Thursday, 3 January 2019

Meet Your Tutor - Dr Fil Ieropolous

Fil Ieropoulos: exploring the relationship between poetry and film
Dr Fil Ieropoulos is responsible for the delivery and grading of the  academic content of our Online MA in Animation at Bucks.

As part of our series of posts introducing our students to their tutors, we asked Fil to talk about his academic work in film and poetry, and how he combines the theory behind his creative work, and its practice.

Dr Fil Ieropoulos
How did you get involved with the MA in animation?
I started teaching the theory side of the MA from the very beginning of the course. Stephen Partridge, who was formerly head of the MA programme [Steven Partridge left Bucks at the end of 2018 - Ed]  asked me to help develop the academic modules.  Before that, I was teaching for over ten years at the BA (Hons) Film & TV Production course, including supervising students’ dissertations.

My academic background is very much about combining theory and practice.  I did a practice-based PhD at the University of the Creative Arts (Kent) and so I am aware of how tricky that can be - getting the balance right between being an artist: being creative, flexible, adventurous and being academic: organising material thoroughly, developing your ideas, understanding context, being communicative.

National Opera House, Athens
Some people have rather naive notions of creativity; that it is just to do with intuition or talent or things like that; I think it’s becoming apparent more and more that contemporary artists, even those that work in the most mainstream areas, ought to understand their work, to be clear about what sort of ‘scene’ they belong to, what is the history of their medium. I don’t believe for a second that theory stifles creativity.

What do you most enjoy about teaching?
Although I have been producing my own work as an artist and curator for many years now, I haven’t felt at all that I want to leave teaching behind and I am still very much attracted to it as a place for the discussion of ideas and creative communication.

Creating one’s own work is somewhat being inside a personal bubble, whether that means their own head or just around close collaborators with whom they more or less share the same interests. When teaching, one is asked to deal with creative issues through the eyes of someone else. An art tutor ought to give creative advice which takes into consideration their own experience, but at the same time tries to understand the creative decisions / idiosyncrasies of the student. This is extremely valuable not just for the students themselves, but also the tutor.

National Opera House, Athens
When I was doing my studies, there were some tutors that inspired me and I try to do the same. Not sharing the same physical space with students in this MA makes this a little more tricky; but we use online tools such as the Facebook classroom and Skype to replace the traditional classroom environment.

What do the students get out of the academic side of the Master's degree?
One of the things I try to do in this course is to really get students to write very high quality academic material. This in a sense is expected of most masters level courses, but since animation is a reasonably recent field academically with limited bibliography, it is both more difficult, but also simultaneously much more important to do that.

National Opera House, Athens
In this course there have been some essays that really put forward very fresh ideas; ideas that are quality-wise on a par with printed, peer-reviewed, official texts of animation theory and could potentially be influential to the field.

The course has only been running for a couple of years so it is difficult to tell if we manage this ambition of being future animation theory makers, but the aim is to be producing cutting-edge contemporary texts.

At the same time, what I try to do is to help students really understand the background of their own interests and making sure they have created a mapping of the territory that relates to their work. As I mentioned earlier, I believe that a contemporary animator should not just produce creative material instinctively, but also know how to contextualise it historically and conceptually.

National Opera House, Athens
Tell us about your work outside of Bucks; what interests you?
I like to work on a number of different fields, sometimes as a creative and sometimes as a curator of events, occasionally as something in between. My PhD was on the poetics of parallelism in the moving image: understanding how we bring things together, juxtaposition, connections, dialectics.
And this is something I try to bring in my work regardless of medium; it could be working on a film or directing a performance or putting together a series of songs.

What I am interested in is the combinative methods an artist uses. The relationship between foreground and background; the connection or disjunction between different media; the bringing together of unexpected genres or tendencies. I like to create situations and a tableau that is not totally finished / clearly defined by the time I deliver it for consumption;  I like the idea of leaving the end result to the viewer/listener/visitor. This poetic approach is something I try to do also in my curated events, where it is of course much more difficult to be open and poetic, as one has to answer to all sorts of organisational questions when in a production role.

I also love collaborating and bringing people together, it is an essential part of my work. A couple of years ago, a piece in collaboration with a graduate of the Masters' course, Dutch Falconi, came up, an animated video of a cover of a Greek chanson-type song from the 1930s. The instrumentation, singing and video try to create a space where time is unclear, a mix of the contemporary and the old comes up, melancholy and futurism is fused in a hauntological sort of way. The video can be seen here:
filtig & andrianette- πέρσι τέτοιον καιρό from Dutch Falconi on Vimeo.

The photos are from my latest directorial/curatorial/performance work at the National Opera House in Athens. It is an event in which a number of musicians, performers and video makers reworked pieces by the composer Lena Platonos, an electronic music pioneer from the mid-80s, whose work has been rediscovered and repressed by US vinyl label Dark Entries in the last couple of years.

For more on the experience of studying at Bucks New University, come and visit us at one of our Open Days, take a virtual tour of one of our animation studios, check out what our students think of our course, and see why we're ranked in the top 12 creative universities in the UK.

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