Registration is open for Boundary Crossings 2019. Here’s what Rose Bond and I got up in 2017:
My own practice is in expanded animation, in other words, I am interested in ways in which moving images can be used in contexts other than the single screen film. As an artist this has involved me creating works inspired by technologies from the origins of animation such as shadow puppets, silhouettes, optical illusions, trotting horse lamps, spirit photography, stage magic, Pepper’s Ghost and peepshows. Because of this, it was thrilling for me to go to the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum Archive as a Visiting Researcher. Looking through boxes from their extensive collection of pre-cinematic optical toys at close range, I was struck by how tactile and intimate the experience of looking at them was and how these early printed materials anticipated the depiction of ways of moving through space that are commonly used today in animation. These short sequences felt like precursors to the animated gifs we see on web pages, interfaces, digital signage and, of course, Instagram.
Optical toys have also been an inspiration to a group of contemporary animators from China who call themselves the Feinaki Animation Gang and are inspired by their study of the phenakistoscope to create amazing short micro-animations that are designed to continuously loop. The group first formed in 2015 to create inventive animated gifs that celebrate public holidays such as Valentine’s day. The artists include my former student, CAI Caibei, and other noted practitioners such as WEI Shilei, AMAO, CHEN Chen, CHEN Lianhua, InkeeWang, LUO Sijia, SANGSUN, SUN Xin,Toyoya, WANG Dan, XIANG Yao, YU Kun, ZHU Yantong. They have just exhibited their works at the Shanghai MoCA Pavilion in a show called Stroll the Line in May 2019. More info here: Stroll the Line exhibition.
Several media theorists have also made connections between early mechanical optical illusions and our contemporary digital media. Shane Denson and Julia Leyda describe the way that we view digital moving images on a variety of different devices as post-cinematic. No longer recorded through analogue celluloid and projected at cinemas, the moving images we consume today are ‘essentially digital, interactive, networked, ludic, miniaturized, mobile, social, processual, algorithmic, aggregative, environmental, or convergent’ (Denson & Leyda, 2016). Alongside a variety of new transmedia viewing platforms such as computers, phones, tablets, games consoles and even giant screens on the sides of skyscrapers, new forms of moving images have emerged to be displayed on them. Making a comparison between these and the early short films of silent cinema, Ruth Meyer considers that while early silent films were short because of technological restrictions, nowadays brevity is part of the digital media we consume – the short film, the tweet, the meme, the status update, the text message. Because of their shortness, she calls these ‘micro-narrative’ formats (Meyer, 2016).
Looking at the paper strips from Émile Reynauld’s Praxinoscope (1889) there are also short ‘micro-narratives’: series of images that animate scenes from the circus – tightrope walking, juggling knives or weights, acrobatics with horses or dogs; or scenes from children’s play – blowing bubbles, skipping, a girl fishing, a baby eating, a fancy cat plays double bass; and even scenes from everyday work, leisure and sports – swimming, horse riding, dancing, feeding chickens, pumping water, sawing and cooking meat on a spit. All of these sequences of images capture bodies and matter in motion through illustration, before the cinema had even been invented. They do not take the form of stories, but are more like circus acts or fairground attractions.
Not only are the movement sequences on these devices short, but they are designed to be repeated. Colourful patterns on spinning tops, for example, continue spinning to create an optical illusion of merged colours until the force of momentum runs out. Lev Manovich points out that pre-cinematic optical devices were based on manually constructed, hand-painted loops of repeated image sequences. He finds in these earliest animated pictures a precursor to contemporary digital media and also to computer programming that involves looped and iterative instructions. (Manovich, 2016). Building on Manovich’s ideas, Nicolas Dulac and André Gaudreault point out that optical toys are based on not only repetition and brevity, but also rotation. For them, the endless loops of these animated drawings have no sense of time, just endless presence. Like a cog in a machine, they have a mechanical rather than human sense of time (Dulac & Gaudreault, 2006).
