During my last hike, I saw two big beetles, lying on their backs. Tiny legs twitched in desperate, jerking motions. They shimmered like oil, irridescant and spellbinding. Nature is beautiful and disgusting at the same time.

Throat Notes is a 8 minute long animation by Felix Colgrave. Please watch it before reading any further.

Art is the process of noticing something, isolating it from it’s original context and then changing it. It’s neither completely subtractive or additive. Art is a transformative procedure that happens all the time, often subconciously. You take something in, process it and use it for something else.

Throat Notes is driven by a sense of playfulness and exploration that would have been crushed by concrete storyboarding. The first minute is a dense explosion of setups and reversals. Quick cuts, switching between depicting the overly cute and the overly disgusting. Throat Notes feels like an improvised piece of animation and it begins with a minute of contrasts.

A dry world. Solid bricks. Heavy greek statues, frozen forever in fake motion. The living frog emerges. A cartoon bug scampers into the scene, turning it’s head to reveal tentacles beneath it’s cute face. The horrible face of the frog appears as a reflect in it’s fake eye. The bug is caught under the frogs tongue. It’s face cracks open while being swallowed. The corpse drops into a stomach. Digested. Turned into energy, fuelling a shining star. The frog croaks. Music. All frogs sing a happy song. A child emerges, gleefully brabbling, glowing with the light of a thousand murdered bugs.

This incredibly fast-paced opening contains every piece of the larger question: What is the cost of bringing something new into the world? The energy has to come from somewhere and that place is very messy. It contains a lot more legs than we’re comfortable with.

Throat Notes spends the rest of it’s runtime ruminating on the brutal messyness of life and art.

The man in the house, failing to keep nature out of his safe house. The possum, stealing the bug-powered-voice of the frog, turning it into music. The audience, entertained by the concert until it learns how it was made. The empty frog, filling it’s void by yet another theft.

All of Throat Note’s scenes deal with the brutality/beauty of creating/destruction, they just slow down in terms of thematic density. Contrasts, reversals and relevations are seperated by larger and larger distances. This open space is then filled up with experiments in the craft of animation. Much more than in his previous works, Colgrave explores different materials and techniques. We are treated to endlessly shifting clouds and a morphing desktop, oil painterly smoking and a dry, almost sterile, instrument. Focus shifts from the “what” onto the “how”.

This is the point of creative freedom: The ability to follow your interest, wherever it may lead. Sometimes you reach a beautiful place. The images, sounds, words or interactions just flow naturally. Previously failed experiments suddenly prove useful. Things connect and make a deep kind of sense that you can’t explain, but that you have to try and convey through your work.

This fluidity of creative work is the result of long-term background pondering. A continous interest in a topic, stretched over years, explored tentatively, dropped and then picked up again some time later. This is what Throat Notes feels like to me: The result of a heavy ruminations on nature and art and beauty and horror and how they are all connected.

The thing with pondering is that it leaves you with a deep understanding of how things work and what they are, but it doesn’t automatically equip you with the ability (or desire) to take a decisive stand or to make a specific point. But the thing that we are making needs to, eventually, be finished.

The longer Throat Notes goes on, the more Colgrave’s improvisational energy seems to ebb away. We start with a rapid fire exploration of open-ended-questions and then, slowly, find ourselves pushed into following a plot.

The frog, robbed of it’s voice by the possum-artist, doesn’t want to die and so steals the soul/voice/art of the man in the house, berating him for being “a big meanie” before hopping away. The man is left alone on his porch, unable to see all the twinkling stars blinking into existance above him.

Sure, it’s an ending, but compared to Throat Notes initial freedom and force, it feels decidedly artifical. A kind of “hero’s journey ironic reversal”-type beat, incongruous with the joyful exploration from before. It felt like an incredibly powerful train had run out of steam, but was still able to roll into the last station, driven by sheer momentum alone.

It’s a common problem with improvisational work: How do you end it? The whole point was never to say something, but just to show how one sees the world at that given moment. It’s about conveying the process of taking things in and processing them, not about the impossible objective-truth-result of that process. You yourself are never really done with pondering, so how can you conclude your piece?

Sometimes you just have to end it and move on to the next thing.