Sand animation is an art form that combines certain elements of traditional animation and performance art to tell a story or create a series of scenes through the use of sand. This is typically done by placing sand onto a surface and shining light through it to project an image of the sand onto a screen. The artist can then manipulate the sand on the surface in a number of different ways, and the silhouettes created by the sand make images on the projected surface. Sand animation is often used along with music to tell a story that unfolds as the images formed by the sand are shaped and changed by the artist.
As a basic concept, sand animation brings together a few different forms of art in a single performance. In many ways, this type of work is similar to performance art in which the artist himself or herself is a central component to the work being viewed. Sand animation often utilizes a clear surface through which light is shone and projected onto a screen, much like an overhead projector used in presentations or classrooms. The term "animation" is appropriate since the shapes created by the artist change over the course of a performance and over several minutes a story can be told through a series of images.
Music is often used as accompaniment in sand animation, rather than narration by the artist. Different songs can be used during a single performance, and each song is typically chosen by an artist to enhance the emotional content and tone of a particular moment. While artists can improvise and create new scenes at will, the entire sand animation presentation is typically conceived ahead of time. This allows an artist to tell a definite story during a performance, as one scene moves into another.
The progression of images is an integral element to sand animation and the way in which one scene changes into the next is just as important as the content itself. One moment, the sand on the surface might make a silhouette that resembles children playing in a field, and through a few movements of the artist's hands those forms might become tombstones in a graveyard. The transition from one image to the next creates juxtaposition that the artist can use to enhance each scene and make a more powerful statement. These performances seem to take on a secondary life, as the audience watching the sand animation "fills in" the moments between images to interact with the work and create personal meaning.