Like these toys, the earliest silent films were also built on short acts, gags, tricks or views from everyday life. Connecting them with the ‘attractions’ on show at the fairground, the circus and the music hall, Tom Gunning has named the earliest silent films (pre-1908) ‘the cinema of attractions’: a cinema concerned with spectacle, exhibitionism and quick thrills rather than storytelling (Gunning, 2006). Whereas this period of film history is related by Gunning to popular performing arts, Dulac and Gaudreault argue that optical toys from 1830-1900 are another form of media that pre-date cinema and should also take their place as a key influence on the cinema of attractions (Dulac & Gaudreault, 2006). While this may seem an obvious connection to make, surprisingly enough, in his extensive research on the origins of animation in the UK, Malcom Cook has not found any direct evidence to connect the type of animated pictures seen in optical toys with early animation (Cook, 2018).
While this may be the case, what I personally found fascinating about having the chance to examine the collection of optical toys at the Bill Douglas Cinema History Archive at first hand, was how the types of motion represented anticipated the kinds of ways in which we animate today. I was also struck by the manner in which movement was depicted in a static printed form. Consequently, I devised a workshop called ‘Animated Loops: From Print to Instagram’ for BA Illustration and Animation students at the University for the Creative Arts, Canterbury, who work in both design for print and animation. It was part of a First Year unit, led by artist and animator Molly Okell to introduce students to animation. We began with a lecture showing photos and discussing my findings from the research at the Bill Douglas Cinema Archive, in which I identified the following types of animation:
- Panning (in which the eye travels across a scene, usually a landscape): panorama, myriorama;
- Light change: diorama;
- Exploring three-dimensional space: peepshow, stereoscopic photography, peep eggs;
- Transformation (using rotation or flipping to produce metamorphosis through substitution): printed adverts and toys;
- Spinning: optical spinning tops, thaumascope, phenakistoscope, zoetrope, praxinoscope;
- Illusion of movement (through sequential images): flick books, phenakistoscope, zoetrope, praxinoscope,filoscope, kinora, mutascope, kinetoscope.
After the lecture, we went into the computer lab for a practical workshop about how to make animation in Photoshop and produce a short animation that could be put on Instagram. We only had a limited amount of time, but the students all produced sequences of animation by the end of the day.
Cook, Malcolm. Early British Animation: From Page and Stage to Cinema Screens. Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.
Denson, Shane, and Julia Leyda. “Perspectives on Post-Cinema: An Introduction.” In Post-Cinema: Theorizing 21st-Century Film. Falmer: REFRAME Books, 2016.
Dulac, Nicolas, and André Gaudreault. “Circularity and Repetition at the Heart of the Attraction: Optical Toys and the Emergence of a New Cultural Series.” In The Cinema of Attractions Reloaded, edited by Wanda Strauven. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2006.
Gunning, Tom. “The Cinema of Attraction[s]: Early Film, Its Spectator and the Avant-Garde.” In The Cinema of Attractions Reloaded, edited by Wanda Strauven. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2006.
Manovich, Lev. “What Is Digital Cinema?” In Post-Cinema: Theorizing 21st-Century Film, edited by Shane Denson and Julia Leyda. Falmer: REFRAME Books, 2016.
Meyer, Ruth. “Early/Post-Cinema: The Short Form, 1900/2000.” In Post-Cinema: Theorizing 21st-Century Film, edited by Shane Denson and Julia Leyda. Falmer: REFRAME Books, 2016.
[Image by Dryden Goodwin]
Ecstatic Truth IV. Truth of Matter: process and perception in expanded animation practice – CALL FOR PAPERS
Come and take part
6-8pm Thursday 17th January 2019
Cello Factory, 33-34 Cornwall Road, Waterloo, London SE1 8TJ
New performance as part of the opening of In the Dark, an experimental show by the London Group, the Computer Arts Society and the Lumen prize
dotdot dash is a participatory light action with laser pointers and voice directed by Birgitta Hosea. The performance is orchestrated around a chance-based score made through walking with paint-covered feet over musical paper. Coming together in a choral collaboration, participants are directed to explore the colours and mark making possibilities made by drawing with laser pointers and to accompany this with the sounds of their own voices. The effect is a live audio visual performance of animated lines in red, green and purple reminiscent of a scratched-on film, abstract animation such as those made by Len Lye.
