Ecstatic Truth V: The Age of the Absurd

[Image: George Grosz, ‘The Voice of the People is the Voice of God from The Face of the Ruling Class’ (1920)]

Well it has certainly been one crazy year! We planned this symposium to happen in April 2020, but it had to be postponed because of the pandemic. Despite many obstacles, we have decided to go ahead with a series of 3 webinars on Tues 15th – Weds 16th December 2020 in conjunction with our partners Under_the_Radar festival Vienna and the University of the Applied Arts Vienna.

Ecstatic Truth V: The Age of the Absurd

Ecstatic Truth is an annual symposium that explores issues arising from the interface between animation (in all its forms) and documentary (conceptualised very broadly as non-fiction), with a particular interest in the questions raised by experimental and practitioner perspectives. According to Werner Herzog, mere facts constitute an accountant’s reality, but it is the ecstatic truth (a poetic reality) that can capture more faithfully the nuances and depths of human experiences. Given that animation (or manipulated moving image in all of its expanded forms) has the freedom to represent, stylize or reimagine the world, it lends itself well to this aspirational form of documentary filmmaking.

For this, our 5th symposium, held in collaboration with the Under_the_Radar Festival, Vienna, our theme is the Absurd. George Monbiot has described our contemporary age of increasing social and economic inequality, mass extinction and impending climate breakdown as deliberate disaster capitalism in which the ultra-rich benefit as institutions, systems of taxation and democratic processes implode. Everywhere the killer clowns and kleptocrats are taking over, he argues, with ludicrous strongmen dominating nations that would once have laughed them off stage. Absurdity is what they seek in order to take advantage. Chaos becomes the profit multiplier for the disaster capitalism on which they thrive. Every rupture is used to seize more of the assets on which our lives depend.[1]

So how can we imaginatively and creatively respond to these killer clowns and the absurdity of a world being run to continuously make profit regardless of its sustainability? What is there to stand for if the world is perceived as meaningless and how to fight this complacency ? Can we use animation for activism, to re-animate our conscience?  How can we creatively challenge all this doom and gloom, and use our creative practice to navigate and challenge the absurd of our everyday lives? What is the role of humour, surrealism, the historic strategies of the Absurd and Central European Existentialism? Why does animation matter?

[1] George Monbiot, ‘From Trump to Johnson, nationalists are the rise – backed by billionaire oligarchs’, The. Guardian, 26/07/19


For more details about the speakers and to get links for the different Webinars: All of the events are free to attend.

DAY 1 Tues 15th December

Webinar 1: The Many Forms of Censorship 
19.00 – 20.30 [Central European time]

  • Andrijana Ruzic: Recurring Elements of Absurd in Several Films of Zagreb School of Animation (1958-1969)
  • Gabriella Jutz: Animating Truth(s): Surveillance, Censorship and Journalistic Ethics
  • Susan Young: Who is, or Was, Ms A

Presentations followed by discussion and Q&A hosted by Birgitta Hosea

DAY2 Weds 16th December

Webinar 2: Subversion and Resistance: Defying Oppressive Structures
10.30 – 12.00 [Central European time]

  • Chunning Guo: Rethinking Injustice in the Age of Absurd: Re-Constructing Prisons as Narrative Spaces through Animated Memories
  • Max Hattler: Abstract Animated Documentary? Moving-Image Abstraction and Meaning-Making in Hong Kong’s Age of the Absurd.
  • Zeynep Akcay: Dance, drawing and repetition: an absurd manifesto about female body

Presentations followed by discussion and Q&A hosted by Birgitta Hosea

Webinar 3: Hidden Force: Celebrating the Invisible Labours
19.00 – 20.30 [Central European time]

  • Orla McHardy: x‘C: Maintenance Animation is a drag: it takes all the fucking time’ 
  • Sally Pearce: Shades of Invisibility. A case study in animation activism.
  • Oliver Gingrich / Sara Choudhrey: AYAH – Sign: Collaborative Digital Art with the Grenfell Communities

Presentations followed by discussion and Q&A hosted by Tereza Stehlikova.

Ecstatic Truth is organised by: Birgitta Hosea, Animation Research Centre, UCA Farnham, UK; Pedro Serrazina, Universidade Lusófona, Lisbon, Portugal; Tereza Stehlikova, CREAM, University of Westminster, UK

With thanks to Under_the_Radar: Barnaby Dicker, Martina Tritthart, Holger Lang

Cartoon Animation: Satire and Subversion – presentations online!

All presentations from this one-day symposium that drew upon the legacy of acclaimed animator, Bob Godfrey, to examine the politics of comedy in cartoon animation are now online and publicly available to view free of charge!

