Case Studies/Chris Denaro

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Image, MovingImage
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animation, prototyping, exhibition, film, Flickr


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Chris Denaro is an Australian animator who examines industrial processes of prototyping, incorporating Creative Commons materials into his animations to bring spontaneity and serendipity to his works.

The process of starting from chaos, with an array of Creative Commons images as my ingredients, and allowing the form to emerge, excited and challenged me. — Chris Denaro


Chris Denaro is a Brisbane-based animator who creates multimedia artworks and installations incorporating and taking inspiration from Creative Commons-licensed material. In August – September 2007, Chris participated in The Vernacular Terrain, an exhibition exploring environmental, political and cultural place through installations of interactive media, initiated by the International Digital Arts Project (iDAP). Here, Chris developed a new work every 72 hours, reusing images found through Flickr’s Creative Commons advanced search in a spontaneous and reflexive process, creating new objects from found images, particularly of curvilinear consumer goods, termed ‘Blobjects’ by Bruce Sterling. The reconstituted shapes, reminiscent of Japanese Chindogu ‘a bizarre collection of gadgets and gizmos that… almost serve a useful purpose,’ were reconfigured in Photoshop and mobilised through loops within Flash, whereupon they were projected onto the exhibition space floor. The exposure the pieces gained was significant: iDAP’s audience literally walked through the work to enter the exhibition.

‘The creative process incorporated the act of acquiring Creative Commons content from Flickr as a type of spontaneous and reflexive direction for the work to take.’ Chris Denaro

Chris recently completed a Master of Arts (Research) at QUT Creative Industries in which he described the creation of these process-driven animations, contrasting traditional industrial design methodologies. His exegesis ‘traces a path through the production of an animated work, and discusses the evolution of an individual production workflow that reconfigures the industrial animation process of prototyping.’

During this time Chris also taught a QUT Creative Industries unit KIB105: Animation and Motion Graphics, which required students (comprising 100 undergraduates and nine postgraduates) to make 1-2 minute animations for their final assessments. All source material used in the project was required to carry a Creative Commons licence, and students’ final work was also licensed under CC. In reflecting on the running of the unit, Chris observed that an optimal outcome would have been to place students’ final assessment online with the appropriate CC licence, rather than having material submitted for internal purposes only. In this way, the material could live beyond the classroom, having a life of its own. ‘Keeping it outside the Uni would make it more “real” I think, as inside the Uni everything is a bit more contained and safe.’ Chris is currently artist-in-residence at Metro Arts in Brisbane’s CBD. He has previously been artist-in-residence at Brisbane Grammar School, where over three weeks he directed the art classes for year 10 students, requiring them to create their own interpretations of Blobjects and consumer items using the process he had previously demonstrated and described.

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Through his practice-led research, Chris developed a ‘reflexive process that included mise en place, Creative Commons and environmental influences as ingredients’. Chris explains in his exegesis:

‘The source materials I gather are licensed under Creative Commons (, which is a new type of copyright contract, designed for sharing and modifying creative content. The author of a work can allow others the right to create derivative works based on their content. Rather than “all rights reserved,” the Creative Commons mantra is “some rights reserved”.’

Using Flickr’s Creative Commons material, discovered through the advanced search mechanism, allowed Chris to source the images he required for his innovative, spontaneous prototyping processes. Chris was careful to select images which were licensed to allow derivative works, given his practice of disassembly and reassembly of objects.


Creative Commons licensing enabled Chris to incorporate spontaneity into his animation workflow, utilising the advanced Flickr CC filtering tool to gather source materials and take inspiration from the images thereby discovered. Additionally, Chris followed Flickr’s folksonomy, generating ideas through clicking on related tags:

‘There were untagged images, and mis-tagged, and probably the most important for me, was the links to further tags. I would search for pipes and plumbing, and find some images to use as source, but then the author could have other more obscure tags to use as a further search, or else they had other images which were related. Out of interest, say, pipes and plumbing, mixed with car yards, mixed with holidays in Spain at the waterfront. All of these images had photos of pipes which I could use, but there was no way of finding a connection between these unless by chance and long hard searching and browsing.’

After spending many sessions online browsing materials and downloading images, whereupon he would take his ideas as a group to be incorporated into the creative process, Chris observed in relation to Creative Commons:

‘This adds spontaneity and serendipity to the work, as the source material is unpretentious, fresh and unpredictable.’ Chris Denaro

Proclaiming the importance of re-examining the creative process through conscious, structured reflection and analysis, Chris quotes John Howkins, author of The Creative Economy:

‘The individuals who succeed in the creative economy speak a different language. They value novelty above repetition. They are more often intuitive than rational, more subjective than objective. They regard mistakes as a useful learning process, necessary for success.’ (Howkins in Macken 2007: 97)


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