Although many other artists such as Pika Pika and even Picasso have done light painting before, this is not the same. It is not a set up to be recorded on a slow exposure for a photograph, but a live animation of lights and sound that is created communally and experienced in the present moment.
dotdot dash was originally commissioned in 2018 for the Night Walking North Kent festival by InspiralLondon, a collaborative artists’ project led by Charlie Fox of Counterproductions. The project is based on a 300-mile walking trail around London in the shape of a spiral created by Charlie Fox and divided into 36 sections.
Determining a route by chance through this drawing of a line means that the walk cuts through many unpredictable parts of London. dotdot dash was created to be experienced by walkers as part of a series of site specific artworks at the end of the trail in Gravesend. My intention was to create a work of animation that could be made collectively by the participants on the walk; that was mobile and would not involve carrying any heavy equipment.
Additionally, following discussions with the InspiralLondon group about privilege and who is able to walk around freely in the dark at night, dotdot dash is a collective action to reclaim the night through light and noise for people who may not normally feel safe to walk at night in the city.
The route involved going through light industrial areas that are desolate and deserted at night, walking through a caged walk way over a sheer drop to a chalk pit, through bushes and undergrowth, past burnt out motor bikes, across another caged walkway over a railway line and then to a tunnel through a disused chalk pit near Ebbsfleet International station. Everyone on the walk was given two laser pens and with around 30 people present together we created a live performance of animation. With the help of brass megaphone, I gave instructions as to what colors and types of marks they should make. With the excellent acoustics provided by the tunnel, I encouraged people to sing along with the instructions too.
The work was repeated in a tunnel on the Regents Canal at Kings Cross, London for another InspiralLondon night walk for the London as Park City Festival, Friday 20th July 2018. A different group of walkers participated in the work. The addition of the water going through the tunnel added an extra element of bounced light and reflection to the mark making possibilities.
Chance-based score made by walking, Birgitta Hosea, 2018
The same score interpreted by participants with lasers!
Paper Submission Deadline: January 7 2019
The overall goal of this event is to identify the opportunities and challenges for animated content in AVR environments.
Topics of interest include (but are not limited to):
- Animated reality vs. mixed reality content
- Animation techniques in AVR environments
- Hardware/Software support for animation in AVR
- Interdisciplinary and intermedia approaches (e.g. games, film, theatre, fine arts etc.)
- Motion and/or performance capture
- Tools/methods/use cases for Interactive dissemination of animated AVR content
- Use Cases and Applications of animated content in AVR environments
- User Acceptance of animated AVR contents
For more information go to: https://anivae.fhstp.ac.at/call-for-papers/
Call for papers: Experimental & Expanded Animation: Current Perspectives & New Directions
Proposals are invited for an interdisciplinary one-day conference with an evening reception, screening and exhibition.
At the University for the Creative Arts, Farnham, Surrey, UK.
Conference date: February 13th, 2019.
With their recent volume: Experimental and Expanded Animation: Current Perspectives & New Directions, Hamlyn and Smith aimed to reach further into understandings of what experimental animation is, and has been, since Robert Russett and Cecile Starr defined it in 1976. This conference aims to further focus our project and to develop findings from the publication through more immediate methods of open dialogue and/or film practice. The prompts listed below have been condensed from themes emerging in the volume. However we welcome proposals that respond to these areas and also those that pursue other lines of enquiry. A range of disciplinary approaches is encouraged and the conference aims to include papers from practitioners, practitioner/scholars and scholars. As well as traditional 20 min papers we encourage alternative methods for sharing ideas and materials through, for example, performed presentations, artistic works, mini-workshops and lightning talks.