Links below

We were also thrilled with this review of the day’s events by Dr Christopher Holliday for the Fantasy Animation blog

Opening Remarks: Tom Lowe / Dr Birgitta Hosea

Keynote 1: Dr Sharon Lockyer, Brunel University London, ‘Contextualizing Comedy Studies’

Panel 1: Performing Satire (whole panel chaired by Professor Paul Ward includes the presentations by Dr Maggie Gray, Pierre Floquet and Kate Jessop plus Q&A)

Dr Maggie Gray, Kingston School of Art, ‘Cartooning and Performance: Cartoon Style Alternative Theatre’

Kate Jessop, University of Brighton, ‘The Politics of Comedy: How has adult animation used satire as a vehicle for feminist cultural commentary’

Pierre Floquet, Bordeaux INP, France, ‘Tex Avery as the Noah Webster of Cartoon’

Panel 2. Absurdity and the Destabilisation of Authority (whole panel chaired by Jim Walker includes presentations by Professor Fran Lloyd, Sarah Tehan and David Wischer plus Q&A)

Sarah Tehan, Belfast School of Art, Ulster University, ‘Captain Phineas May. War Cartoons 1940-1946′

Prof. Fran Lloyd, Kingston School of Art, ‘Humour and the Subversion of Authority. The Animated Internment Drawings of Peter Sachs’

David Wischer, University of Kentucky, USA, ‘Prints in Motion: Amplified Absurdity’

Keynote 2: Steve Bell, The Guardian

Panel 3. Politics and Propaganda from Print to Pixel (whole panel chaired by Dr Birgitta Hosea includes presentations by Professor Paul ward and Dr José L. Valhondo-Crego plus Q&A)

Professor Paul Ward, Arts University Bournemouth, ‘Satire and Subversion in the work of Han Hoogerbrugge’

Dr José L. Valhondo-Crego, Universidad de Extremadura, Spain, ‘Subverting the myths of Francoism in the Spanish satirical press’

Closing Panel

Thanks to the University for the Creative Arts for supporting this event

Animation Research Centre:

Synaesthetic Syntax ‘Watch Party’ at IKLEKTIK London

[All of the events from this year’s Expanded Animation strand at Ars Electronica are now available to view online on their You Tube Channel.]

Come together on Sun 13th Sept for a Synaesthetic Syntax ‘Watch Party’ at IKLEKTIK London. At this socially distanced event, a small group of attendees can watch the online symposium from the final day of the Expanded Animation events for Ars Electronica on a big screen together. The presentations explore the interrelationships between audio and animation, between sound and vision. It is hosted by co-organiser Birgitta Hosea of the Animation Research Centre and a few of the UK speakers will be in attendance. This event is supported by the University for the Creative Arts. For more information and to book a free place, go to:

Synaesthetic Syntax: Sounding Animation / Visualising Audio is a one-day symposium that brings together animators, musicians, artists, technologists and academics to discuss the interrelationships between audio and animation. Papers cover topics such as synaesthetic connections between sound and image, the role of gesture, improvisation and presence in live performance and the creative use of geometric and algorithmic patterns.

Our Keynote speaker is media artist, Rose Bond, who produces work at the juncture of cinema, animation and experiential design. She will be presenting her latest animated collaboration with the Oregon Symphony Orchestra on a live performance of Luciano Berio’s Sinfonia.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ars Electronica festival is mainly taking place online this year with a number of small events taking place at different associated venues around the world. The Expanded Animation strand will have a series of small, socially distanced Watch Parties in Linz, London and Portland.

Synaesthetic Syntax Symposium Schedule:

 10:15–10:45    Keynote: Rose Bond (CA/US), Sounding Together – Choreographing the Unpredictable

11:00–11:05    Welcome: Birgitta Hosea (UK), Juergen Hagler (AT), Harry Whalley (UK)

 11:05–12:40    Panel I: Hearing Colour Seeing Sound
11:05–11:10    Introduction: Birgitta Hosea (UK)
11:10–11:30    Vicky Smith (UK), Expanded Cinema and Para Animation: More than Audio and Visual
11:30–11:50    Alexander Stublic (DE), Presence and interaction in synaesthetic space
11:50–12:10    Sama Mara (UK), A Hidden Order – Revealing connections between geometry and music through harmony and mathematics
12:10–12:40    Panel Discussion (Chaired by Birgitta Hosea)

12:40–14:00    Break            

14:00–15:30    Panel II: In front of your eyes and ears
14:00–14:05    Introduction: Harry Whalley (UK)
14:05–14:25    Giusy Caruso, Bavo Van Kerrebroeck, Pieter Jan Maes (BE), PIANO PHASE for two pianists in VR
14:25–14:45    Umut Eldem (BE), Towards a “Live Synaesthetic Visualisation”? Considerations in Artistically Visualised Sound
14:45–15:05    Jānis Garančs (LV), Algorithmic conflation and re-configuration of audiovisual space and movement in the series of experiments with financial data audio-visualisations as immersive artworks.
15:05–15:30    Panel Discussion (Chaired by Harry Whalley)

