A Haunt For Otters

A Haunt For Otters - Animation by Alexandra Balan, Music by Ben Hayes

Ahead of the culmination of our MECHANIKA competition on October 16th in the Brunel Tunnel Shaft, we wanted to introduce some of the incredibly talented composers and visual artists that we will be showcasing, and to find out a little more about their projects. Here’s an interview with animator Alexandra Balan and composer Ben Hayes about their quirky take on the competition’s brief, and the tunnel’s history...

So, Alexandra, how did you come up with the title for your project?

The animation is inspired by an urban poem that made fun of the many accidents that plagued the tunnel during it building. The title stems from one of the poem’s lines: “That very mishap/When the Thames forced a gap/And made it fit haunt for an otter”.

And did you take any other visual inspiration from this poem, beyond your work’s title?

Visually the film will borrow from the style of the time, namely Victorian ink drawings, etchings and woodcut prints. The action takes place in a paper theatre, similar to the tunnel books of the era. The sets on this paper stage show the technology used to build the tunnel, as well as the public’s feelings about the tunnel (first excitement and anticipation, then disappointment and abandon).The animation will be based on shadow puppetry and would have a similar feel to the credits of the film Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.

And Ben, would you say the music you’re writing reflects the Victorian era in a similar way at all?

I wouldn’t say that my music will sound ‘Victorian’, but it will explore a sound world that is reminiscent simultaneously of the dated clunkiness and elegant innovation of the mechanical imagery used in this period. More generally, the music will make full use of the ANIMA ensemble and the sonic possibilities afforded by performance in such a unique space, in combination with electronic manipulation of percussive samples taken from mechanical and industrial objects.

Ben Hayes, Composer

Alexandra Balan, Animator

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