Synaesthetic Syntax is a one-day symposium on Sunday 11th September as part of the 10th Expanded Animation section of the Ars Electronica Festival. The event explores the complex relationship between sensory perception and expanded animation. In focussing on the primacy of the senses, the symposium aims to ask questions about the seduction of technology and how to maintain a discourse of what is fundamental about being human. This year’s theme is touch, gesture and physical movement. For more details about the presentations and how to view them online, go to the website for Expanded Animation.
We are delighted to welcome our keynote speaker and winner of a Golden Nica at this years Prix Ars Electronica: Rashaad Newsome. He will be giving his keynote presentation at 14.00 (CET) on Friday 9th Sept.
To be human, to be in a body, is to move and to feel; to move as it feels and to feel itself moving. However, bodies do not exist in isolation. Bodies collide with one another in social contexts. They have the power to affect others or to be affected themselves. Bodies are structured by culture, but they can also resist. Motion and sensation felt in the body leads to change.
At the time of organising the symposium, a line of tanks, armoured vehicles and troops 40 miles long were approaching Kyev: literally illustrating change in motion through technology. How can animation respond to this? How might technologies of gesture, proprioception and motion be used to create animation that goes beyond formalism and is able to reflect upon the forces that seek to contain movements towards change?
The sensation of touch can be brutal and violent or tender and loving. Through ‘haptic visuality’, a sense of touch can be evoked in animation by triggering physical memories of smell, touch and taste that engages the viewer bodily to convey cultural experience rather than through a use of language. How can touch be used in animation to create community or share memories?
The presentations respond to the following questions:
How to critically reflect on the tools and technologies of touch and movement used to create animation – motion capture, tablets and pens, sensors – and the data sets and libraries that they create?
How might the capture of motion, gesture and proprioception be used to innovate and tell stories of new communities?
What is the role of touch in conveying memory?
How might touch and biofeedback data be used in new ways to create animation?
 Paraphrase from p1. Brian Massumi, Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation (2002, Duke University Press)  Cf. Massumi, op. cit.  Laura U Marks, The Skin of the Film: Intercultural Cinema, Embodiment and the Senses (2000, Duke University Press)
Guizhou Provincial Museum 29/4/22-31/8/22 Curated by Birgitta Hosea, Zhang Xiaotao, Li Fei
Featuring 44 international digital media artists, 54 works of art and covering 2200 square metres, this is Guizhou Province’s first international exhibition of digital art. The works cover a range of techniques, disciplines and approaches including interactive media, virtual reality, robotics, immersive installations, experimental animation, artificial intelligence and archaeological visualisation.
Co-curator, Birgitta Hosea, talks about the exhibition:
Co-curator, Zhang Xiaotao, talks about the exhibition:
Etymologically “to attend” comes from Middle English (in the sense ‘apply one’s mind or energies to’): from Old French atendre, from Latin attendere, from ad- ‘to’ + tendere ‘stretch’.
At a time when attending an event can mean two things: being present in person or virtually, new questions are raised about what attendance means. If attendance and attention have the same etymological roots, can we consider attending as a form of attention rather than requiring physical presence? And if the essence of attention is its elasticity, can we argue that attention is able to stretch to overcome physical distance? That our shared attention (as well as time and virtual platforms) allows us to be in attendance, together, no matter how physically displaced we are.
According to philosopher and cognitive scientist Lucas Battich (TT journal 3) shared attention not only helps us learn better, it is also multi-sensory. Is therefore watching a film together more illuminating than watching it alone, in separate spaces? What effect our new, so called “hybrid reality” has on our attention? Which role do the so-called proximity senses play in being attentive, attending to presence?
Attention is a precious and limited human resource which is under pressure: multiple forces constantly fight for our attention. Not just every day demands but social media, advertising and various other inventions of our late capitalist world, which understand that attention and money are intertwined. Attention is what makes us present, attention is learning, attention is the fabric of our experience, attention is being conscious, being conscientious, it is our future memory: we remember what we pay attention to, the rest becomes an unconscious assimilation of facts. And as we know from advertising methods, subliminal messaging can affect us on a level where we are unable to rationalise its effect, hence are more vulnerable.
Film (and moving image) as a medium has long been associated with memory: Like the mind it records and edits, what it deems significant. It can capture moments in time, make them conscious and preserve them for the future. It enables us, the viewers, to attend to the presence of those that came before us, even if they no longer share our everyday reality… Temporal and physical distances are bridged.
In association with Animation Research Centre, University for the Creative Arts, UK; Lusafona University, Portugal and Tangible Territory journal
Due to the lockdown in Austria, I was unable to travel to install this work in person, so I am very grateful to Stefan Stratil and Holger Lang for putting it together for me and the exhibition has now opened. It’s seen through the windows of the gallery, so can be visited as part of a lockdown-compatible walk in the area.
The show was due to have an opening event as part of the Under_the_Radar festival, but this is now postponed. We hope that the festival can run at the end of January and plan a finishing event and presentation about the exhibition then. All is dependent on the pandemic and the regulations in place in Austria then. More news to follow.
The next Ecstatic Truth symposium on experimental and expanded approaches to animated documentary will be held in Prague on April 8th. It will take place at Vysoká škola kreativní komunikace (University of Creative Communication) in conjunction with the Tangible Territory journal. It will be a hybrid event – both in person and online.
In this second symposium for Expanded Animation at Ars Electronica, we continue our exploration of affect: how animation is felt through sensory information processed by the body. For the second year, this takes a focus on inter-relationships between hearing and seeing.
From the early pioneers, both the audio and the visual components of moving image have been intrinsic to the medium. According to experimental filmmaker Walter Ruttmann (1887-1941), the ‘music of light has always been and will remain the essence of cinema’. Another pioneering avant-garde filmmaker, Germaine Dulac (1882-1942), connected this with movement, ‘cinema and music have this in common: in both movement alone can create emotion by its rhythm and development’.
