Presentation of The Dance of the Live and the Animated: Kathy Rose, Miwa Matreyek, and Eva Hall, June 2012 Society for Animation Studies Conference, USC

Presentation of The Dance of the Live and the Animated: Kathy Rose, Miwa Matreyek, and Eva Hall, June 2012 Society for Animation Studies Conference, USC





This panel seeks to investigate works that might be called “animate art.” Animation, broadly defined, means to fill with life. Traditionally in film animation, each tiny moment is captured in a frame, and the magic of transformation and illusion of motion happens in-between the frames, in the space that experimental animator Norman McLaren famously called the “invisible interstices.” With new media, and a retro-futurist return to old technologies, the frame and the screen often become irrelevant. The mediated image might be replaced by neo-proto-cinematic machines, automata, projection, or kinetic sculpture. With changes in digital media and accessible projection, animation blurs the line between recorded and live performance. Artists create automata, robots, and kinetic sculpture to bring movement to their work, following in the footsteps of Robert Breer and Len Lye, both experimental animators who also built kinetic sculpture. Animation, like craft, has history of marginalization from the realm of the fine arts; requires a careful, considerate process; and delights in the painstaking, the labor intensive, celebrating tiny movements that go together to create a greater whole. This panel will look at contemporary artists working with movement as a way to bring life to museums, galleries, the stage, and public spaces. Papers might present artists who use interdisciplinary methods to create moving images, objects, and performances; biomimetic automata or kinetic sculpture; digital puppetry and real-time animation; performance with animated projections; and projection mapping on architecture. For example, In Jie Qi’s artworks, vines curl as you come near. Juan Fontanive’s flip-book-machine hummingbirds are both animal and machine. Miwa Matreyek performs as a shadow-silhouette, becoming a live layer in her animated projection. 

Panelists will present and contextualize examples of contemporary “animate art.” Papers and presentations should address the issue of the expanded conception of animation in both contemporary and historical contexts, and address this type of animation found beyond the screening room, in art galleries, on stage, or in public spaces. Conference papers using innovative visual presentation methods, employing media or performative strategies, are encouraged. 

  Lynn Tomlinson, “It’s Alive!”

Unstable in-between states: liminal modes of subjectivity, transformation and metamorphosis, uncanny beings, animate-inanimate boundaries. This is the natural province of animation. This panel walks along the borders of what we call animation: balancing on the shifting line where the manipulated illusion of life intersects with painting, sculpture, puppetry, live performance, and immersive and interactive experience. In the contemporary expanding discipline, the frame is being broken: animation is moving beyond the screen through augmented reality, projection, and a blurring of the distinction between the live and the animated. This introduction to the panel looks to examples from the past (vaudeville, the early cinema, early 20th century avant-garde, and the work of pioneering independent animators), drawing parallels to contemporary artists’ work.

Amy-Claire Huestis, “Re-shaping the Proto-Cinematic:  Magic Lantern as Medium."

In the vast unexplored territory of Projection lies the centuries-old, little-known field of large-format analogue projectors, and the illustrated mechanical animations of magic lantern shows. These techniques operated with a different aesthetic from Projection as we think of it today - often in an irregular-shaped frame and as a jewel-like play between light and shadow.  This paper proposes a re-invention of the magic lantern for the 21st century, reviving the nearly-dead medium as an analogue intervention into the ubiquitous digital frame of animation.  By employing painted transparencies and light projection, the artist creates an intimate connection with the image and total immediacy in performance, while the hand-operated magic lantern projector offers extreme analogue fidelity and nuance.  As well, the paper attempts to shine a light on the formal and aesthetic differences between projection then and now, such as the irregular frame of the proto-cinematic, as opposed to the current screen-based, inflexible utilization of a rectangular frame.

Karl Staven: "Oscars® and the Evolution of Animation"

Animated films have been created since at least 1900, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has been awarding a best Short Animated Film award since 1932. By reviewing the nominated and winning films over the past 80+ years; changes in techniques, studio production, international growth, and content are but a few of the trends that are revealed. Studios rise and fall, design overtakes realism (and then meets photo-realism), and nominees start to arrive from Canada, Europe, Asia and even student hands. Finally, in 2001 a new Feature Animated Film category is introduced, adding a new stream of evolving data. Motion graphics and film stills will be used to illustrate the evolution of nominated animation from only cel productions to puppets to experimental techniques to 3D computer while expanding internationally. Short and long term developments will become evident as authorship, content and style are laid out over time.

Amy Hicks, “In Between Frames: A Modern-Day Hypothesis"

Over a decade ago Lev Manovich writes, “As cinema enters the digital age, these [manual] techniques are again becoming the commonplace in the filmmaking process. Consequently, cinema can no longer be clearly distinguished from animation.” Accepting this premise, in “Happiness, Free, for Everyone” Hicks reveals the structure of her hybrid cine-mation installation. It is at once hand-made and digitally altered, stopped and in motion, a screen and a screen interrupted, reflected and transmitted light, and indexical and artificial. In its stillness, “Happiness,” a reflection on the cloud’s symbolism, makes visible the moment that happens between each frame—the stopped action that animators shoot before moving the inanimate again.

A. Bill Miller:  “Browser BASED”

The Internet is regularly referred to as a medium for presentation. Although that approach describes how the majority of artists use the Internet, it does not account for those that use it to realize their artwork. Many trends and threads of popular Internet culture can be used as animation formats. This presentation seeks to highlight and identify some examples of animation that are specific to web browsers, but are also quite BASED.

By experimenting with legacy file formats like .GIF, HTML, CSS, and Javascript, artists have been breaking the traditional animation frame since the beginnings of Internet Art. Their work runs directly from widely available web browser windows with characteristically variable dimensions. The work has the potential for user interaction, looping time, integration of large data sets, and scripted behaviors. By using the browser window, they explore unique opportunities to expand on animation practices and take aesthetically and conceptually interesting approaches.

Loader: “Caterpillar choreography: the animation of life”

By definition, animation, as the illusion of life, entails the use of the dead. In most cases, its matter (paper, cels, ink) is long inert, but insect carcasses populate the history of animation. Responding to films such as Brakhage’s ‘Mothlight’ (a suicidal flight into light), Loader’s recent work explores the animation of living insects in media installations that encourage viewer engagement. Breaking frames between animation and live action, screen and architecture, art and science, humans and animals, En Masse, a project made in collaboration with entomologist Chris Plenzich, explores the creative process of interdisciplinary research and its aesthetic potential. Artist and scientist paint lines of pheromones to guide forest tent caterpillars into living paintings of insect choreography. They celebrate the social and creative lives of moths-as-children, magnifying their individualized responses and learning that one can become-scientist, become-artist and become-insect all at once.

Craig Saper: “Expanded Animation As Expanded Scholarship: A Response"

This response to the panel on Expanded Animation asks if using multi-media and multiple modes can also successfully expand the terrain of scholarship. Is the future of scholarship precisely in these proto-types of what a presentation might be?