15:30–16:00    Break            

16:00–17:30    Panel III: The Kinaesthetics of Music and Vision
16:00–16:05    Introduction: Juergen Hagler (AT)
16:05–16:25    João Pedro Oliveira (US), Gesture Interaction Between Sound and Image
16:25–16:45    Fred Collopy (US), A hypothesis-based approach to visual synthesizer design
16:45–17:05    Eric Dyer (US) Physical Presence and Material Desire: Eric Dyer’s sculptural and performative animation art practice
17:05–17:30    Panel Discussion (Chaired by Juergen Hagler)

17.30-18.00    Closing Note: Rose Bond (CA/US), Birgitta Hosea (UK), Juergen Hagler (AT),

Further information: 

Expanded Animation events at Ars Electronica:

Animation Research Centre at UCA:

Audio Research Cluster at UCA:

Research Degrees at UCA:



Cartoon Animation: Satire and Subversion Full Programme

[Keynote speaker Steve Bell ©Steve Bell/The Guardian, 13/2/2020]

Delighted to announce that we will be live streaming this event at:
Please note that the link will not be live until Monday morning.

Schedule for the day:

9.30-10.00 Registration/Coffee

10.00-10.05 Opening Remarks Tom Lowe / Dr Birgitta Hosea

10.05-10.50 Keynote 1 Dr Sharon Lockyer (Brunel University London)

10.50-12.00 Panel 1: Performing satire

Dr Maggie Gray( Kingston School of Art), Pierre Floquet (Bordeaux INP, France), Kate Jessop (University of Brighton)

12.00-12.20 Coffee Break

12.20-13.30 Panel 2: Absurdity and the destabilisation of authority 

Prof. Fran Lloyd (Kingston School of Art), Sarah Tehan (Belfast School of Art, Ulster University) David Wischer (University of Kentucky, USA)

13.30-14.30 Lunch Break

14.30-15.30 Keynote 2 Steve Bell 

15.30-16.00 Coffee Break

16.00-17.10 Panel 3: Politics and propaganda from print to the pixel

Dr. Driss Faddouli (Chouaib Doukkali University, El Jadida, Morocco) Prof. Paul Ward (Arts University Bournemouth) Dr. José L. Valhondo-Creg (Universidad de Extremadura, Spain)

17.10-17.40     Closing discussion with all panellists

17.40-18.00     Curator introduction to exhibition Jim Walker (UCA)

18.00-20.00    Bob Godfrey: A Collaborative Act Exhibition opens with drinks in James Hockey Gallery


Presenter Details and Abstracts

croppedSharon Lockyer Social and Political Sciences 1

Keynote 1: Dr Sharon Lockyer

Sharon Lockyer is a Reader in Sociology and Communications and the founding director of the Centre for Comedy Studies Research (CCSR) at Brunel University London, UK. Her research interests include critical comedy studies, identity politics and comic media representations and the sociology of popular culture, and she is widely published in these areas in books, journal articles and blogs. Recent work in these areas has been published in Feminist Media StudiesInternational Journal of CommunicationDisability & Society and The Journal of Popular Television. She is the founding co-editor of the Palgrave Studies in Comedy book series and was executive board member-at-large for the International Society for Humor Studies (ISHS) from 2016-2019.

Dr Maggie Gray, ‘Cartooning and Performance: ‘Cartoon Style’ Alternative Theatre’

Experimental alternative theatre groups of the 1970s and 80s developed a form of performance that came to be known as ‘cartoon theatre’. This meant not only drawing on cartoon characters, conventions and imagery, but developing a distinctive ‘cartoon style’ mode of presentation – a stripped-down, fast-paced, surreal and stylised approach to narrative, abbreviated characterisation, and emphasis on breaks and movement between action. As an approach this was seen to match wider political aims to create rebellious, dynamic, anti-naturalist forms of theatre that could radically deconstruct and transform the world. In connection with the way alternative theatre drew on traditions of popular performance like music hall, cartooning was also seen as a carnivalesque visual mode appropriate to the non-traditional performance spaces like the street, pub, club, trade union hall, arts lab, picket line and community centre in which these groups performed, and attuned to the working class, countercultural and marginalised audiences they wanted to engage.

This paper will explore how and why these theatre collectives appropriated cartooning for the purposes of artistic and political subversion and what this suggests about the politics and aesthetics of cartooning. Drawing on archival research, it focuses on the work of C.A.S.T. (Cartoon Archetypical Slogan Theatre), a working-class socialist theatre ‘gang’ who pioneered this kind of performance. C.A.S.T. produced a series of short, improvised plays centred on iterations of an ‘Arch-typical’ Muggins character, and developed an anarchic, condensed, quick-fire and highly physical style of production. Described as ‘presentationalism’, this was designed to grab the attention of audiences in the way pop cultural forms like rock’n’roll, and comic books did, and to hold a subversive satirical mirror to social reality that attested to the possibilities of its radical alteration.