Transparency of process and use of materials has been central to experimental/ materialist film practice and theory. To what extent has the homogenization of media today prompted a rise in more recent craft theory? How do Marxist materialist theories relate to post-human and new materialist discourse and in which ways do these more recent methodologies impact upon our understandings of experimental expanded animation?
Feminism/women in experimental animation
It’s understood that the privacy of animation production conditions facilitates exploration into issues relating to feminism. Female animators today are translating concerns, such as the domestic, sexuality and the body, into large scale, expanded and performed animation. Does such work, installed in spaces beyond the gallery/cinema, and in which the female animator is visible on stage, impact upon expression of the female experience, or has this become less crucial to articulate, and how does feminist theory offer insights into this area?
Critically reworked commercial animation is occurring today within the purview of experimental film. Outwardly appearing as traditional cartoons, how does this material sit within a field that has tended to emphasise the auteur and has avoided the graphic, the narrative and the popular?
Increasingly we see interdisciplinary approaches employed to analyse animation, including for example post-humanist scholarship; aesthetics; phenomenology; feminism and critical theory. To what extent do these methods cast light on animated texts, or do they detract from fundamental questions concerning form and the medium?
Media including photography, dance, and performance for example have been central to animation since vaudeville, and then through the expanded cinema of the 60s. How is experimental animation advanced through media ‘impurity’, and to what extent are theories such as inter-mediality, which suggests that individual qualities of distinct media are enhanced through their interlocking, of value?
Animation that is articulated beyond the single screen could be said to emphasise a perceptual and phenomenological engagement. Flicker for example, is located in the physiology of the viewer, while animated installation demands a mobile spectator. Both modes of spectatorship are contingent and situated in the present of their apprehension. How is animation in the expanded field continuing to elicit new modes of spectatorship?
3D-CG and internet animation has the capacity to invent and manipulate the extant world in myriad ways. How is CG being used in the context of experimental expanded animated film?
Gene Youngblood hailed expanded cinema as reflecting a utopian expansion of both consciousness and technology. Today much experimental expanded animation, made through contracted means of found or old materials, can be regarded as a response to resources made scarce through either forced obsolescence, unsustainable practice and/or as a creative resistance to media acceleration. How does the trend toward a careful ecology of materials impact on experimental animation languages?
Please submit an abstract (up to 500 words), 3–5 bibliographical sources, 3-5 keywords as well as a short bio by 15th of November 2018 to:
with the subject heading: ‘Experimental Animation Conference’. The selected abstracts for the conference will be announced by late November 2018.
Exhibition by Birgitta Hosea at Hanmi Gallery Seoul
608-12 Sinsadong Gangnamgu, Seoul, South Korea
Private View: Thursday 30th August 2018
Artist’s Talk: 6 – 6.30 pm
Performance: 6.30 – 7 pm
Reception: 7 – 8 pm
Erasure brings together a body of work from the last three years that addresses the erasure of women’s voices in society and visualises the invisibility of labour. The exhibition is named after my short film in which dirt, ink, bleach and other cleaning products are animated. It includes sequential drawings, performance and animated installation. Here are some of the plans that I have done in Sketchup.
Information in Korean on Art & Tok
I have many people to thank – Heashin Kwak and Soo Yeon Kim from Hanmi Gallery have done so much to make this happen; Sandra Nutmeg, Anne Pietsch and Maryclare Foa have given me so much support; very grateful to Calum F. Kerr for allowing me to share his studio; thanks to Lilly Husbands for writing the catalogue essay; a number of curators included pieces from this series in group shows or screenings which allowed me to develop the ideas further – Vanya Balogh, Tianran Duan, Rebecca Feiner, Lu Tingting, Gerben Schermer, Zhang Xiaotao; I was also supported by going on a number of residencies that enabled me space to progress at a time when I had no studio thanks to Susan Allen, Regine Bartsch, Rose Bond and Rekha Sameer; and finally I am so thankful to my employer, the University for the Creative Arts, for supporting the exhibition catalogue and my trip to Korea.
Some images from the show:
A video overview of the final exhibition filmed by Soo Yeon Kim: