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Abstract art and me


Work in the Air Force: maps and abstraction
Jules Engel Film-maker
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They had a lot of, firstly there was a lot of maps. Map drawing - awful, you know? Because the planes are flying and you know, you had to have maps for them. That was one thing. The other thing was simply that the structure inside the guns changed. It got better and better and better. So we had to make drawings for this other unit, who could take those drawings and make the changes inside... inside the machine. But there was a… one very funny thing happened. I was doing these maps, you know, about this long and this deep and all that stuff, and I was second, I was not an officer, I was like a second-in-command, whatever it was. Anyway, so one day, there was people were coming from a very high… hierarchy and they were all majors or generals or what not. So they came up to the room where I was working with a friend of mine on the maps, you know? And it was very funny. This one lieutenant looks at my drawings and he says, 'Hey, looks like little Kandinskys'. Well, he knew art, that's for sure. And that funny part of it was that I know I was doing it like that because if you look down from high above, the whole thing becomes an abstraction, you know? Really. So this guy, this lieutenant says, it looks like an abstraction, you know? And they thought it was beautiful drawings. But I know what I was doing but I wasn't going to tell him that, 'Yes, you're right because…' you know? Well, that is one of those incidents, you know, when you're art. In a good position.

The late Hungarian-American film-maker Jules Engel is best known for his contribution to the field of animation. His work includes the dance sequences in Walt Disney's 'Fantasia' and the creation of 'Mr Magoo'. His films and lithographs are housed in museums all over the world and have won many awards.

Listeners: Bill Moritz Tamara Tracz

William Moritz received his doctorate from USC and pursues parallel careers as filmmaker and writer. His forty-four experimental and animation films have been screened at museums in Paris, Amsterdam and Tokyo, among others. He published widely on Oskar Fischinger, James Whitney, Bruce Conner, the Fleischers and 200 pages of animation history for an AbsolutVodka website. He wrote chapters for the "Oxford History of Cinema", appeared in several television documentaries, curated art exhibits and received a lifetime achievement trophy from the Netherlands Royal Academy for his work with visual music. He has served on film festival juries and received an American Film Institute filmmaking grant. His poetry and plays are also performed and published. He is a leading expert of Oskar Fischinger and recently published a biography of him. He teaches at The California Institute of the Arts.

Tamara Tracz is a writer and filmmaker based in London.

Tags: Air Force, Wassily Kandinsky

Duration: 2 minutes, 8 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008