Dustin Grella, Animator, Documentary Filmmaker
Dustin Grella is an animator and documentary filmmaker whose work attempts to glean glimpses of colorful insight into the seemingly mundane.
His work has screened at the Cannes Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, Doc Fortnight: MoMA’s International Festival of Nonfiction Film and Media, and won the Walt Disney Award at the Ottawa International Animation Festival. His film, Prayers for Peace, screened at almost two hundred festivals worldwide and won over forty awards.
Dustin has written and mailed himself a letter every day for the past thirteen years and has over 4840 sealed letters neatly filed and categorized. His Notes to Self exhibition opened at the AC Institute Satellite Space in New York City.
Dustin is an adjunct professor of Digital Arts and Animation at Pratt Institute and Queens College. He has also taught animation to students at New York public school PS 217.
He is currently in production of the Animation Hotline, a series of micro-animations where he uses crowd-sourced voicemail messages for content.
Much of my work engages with time, whether by speeding up, slowing down, or inspecting the passage of time. I become engrossed in processes which allow me to organize time in meticulous ways. These processes often grow out of a core compulsion - an action or idea repeated aggressively until some resolution is found. The rhythm and constraint of this repetition in turn mimics the measured passage of time, so that time becomes part of the medium of my work, as well as its subject.
One of my major ongoing investigations of time is the Notes to Self project, in which I have written and mailed myself a letter almost every day since April 13, 2002. The content of each letter is unique, oftentimes including a 1,000 word essay on that particular day, occasionally waxing poetic but usually simply writing about that day or that particular moment. Each letter is still sealed, neatly filed, and organized by date. The slight variations in the project - a change of font, the physical location of the cancellation stamp, and of course what is written inside - are nuances that help decipher time's complexities.
A majority of my work involves animation, which by its very nature compresses time to create the illusion of a new reality. I have developed a practice in which I set up a camera on a timer, recording each frame after one minute. Within this minute, I allow myself to draw and explore the direction of the work. Sometimes a narrative emerges, and at other times, the path is abstract. More recently, I have been projecting animations of people, animals, and shifts in light onto landscape drawings, breathing a time-based layer onto a once static image.
For a long time, I tried to keep my artwork and my disability separate, fearing the stigma of being labeled a “disabled” artist, rather than a “real” artist in my own right. However, in 2012, my own work pushed me to confront this tension. Because of the letter-writing project, I noticed that many of New York City’s post offices are not wheelchair accessible, including the one closest to my house. On April 15, 2012, I addressed this issue in “Tax Day Performance,” in which I got out of my wheelchair and scaled the front stairs to the John H. Farley Post Office, holding my taxes in my mouth. With this performance, I attempted to raise awareness of society’s shortcomings in meetings the needs of disabled citizens, as well as to address how my disability has challenged and informed my own artistic practice.
2015 Hummingbird's Wings
2014 Love Ain't Enough
2013 Animation Hotline, 2013
2012 Condoms as Evidence
2011 Animation Hotline, 2012
2009 Prayers for Peace
2006 Tests: zero-ten