Bio: Maggie Gray lectures in Critical and Historical Studies at Kingston University, UK. Her research has focused on the history of British comics, in particular, the work of Alan Moore. Her book, Alan Moore, Out from the Underground: Cartooning, Performance and Dissent, which looked at Moore’s early work as a cartoonist in relation to his wider practice as a musician, poet, playwright and illustrator, was published by Palgrave in 2017. She is particularly interested in the performative aspects of comics, and the politics of performance thereby invoked. She is currently researching the intersections of the alternative theatre and alternative comics movements in the UK (1968-1990).

Pierre Floquet ‘Tex Avery as the Noah Webster of Cartoons’

A selection of iconic and more remote characters, of various cultural and moral issues are looked upon as as many telling examples of what Avery brought forward and played with over his twenty years or so of creation, as he developed his own style both in storytelling and aesthetics.

This analysis is both centripetal and centrifugal. What inspired him? The chronology of his cartoons both claims a very strong bound with US culture at large, and reflects the evolution of the latter. Meanwhile, as in a give-and-take momentum, Avery would interact with contemporary animators (Disney, the Fleischers, UPA artists), and with fellow artists from Hollywood studios. As a result Avery would participate in an informal creative pool, beyond and within his own team of animators, he would inspire with his own vision of the craft (C Jones, B Clampett, UPA, among others).

Consequently, Avery triggered out some original artistic standards in animation, which still prevail today. This was made possible as his films can hardly ever be considered as “one-offs”; beyond themes and characters, they follow a fairly strict set of recurrent codes of narration and representation. Avery simultaneously suggests cultural and moral subversion, and yet celebrates and abides by mainstream Hollywood / US social expectations (the issue of satire is to be discussed). As it is, one may speak of a cinematic comic language. Actually, in the long run, spectators are able to watch and spot / read and decrypt a given situation with its corresponding sound-effects, its iconographic denotation, its narrative offset. From there on Avery establishes a privileged pragmatic relation with them, and then plays with their expectations, either satisfying or – comically – frustrating them before he may carry them away into one further gag.

Bio: Pierre Floquet teaches English, and is associate professor at Bordeaux INP. He wrote on linguistics applied to animation film, organized Avery retrospectives and conferences, and was a juror at animation festivals in France and abroad. He has extended his focus to live action, participating in French and international books and journals. He edited CinémAnimationS (2007), and published Le Langage comique de Tex Avery (2009). His recent works and articles deal with film aesthetics, movement in animation film, the interactions between content and form in animation film.

Kate Jessop ‘The politics of comedy – how has adult animation used satire as a vehicle for feminist cultural commentary?’

The recent #TimesUp and #MeToo movements have brought notions of inequality and sexual harassment to the forefront of cultural discussion. Because animation is such an engaging and accessible medium it can render itself to be a valuable tool for addressing both challenging and abstract topics, often through the genre of documentary but also through satirical comedy. Contemporary adult animation series’ such as Tuca and Bertie and Bojack Horseman have been at the forefront of examining both the female perspective and societies treatment of women through use of satirical humour.

I will examine how adult animation has documented and presented these often complex female experiences. How successful or authentic can animation be in highlighting what has traditionally been feminist issues. And how is that a political act within itself?

Bio: Kate Jessop is a multi award-winning animation filmmaker whose work spans across narrative shorts, artists’ film and comedy. She represented the UK in the Best of Women in Film and TV, was a Virgin Media Shorts Finalist and a Berlinale Talents 2019 participant both as director & with her comedy series Tales From Pussy Willow in the Project Lab. She has exhibited extensively internationally, undertaking artist residencies in Berlin, Istanbul and Reykjavik. She is a Senior Lecturer in Animation & has taught in China. Her paper on Animation as Activism has been presented at Goldsmiths College & Queering Animation the first ever conference on Queer Animation.

Prof. Fran Lloyd ‘Humour and the Subversion of  Authority: The Animated Internment Drawings of Peter Sachs’

In interview for BBC 4’s ‘Animation Nation’ broadcast in April 2005, Bob Godfrey refers to the ‘enthusiasms’ of the Weimar-trained Berlin animator Peter Sachs (1912-1990) who led the Larkins Studio in London where Godfrey trained in the early 1950s alongside Keith Learner before setting up Biographic Cartoons Ltd. in 1955.

