‘Agua Viva’ by Alexa Lim Haas

Alexa Lim Haas, Agua Viva, 2017. 6 minutes, 46 seconds. Voice by Mengda Zhang. Courtesy of the artist.

New York-based animator Alexa Lim Haas uses a fluid, improvisational line to create contemplative animations that deal with language, gesture, and intimacy. Lim Haas, an American mixed daughter to a Chinese-Filipina mother, has said she grew up using “body language, big smiles, [and] tender touches” to communicate with her Filipino family, many of whom worked in different areas of the service industry. For her, the immediacy of line serves as a direct extension of the communicative hand, a recurring figure throughout her drawings and animations.

In Agua Viva, Lim Haas’s first major solo work, the inner monologue of a Chinese manicurist is interwoven with her workdays at a Miami salon. While she waits to open shop, she savors her morning solitude. “Words are so solid, but my thoughts are so fluid”, she thinks, articulating the language gap between herself and the people around her. Narrow shots of held, manicured, and massaged hands and feet play to the rhythmic voice-over of “simple words that translate” like “welcome”, “cuticle”, “round or square” and “arthritis”. Her mind wanders in daydream sequences. She imagines an anxious underwater scenario: her arms and legs, more numerous with frenetic lines, are like the tentacles of the jellyfish that surround her. The performance of drawing manifests in shapes and forms that merge, overlap, and multiply. Through a vibrant, liquid and expressive visual language, Lim Haas renders that which words cannot.

To see more of Lim Haas’s work, visit her website.