You're not hallucinating — you're just watching a film by this week's Exhibitionist in Residence
What do ghosts and cartoons have in common? Gustavo Cerquera Benjumea conjures some psychedelic visions
You could ask Gustavo Cerquera Benjumea what it's like to be an animator, or you could watch "11:59." It's one of the videos appearing on this week's episode of CBC Arts: Exhibitionists, a voyeuristic short that lets you spy on the possibly supernatural tenants of a computer-generated apartment block. As the camera peeps through window after window, you'll encounter ghosts glued to laptops, spinning hand-drawn heads, abstract shapes that pulse to an anxious clarinet score.
"It's about the weird, hectic, strange mental space you might get when you're working with animation," says Benjumea with a laugh, though all those weird and strange feelings have hardly turned him off if it. The 33-year-old even teaches animation, among other digital media arts, at OCAD U and Brock. And in his personal practice, he's increasingly creating video installations that project his original animated films over sculptures made of paper — a way of blurring the borders between the two forms.
I do like the idea of ghosts, or an apparition or a hallucination. It's kind of like making something visible that wasn't there before. In a way, animation works that way, too.- Gustavo Cerquera Benjumea
"I like that kind of hybridity of things, of not knowing exactly where one technique starts and another one begins," he says. In the case of "11:59," for example, there's a mix of 2D and 3D animation, but the short, which he produced as part of a 2016 residency at the Toronto Animated Image Society, is lighter and goofier than most of his work. Still, he explains that there's a common link connecting it to the other videos appearing on this week's show.
"I do like the idea of ghosts, or an apparition or a hallucination," he says. "It's kind of like making something visible that wasn't there before."
"In a way, animation works that way, too," he says.
"Making ghosts appear — there's a fascination there, and I think part of it has to do with being Colombian." Benjumea's from Bogata, though he's been living in Toronto almost 17 years. There are a few personal points of reference that inspire him to conjure hallucinations in his artwork, examples ranging from a religious upbringing (where things like possession and speaking in tongues aren't normal, per se, but hardly a stretch of faith) to his home country's wealth of psychedelic plants, and the Indigenous spiritual traditions connected to them.
"Visions from ghosts, visions from psychedelia — I think they can carry a lot of meaning," he says. So when you see something spooky pop up in one of his films, it might be a tool to communicate a bit of history or information maybe — or in the case of "11:59," something closer to a joke about how much time he spends staring at his computer.
Take a look at some of the work you'll find on the show.
Stream CBC Arts: Exhibitionists or catch it on CBC Television, Friday nights at 11:30 p.m. (midnight NT) and Sundays at 3:30 p.m. (4 NT).