The son of a Jewish architect father and Lutheran mother, Sachs had worked with Berlin’s most highly-regarded experimental film animators: the Hungarian-born George Pal (born György Pál Marczincsak, 1908–1980) and the German artist and filmmaker Oskar W. Fischinger (1900–1967) in the early 1930s, experimenting with hand drawn cartoon animation and innovative stop-motion techniques. With the rise of Hitler, Sachs first fled to Eindhoven in Holland in 1934 where he worked on the famous animated advertisements produced by Pal’s studio for Philips Radio and Horlicks. After the invasion of Holland in May 1939, at the height of the refugee crisis, Sachs eventually secured a permit to enter Britain in June 1939 to work as a domestic servant, aged 27.

This paper focuses on Sachs’ hitherto overlooked contributions to the ‘The Onchan Pioneer’ camp magazine during his internment as a German speaking ‘enemy alien’ on the Isle of Man from 1940 to 1941.  Within the restrictive space of internment, with limited material resources, Sachs produced a series of wordless vignette drawings for the weekly magazine where he used his skills as an animator and graphic designer to induce laughter among fellow internees and to subvert the camp’s authority. The black and white drawing panels, based on the everyday activities of the internment camp – the laundry, growing crops and raising farm animals – employ an economy of line that capture the sonic aspects of the camp and simultaneously humorously undermine such commands as ‘Get Ready for the Inspection’. Unable to produce film animations in the camp, Sachs’ drawings directly reference animation devices while pointing to the absurdities of camp life and were to have a profound influence on fellow German internee Kurt Weiler who later trained with Sachs before returning to the GDR in 1956.

Bio: Fran Lloyd is Professor of Art History and Co-Director of Kingston University’s Visual and Material Culture Research Centre. She has published widely on émigré artists/collectors in Britain, including the Latvian-born sculptor Dora Gordine and the American collector Stanley Picker. Recent essays on German-speaking refugee artists and their networks include: “Making Animation Matter: Peter Sachs Comes to Britain’ (2019); “Becoming Artists: Ernst Eisenmayer, Kurt Weiler and Refugee Support Networks in wartime Oxford” (2015) and “Kurt Schwitters: Responses to Place” (2013).  She has also curated exhibitions on Kurt Schwitters at The Sayle Gallery on the Isle of Man to mark the 65th anniversary of his death and to commemorate his internment on the island (2013) and Art beyond exile: the first retrospective in the UK of Viennese-born artist Ernst Eisenmayer (2012). 

Sarah Tehan ‘Captain Phineas May – War Cartoons 1940-1946’ ‘Prints in Motion’

The Cartoon within the Second World War was a vital element in the fight for the hearts and minds of the people. It was also used by combatants to send stories home of life at the front. Phineas May, like many, spent his war years’ miles away from family in a new and distant land. The main means of communication to home was the airgraph letter. For Phineas this was an opportunity to amuse his wife Vivienne with Cartoons, depicting life in the Garrison. The Cartoons presented an often satirical examination of life within the army. Serving in the Pioneers Corps in Egypt with African Garrison Companies, several of Phineas’ cartoons depict British African Soldiers during a time of change within the Empire. The Cartoons depict cultural differences between the British Officers and their African Soldiers, as well as the Arab Locals.

This presentation, will discuss the works of Phineas May and the representation of the African Soldiers serving in the British Army. May’s work used racial stereotypes and language to promote humour. Elements of the work seen through the contemporary lens would be considered offensive. Could the work still be seen as a moment of discovery, of different cultures for combatants during that period; whose experience of other cultures would be little to non existent? May’s work taken as a whole, shows both affection for the African Soldiers and amusement in their lack of understanding of British ways. The work presents questions of British humour in the face of war, representation of the colonised and stereotyping within Cartoons.

Bio: Sarah Tehan is a visual artist and researcher based in Belfast. Tehan is a PhD Researcher at Belfast School of Art, Ulster University and an Associate Lecturer at the University for the Creative Arts, Farnham. Her research is focused on the representation of conflict and the archive. Sarah holds an MA from the University of Westminster.

David Wischer ‘Prints in Motion’

The absurdity of the world that we live in can be rejected or it can be embraced. Many aspects of popular culture and media have embraced the absurd and amplified it, creating nonsense while commenting on the current state of confusion where we all reside. My work as a printmaker and animation artist focuses on my idea of amplified absurdity. This paper will begin with the definition of absurdity and will discuss absurdism as a theme in existentialist philosophy, as well as the humorous exaggeration of absurdity. This paper will then examine how certain paradoxes or contradictions can create nonsense that is rooted in reality. The first paradox or contradiction involves the difference between being connected and disconnected. Much like images posted on social media networking sites and blogs, visual art can connect to specific groups of people, however, creating private humor may alienate or disconnect some others. The second paradox discussed is the visual merging of serious situations with humorous imagery. There is a substantial body of work in art and media that is created with parody, satire, irony, and caricature. And the third paradox is the fusion of digital reality with analog reality. The world has become more digital and less human, and the merging or fusion of these worlds is an important part of my visual work, both conceptually and through the processes I choose. I will examine notions of absurdity and nonsense in the works of related artists. Several series of my works in silkscreen printmaking and stop-motion animation will be discussed. This paper will conclude by explaining the tactical use of these paradoxes in my own visual art and the effect of amplified absurdity on the artist and the art viewer.

