantha Lotti told me of the Opportunity Shop, known as Op Shop, which was hosting a night of animation screenings entitled “Butter Elbow.” In its second manifestation, the experimental, Hyde Park pop-up space inhabits an old Hollywood Video awaiting demolition and is almost anything but a white cube commercial gallery. Over 65 participating artists have authority over the space, using it for whatever they propose. The space currently houses a project to educate and encourage urban gardening, a giant pile of dirt and compost, and an indoor yard sale, along with paintings, murals, installations and photographs.

In keeping with a self-professed Ad Hoc mentality, the artists take advantage of the opportunity (or grapple with the hindrance) of having absolute freedom in a shared artistic space. So what do artists do when they are able to create without the established structures or limitations of the contemporary art world? Four of the “Butter Elbow” animators, Samantha Lotti, Vicky Yen, Kiel Darling and Wei Lun Lin, responded to this question in their film created for the event, entitled, Seasoned Darling. These four artists took the opportunity to engage with the actual, un-precious space of the Op Shop; “We could even tear up the floors if we wanted to,” explained Lotti. But they didn’t. Instead, the collective of four, calling themselves The Mobile Animation Station, used painting, drawing and three dimensional stop motion techniques to “create organic animation in the space” by literally painting and drawing  on the floors and walls of the old video rental. The chalk drawing turned into painting, and the painting merged into sand and toy dinosaurs snaking across the floors, past other installations and Op Shop participants, to complete a narrative that reinforces to an audience that they are in a place where art literally happens all around them.

Butter Elbow at the Op Shop.

Under the remaining word, “Premieres,” from the building’s original purpose, the screening presented twenty animations ranging in lengths from 25 seconds to over six minutes. Loosely grouped under the moniker of “animation,” the films vary in content, medium and strategy. However, the variety highlights the possibilities within the genre; the fantasy of the nightmarishly psychedelic, Fear-and-Loathing-like TERRIBLE FOREST by Simon Allen contrasts with Sofia Wickman’s Deborah’s Mother, a short sketch which documents a seemingly unscripted dialogue about face-lifts and Botox with a simple drawn animation of a woman; the ridiculousness of Javier Rex’s Fitness with Da Hoff (in which a David Hasselhoff character does outrageous, shirtless calisthenics on the beach) is accentuated by the tension in Vicky Yen’s there/ almost, articulating strangeness in the mundane. Whether the films follow theatrical and cinematic structures, like the cohesive plot of choosing adventure over certainty in Ernest Kim’s Oh, My Captain, or they capture mere moments, like the reckless joy of bouncing around on a pink elephant in Wei Lun Lin’s Hysteria, it is this combination of intentions that encourages an unveiling of the genre’s possibilities. And there is no better place to establish possibility than the Op Shop: a space whose very experiment means to open up access to art and dialogue, and to provide room for creation free from the confines of capital, academic expectations and critical repercussions.

Butter Elbow at the Op Shop.

The Opportunity Shop is temporarily located at 1530 E. 53rd Street Chicago and is open Friday, March 26th through Saturday, May 1st, Thursday – Sunday from 11am – 7pm.
Also open coinciding with events on other evenings. For more information visit http://www.theopshop.org or contact organizer Laura Shaeffer at laura.shaeffer@gmail.com.

“Butter Elbow” animation screening participants: Vicky Yen, Samantha Lotti, Kiel Darling, Wei Lun Lin, Clara Kim, Emily Tzu-Han Wang, Dakota Bardy, Danielle Albert, Simon Allen, Sofia Wickman, Inkyung Chung, Aaron Wendel, Michael Mallis, William Cleveland, Javier Rex, Lizi Breit, Ernest Kim, Jim Trainor.