The Opening — Bart Batchelor & Chris Nielsen


THE OPENING is all about delving into the fascinating, quirky and wonderful visual arts in Vancouver. Each week we’ll feature an artist, cover an exhibition, discuss a lecture and everything else in-between to delve deep into who and what makes art happen!

Whether we have been pursuing the sheen of nostalgia through vintage markets, cassette-only releases, yellow basement stacks of National Geographics, or the fuzzed-out sounds of new bands trying old things, one thing is for certain: our love for lo-fi is not a new thing. As comparatively new technology ages, however, this love is certainly becoming a strange thing. We’ve seen inklings of internet nostalgia crop up everywhere from Azealia Banks‘ “controversial” adoption of seapunk, to Twitter feeds dedicated entirely to AOL Messenger away messages.

The art world has been especially intrigued and seduced by the ephemera of our digital lives. Net art is, for now, too sprawling and present to properly categorize, though its growing importance and receptive reach into both past and future is difficult to ignore. Jeremiah Johnson‘s Void Gaze, for example, pairs a nascent Internet text game with abstracted web drawings to beautifully poetic effect, while Michael Guidetti‘s Bounce Room 1 uses rudimentary 3D animation techniques in tandem with painting to explore ideas of perspective and perception.

From instant pleasure to the positively arcane, these digital explorations make for a marvelous foil to the sleek aesthetics of consumer technology today. In their newest series, Archeologists, local comedy animation duo Bart Batchelor & Chris Nielsen nod to this weirder, darker cousin of rooting through your parents’ storage unit for forgotten LPs by pairing their love for “low rent” aesthetics with a uniquely absurd sense of humour that is more Dada than Dreamworks. Each episode is a celebration of terrible 3D animation filled with curses, black magic, desert landscapes, and inexplicable links to Fittingly, I caught up with Batchelor and Nielsen online after the release of the latest Archeologists episode last week.


Archeologists Episode 1 (still)
Archeologists Episode 1, 2007 (still)


AQ: Hey, Bart & Chris. Let’s talk about how you guys got your start. How did you two meet? Do you both have formal training in animation, or is something you picked up on your own? 

Bart Batchelor: Chris and I met at art school. We both applied to the Emily Carr animation program and got rejected (which is apparent), but got in to their film program and started making lots of stupid stuff together. Funny enough, right out of Emily Carr, we made an animated series for The Comedy Network called The Woodsmen. I guess being bad at something pays off – when you’re being really dumb.

Chris Nielsen: I should also mention that we’re both Okanagan boys, and we met at OUC (now UBC Okanagan) in the fine arts program. We’ve been living in Vancouver for a decade now. Can hardly believe it.

Archeologists Episode 2 (still)
Archeologists Episode 2, 2013 (still)


AQ: It’s rad that you two have such a history together. I feel like that’s important with collaborative projects, because you can find a sort of instinctive way of working together after knowing each other for so long. How do you find the collaborative experience? Do you have a sort of working routine together?

BB: Chris and I have been working together for almost 10 years. At this point it’s pretty instinctual – we get together on at Chris’ office in The Dominion, record ourselves like self-indulgent adolescents, then somehow form that into scripts or animation.

AQ: Tell me more about your Comedy Network project — how did you end up working with them, and how did it go? Would you work with a big network again?

BB: We created The Woodsmen in school and sent it to the The Comedy Network. They liked it and commissioned six episodes off us. They pretty much let us do whatever we wanted and gave us a little bit of money to play around with, so we continued our relationship with them (they’re actually pretty cool). Right now we have a couple pretty crazy projects being considered by them – so, fingers crossed!



AQ: “Archeologists” and “The Woodsmen” obviously hinge on unexpected and weirdo humour. What is your inspiration behind both this and your wonderfully janky visuals?

BB: The aesthetic in our work definitely comes from a love of all things trashy and low rent. It could be an outlet for our dirty weird upbringings, or it could be an attempt at a modernization of the film style of artists like John Waters. But I’d say the biggest inspiration is Mike Lazzo’s Space Ghost. The weird little animated talk show that started the Adult Swim segment. They made, like, 99 episodes in the late 90’s of which 10 are the greatest pieces of comedy ever made. The sort of show they were making just didn’t exist on TV at the time. And there was no Youtube. Particularly the episode with Hansen and the episode with Thom Yorke.

As for Archeologists, we have another 4 episodes in the making. Once we’ve created them (over the next couple months) we’re looking into trying to get a TV series going. 

Be sure to keep an eye out for the next episode of Archeologists, “Our Jobs Are Rad”. For current visual arts listings, follow us on Twitter (@ViATheOpening).