Bio: David Wischer was born in Henderson, Kentucky. He received his B.F.A. in Graphic Design from Northern Kentucky University and his M.F.A. in Fine Art from Purdue University. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Digital and Print Media at University of Kentucky. His work has recently been exhibited at the Center for Book Arts in New York, the Four Rivers Print Biennial at Southern Illinois University, International Print Center New York, and AIRD Gallery in Toronto, Canada.

Wischer’s work is heavily influenced by his personal observations of The Absurd. The internet, social media, and celebrity are a current source of that inspiration. David uses printmaking, animation, and drawing as a vehicle for the mixing and matching of incongruous images. Because these images are a fusion of personal and appropriated imagery, viewers may understand part of the work and be confused by others. This public and private information mirrors our own encounter with images in popular culture and mass media that we see every day. 

[Keynote speaker Steve Bell ©Steve Bell/The Guardian, 06/2/2020]

Keynote 2: Steve Bell

Steve Bell is an award-winning cartoonist for the Guardian since 1981 and has also produced cartoons for Private Eye, New Statesman and many other popular publications. Graduated in Fine Art from Leeds University in 1974, he taught art before becoming a freelance cartoonist.

With Bob Godfrey he made a number of animated cartoons for TV, including a cartoon biography, Margaret Thatcher — Where Am I Now? broadcast on Channel 4. He has had thirty books published, including a cartoon autobiography of George Bush called Apes of Wrath, numerous anthologies of the If strip If Marches On and, more recently a Tony Blair self-help guide titled My Vision For a New You, published by Methuen. A collection of the past four years If strips and other cartoons, Corbyn – the Resurrection was published by Guardian Faber books in Autumn 2018.

His work has been published all over the world and he has won numerous awards, including the What the Papers Say Cartoonist of the Year in 1993, the XXI Premio Satira Politica (Grafica estera) Forte Dei Marmi, Italy 1993, the Political Cartoon Society Cartoon of the Year Award in 2001 and 2008 and Cartoonist of the Year in 2005 and 2007, the British Press Awards Cartoonist of the Year in 2002, the Cartoon Arts Trust Award eight times, the Channel 4 Political Humour Award in 2005 and the Political Studies Association Best Political Satire Award in 2005. He has also received honorary degrees from the Universities of Sussex, Teesside, Loughborough, Leeds and Brighton.

His cartoon website is

Dr Driss Faddouli ‘Moroccan Facebookers and the Visual Rhetoric of Political Negation’

My presentation will attempt to unravel the underlying dialectics of subversion that gives rise to a counter-hegemonic political consciousness in the Moroccan Facebookers’ visual narratives (notably comics) about Moroccan politics. It will argue that these comics construct and articulate a rhetorically counter-hegemonic discourse of political negation through generating ideographs that, in turn, animate a variety of antagonisms dismantling the state’s discourse (the public transcript). I will base my analysis on the assumption that the emergence of a political counter-hegemony basically translates an actual change in reality wherein stronger changes in political discourse are constantly sustained and fostered. First, I will initiate my presentation with a short introduction on the dynamics of contemporary Moroccan networked public sphere and the daily practices of Moroccan Facebookers in relation to several socio-cultural controversies. Second, I will contextualize my talk in light of the politics and poetics of transgression as conceptualized by major thinkers. Third, I will offer some sample visual narratives pertinent to my talk along with an elaboration of these. Finally, I will sum up my talk by delineating some concluding thoughts and opening up horizons for future research.

Bio: Dr Driss Faddouli is a professor of English at Chouaib Doukkali University, El Jadida, Morocco. He obtained his Doctorate degree in 2018 from Ibn Tofail University, Kenitra, Morocco. His fields of interest include Visual Culture, Media Studies, Cultural Studies, and Literature. He has researched and published on contemporary socio-cultural dynamics of Moroccan society. His publications include Online Maghreb Arab Social Movements and Facebook: A Case Study of Morocco, Egypt, and Tunisia, Is Mohamed Choukri’s For Bread Alone a Picaresque Narrative and Moroccan Facebook Visual Narratives and Cultural Production.

Prof. Paul Ward ‘Satire and subversion in the work of Han Hoogerbrugge’

Hoogerbrugge’s works often hinge on subversive takes on real-world events and figures using bizarre animated imagery. For example, What’s Up Doc? (2013) offers a looped animated reinterpretation of the assassination of Colonel Gaddafi, featuring Bugs Bunny. Hoogerbrugge routinely plays with loops, gifs and animated repetitions to communicate his messages.

