Ecstatic Truth VI: To Attend

International symposium in which expanded animation and experimental moving image intersect with documentary, 22nd April 2022, University of Creative Communication, Prague, Czech Republic 

Symposium programme

View the presentations here:

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

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