Our intention with this symposium is to go beyond superficial, formal connections between sound and animated images to think about how the senses are engaged and thus the central role of the body in engaging with perception and experience. Indeed, philosopher, Maurice Merleau Ponty argues that synaesthetic connections – the cross-wiring between all our senses – is at the root of perception, how we understand the world. In using digital technology we are working with a synaesthetic medium in which all sense perceptions can be codified as inputs and expressed in a common language of zeros and ones that can be fluidly interchanged.
In raising issues about the senses and the body, we are also responding to these peculiar times of pandemic when so much of our interactions have been mediated through a screen rather than through direct experience and physical encounter. We have chosen a range of different speakers who responded to our themes in different ways and I do hope you find all of the talks thought provoking and inspiring.
In this presentation, Birgitta Hosea talks about the collaboration between herself, Maryclare Foá, Jane Grisewood and Carali McCall that resulted in the book Performance Drawing: New Practices Since 1945 (Bloomsbury, 2000).
Using material from chapter 3, in itself a collaboration between herself and Foá, she considers the score as a form with which to invite participation and unexpected results when working with others. The presentation concludes with an overview of a participatory project in live animation.
In the age of pandemic, our previously normal experiences of human touch and intimate proximity have become mediated by the screen rather than felt directly. We can no longer hear live music and feel the sonic vibrations; see a painting’s texture in close proximity; become immersed in the events of live theatre or engage in debate: these events are now bounded by the flat rectangular screen and limited by the extent of the pixels in our screen’s resolution.
Under these conditions, how can animation, in combination with music or audio art, re-engage us with bodily sensations received through the senses?
Coming together as a series of online events, this year’s Expanded Animation (http:/ /www.expandedanimation.com)symposium at Ars Electronica continues a dialogue about relationships between the senses, in particular the auditory and the visual. What are the rules, principles, and processes that govern correlations between sound and animation? How might these embodied sensations be explored, unpacked and reassembled in our age of virtual communication intensified by COVID-19?
Keynote Speaker: Refik Anadol
Our Keynote Speaker is media artist, director and pioneer in the aesthetics of data and machine intelligence, Refik Anadol. His body of work locates creativity at the intersection of humans and machines. In taking the data that flows around us as the primary material and the neural network of a computerized mind as a collaborator, Anadol paints with a thinking brush, offering us radical visualizations of our digitized memories and expanding the possibilities of architecture, narrative, and the body in motion. Anadol’s site-specific AI datasculptures, liveaudio/visual performances, and immersive installations take many forms, while encouraging us to rethink our engagement with the physical world, its temporal and spatial dimensions, and the creative potential of machines.
In response to these themes, we call for academics and artists to propose 20-minute papers that bring the disciplines of music, audio art and animation together from a variety of perspectives: from historical, theoretical or critical perspectives to new and surprising practice. If the paper is practice-based, it should include reflection and contextualisation in addition to presenting the practice.
The proposal should include an abstract of no more than 500 words (including references) and a short biography of no more than 200 words.
In the field ‘Title and Abstract’ please enter the text for both your abstract and your bio. Do not submit a web link instead of a bio. This information can also be attached as a PDF document.
List of Topics
Suggested topics include:
Hearing Colour Seeing Sound Can music become visual? How did pioneers of visual music such as Oskar Fischinger and Mary Ellen Bute translate melody, harmony and rhythm into the form of animation? And can moving drawings become music? How can historic and / or contemporary practice demonstrate synaesthetic syntax?
In front of your eyes and ears With a perceived disparity between the slow time taken to create animation and the instant time taken to perform music, how can animation be performed live? Can the audio and the visual be combined in improvised performance? How can live, hand scribing or music notation or coding or drawing be used to conjure spontaneous audio-visual performance? What is gained from real-time, instant creation in the present moment? What does it mean for ‘liveness’ to experience this at home through a screen rather than being fully present at the event?
Rhythmanalysis Repetition and difference is at the heart of rhythm, at the heart of the algorithm, at the heart of animation, at the heart of lived experience. Rhythm is everywhere. From the natural – visceral, internal rhythms of the body breathing and the heart pumping or the slow changing of the seasons; to the artificial – externally imposed rhythms ordering us through the ticktock of mechanical clock-time or the ebb and flow of economic cycles. How does rhythm connect audio and animation? What might animation learn from audio and music theory and vice versa?
A Return to the Material In an age of digital synthesis and screen-based connections is there a craving for a return to the material? Do we long for haptic feedback and analogue experience: the touch of guitar strings, the feel of charcoal smearing under the fingers, banging a drum, painting on film? Is this simply a form of nostalgia or might it be thought through in new ways? How can it be brought together in the audio-visual?
The symposium is jointly organised by Dr Juergen Hagler, Ars Electronica, University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria, Hagenberg and Professor Dr Birgitta Hosea, Animation Research Centre, University for the Creative Arts, Farnham, UK.
Professor Rose Bond, PNCA, USA
Dr Max Hattler, School of Creative Media, CityU, Hong Kong
Laura Lee, Audio Research Cluster, UCA
Dr Vicky Smith, Animation Research Centre, UCA
Dr Harry Whalley, Audio Research Cluster, UCA
The conference will be held online as part of Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, Austria. The media festival will take place on 8th-12th of September 2021 under the motto “A New Digital Deal – How the Digital World Could Work” (https://ars.electronica.art/newdigitaldeal/en/).
Here is ‘Expanding Animation and Other Queer Goings On’, my inaugural professorial lecture at the University for the Creative Arts in which I relate how I developed a post-medium approach to animation and much more besides.