Based around repetitions and fissures – aspects where we might not be sure exactly ‘what is going on’ – these works have an intense but enigmatic power. In order to understand this, I refer to Lamarque and Olsen’s (1994) notion of ‘topical’ and ‘perennial’ themes in literature, alongside Robbins’ (1996) concept of the ‘rheterolect’. ‘Topical’ themes are very specific to an historical and cultural context and address their audiences in a narrow and focused way; ‘perennial’ themes, on the other hand, can be understood as resonating across different historical and cultural contexts.

Satire and the subverting of cultural, political or social ‘norms’ relies on an implicit understanding of the specificity of ‘topical’ themes – in short, we need to know who or what is being satirised in order for the satire to work. This raises questions for those who view satirical works outside of the historical or cultural contexts in which they were made. This is where Robbins’ concept is useful: the idea of ‘rhetorolects’ is that there are certain recognisable ‘rhetorical dialects’ that have evolved and hybridised – they are “a distinctive configuration of themes, topics, reasonings and argumentations” (1996: 356) – and satirical and subversive visual language is a key part of this, in the ways it takes, transforms and animates ‘topical’ material.

Lamarque, P. and Olsen, S. H. (1994) Truth, Fiction and Literature: A Philosophical Perspective. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Robbins, V. (1996) ‘The Dialectical Nature of Early Christian Discourse’, Scriptura 59, pp. 353-362.

Bio: Paul’s main research interests are in the fields of animation and documentary film and television, animation pedagogy, production cultures, communities of practice and film and media historiography.

Published work includes articles for the journals animation: an interdisciplinary journal, Animation Journal, and the Historical Journal for Film, Radio and Television, as well as numerous anthology essays. He was also the President of the Society for Animation Studies from 2010 to 2015 and the inaugural Fellow of the Holland Animated Film Festival (HAFF) in 2012. He was a Visiting Professor in the Design School at the Politecnico di Milano in November 2013. His work has been translated into German, Czech, Korean, Farsi and Japanese.

Paul Ward is Series Co-Editor (with Caroline Ruddell) for the book series Palgrave Animation.

Dr. José L. Valhondo-Crego ‘Subverting the myths of Francoism in the Spanish satirical press’

The Spanish humorous weekly El Jueves (Thursday), which first appeared in May 1977, just a month before the first elections of the transition has endured to the present day.     The aim of this text is to analyse the way in which El Jueves dealt with the exhuming of the remains of Franco, a recent event which took place on 24th October, 2019. Although those nostalgic for the Francoism are politically residual in Spain, a great deal of myths still pervades more than 40 years after the end of the dictatorship. It is what the political experts point out as the Sociological Francoism. These myths have gathered momentum in the public sphere with the rise of the new ultra-right populist party Vox. In popular culture, the catch phrase unfolded by the supporters of this party is that “Franco también hizo cosas buenas” (“Franco also did good things”). In this respect, this kind of arguments are operating as a way to whiten a corrupt and supremacist political regime in order to gain support for an extreme-right party. Trying to counteract these myths, El Jueves published a special section devoted to subvert the most common stereotypes about Francoism, such as that Franco established the Spanish Social Security or that corruption hardly ever existed under the regime.

Bio: José L. Valhondo-Crego works as a Lecturer at the Faculty of Documentation and Communication Sciences of the University of Extremadura. He received his Communication Ph.D. in the Rey Juan Carlos University (Madrid) in 2008. He also studied a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology in the University of Salamanca and further training a Master’s in Journalism in the University of the Basque Country. His line of research is related to Political Communication, Satire and Film Studies.


This conference was organised by the Animation Research Centre at UCA with support from UCA Internal Research Funding. We would like to thank Emma Reyes, Felicity Croyden, Leigh Garrett, Lesley Adams, Bradley McGinty, Amy Owen, Emma Cook, Lisa Chadwick, Tom Lowe, Claire Godfrey, Lorna McColl, Kris Bercsenyi and all the students who helped.

Animation Research Centre, UCA

Founded in 1998, the Animation Research Centre at the University for the Creative Arts, Farnham is a centre for innovation, doctoral study, debate and dialogue, interdisciplinary and practice-based research into animation in all its most expanded forms. Our current work ranges from archival research, conference organisation, exhibition curation and academic publication to investigations in immersive technology, block chain and movement capture.

