Maya Erdelyi’s Phosphena is a story of a mating ritual gone wrong, loosely inspired by the intricate constructions of bowerbirds. Described in those terms, it sounds almost straightforward—but that’s the difference between talking about art and experiencing it. It only takes a few seconds to see that Erdelyi’s world is something unique, and that the narrative is only a tiny fraction of what’s happening here.
The aesthetic is a difficult one to describe. It’s an amalgam of different styles and techniques—intricately inked black-and-white backdrops, creatures composed from colourful hodgepodged materials, kaleidoscopic compositions and occult imagery, angular technology and chaotic nature. It’s an alien world, with its own physics and logic, a sort of subliminal echo of our world that’s better understood through intuition than analysis.
There are plenty of rough edges visible in the film, which was made while Erdelyi was a student at CalArts. Erdeli polished her process in future films, like her video for TV on the Radio’s “Nine Types of Light,” or in Pareidolia, a stunning, surreal exploration of landscape, memory, and troubled history. Those edges don’t hurt the film, though. If anything, those imperfections add to the feeling that Erdelyi’s visual style is something emergent, born through compulsive collection and arrangement, a singular vision as intricate, eerie and beautiful as the natural objects that inspired it.


dir: Maya Erdelyi

syn: “Phosphena,” is a cut-paper hybrid animation inspired by ‘phosphenes’ the optical phenomenon characterized by the experience of seeing lights and patterns when the eyes are closed. Loosely based on the bowerbird and its constructions–the animation is a tale of love, deception, and tragedy.

Winner of the 2011 James River Film Festival for “Best Short Animation.”

Made at CalArts in 2010

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