For more information, contact <>

Free tickets available up until the last minute. Book here:

Animated GIF          Print

Call for Papers – Ecstatic Truth V: The Age of the Absurd

George Grosz - The Voice of the People is the Voice of God from The Face of the Ruling Class

Ecstatic Truth V: The Age of the Absurd
27-28th April 
2020 (in conjunction with Under_the_Radar, Vienna)

plus 29th  April – Under_the_Radar symposium, Vienna

Call for papers deadline: 16th February 2020

Ecstatic Truth is an annual symposium that explores issues arising from the interface between animation (in all its forms) and documentary (conceptualised very broadly as non-fiction), with a particular interest in the questions raised by experimental and practitioner perspectives. According to Werner Herzog, mere facts constitute an accountant’s reality, but it is the ecstatic truth (a poetic reality) that can capture more faithfully the nuances and depths of human experiences. Given that animation (or manipulated moving image in all of its expanded forms) has the freedom to represent, stylize or reimagine the world, it lends itself well to this aspirational form of documentary filmmaking.

For this, our 5th symposium, held in collaboration with the Under_the_Radar Festival, Vienna, our theme is the Absurd. George Monbiot has described our contemporary age of increasing social and economic inequality, mass extinction and impending climate breakdown as deliberate disaster capitalism in which the ultra-rich benefit as institutions, systems of taxation and democratic processes implode. Everywhere the killer clowns and kleptocrats are taking over, he argues, with ludicrous strongmen dominating nations that would once have laughed them off stage. Absurdity is what they seek in order to take advantage. Chaos becomes the profit multiplier for the disaster capitalism on which they thrive. Every rupture is used to seize more of the assets on which our lives depend.[1]

So how can we imaginatively and creatively respond to these killer clowns and the absurdity of a world being run to continuously make profit regardless of its sustainability? What is there to stand for if the world is perceived as meaningless and how to fight this complacency ? Can we use animation for activism, to re-animate our conscience?  How can we creatively challenge all this doom and gloom, and use our creative practice to navigate and challenge the absurd of our everyday lives? What is the role of humour, surrealism, the historic strategies of the Absurd and Central European Existentialism? Why does animation matter?

We invite speakers to respond to these ideas in order to reflect, speculate and imagine how the animated (or expanded manipulated image) form might elicit different facets of poetic truth through its unique language. We welcome proposals for 20-minute presentations, speculations, poetic reflections, rigorous questioning, even fierce creative opposition from both academic and practitioner-led perspectives. Selected papers will be published in a themed issue of the International Journal of Film and Media Arts.

The proposal should include an abstract of not more than 500 words and a short biography of no more than 200 words. Please send it to:

Further details of the Under_the_Radar Festival 2020 will be released in January.

Call for papers deadline: 16th February 2020

Ecstatic Truth is organised by: Birgitta Hosea, Animation Research Centre, UCA Farnham, UK; Pedro Serrazina, Universidade Lusófona, Lisbon, Portugal; Tereza Stehlikova, CREAM, University of Westminster, UK

With thanks to Under_the_Radar: Barnaby Dicker, Martina Tritthart, Holger Lang

[Image: George Grosz, ‘The Voice of the People is the Voice of God from The Face of the Ruling Class’ (1920)]

[1] George Monbiot, ‘From Trump to Johnson, nationalists are the rise – backed by billionaire oligarchs’, The. Guardian, 26/07/19

Illuminated Drawing at CONFIA

This year I am one of the keynote speakers at the 7th CONFIA conference on illustration and animation in Viana do Castelo in Portugal.

My presentation is about artists who make drawings in front of a live audience using projection technologies to illuminate their mark making process, work that complicates the boundaries between drawing, performance and animation. On my way to CONFIA very soon with Rose Bond. Excited and honoured to be doing a keynote. It includes historical contextualisation of Lightning Sketch artists (thanks to Malcolm Cook) and contemporary artists like Lisa Gornick, Harald Smykla, Bahman Panahi, Paul Sharits, Takahito Iiumura, Vicky Smith, Pierre Hébert, Kellie O’Dempsey and myself. Here is a link to the live stream video of the presentation from CONFIA’s Facebook page


CFP: Ecstatic Truth IV

Selected papers from this symposium  are published in the International Journal of Film and Media Arts, Feb 2020 issue:

[Image by Dryden Goodwin]

Ecstatic Truth IV. Truth of Matter: process and perception in expanded animation practice – CALL FOR PAPERS

Our 4th Ecstatic Truth symposium will be at the University of Westminster on Thurs 16th May, with Keynote speaker Dryden Goodwin.
We seek proposals for presentations that address the potential of animation, in its most expanded form, to make sense of our realities.
Selected papers will be eligible for publication in a dedicated issue of the peer reviewed International Journal of Film and Media Art.
More information:
Notes from Ecstatic Truth I-III:
Ecstatic Truth organising committee:
Dr. Tereza Stehlikova, University of Westminster
Dr Birgitta Hosea, Animation Research Centre, UCA
Dr. Pedro Serrazina, Universidade Lusófona

Call for Papers: Animation in Virtual and Augmented Environments

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:


CFP: Experimental and Expanded Animation

Lilly  Husbands wrote up a review of this conference here with lots of information about what was discussed:

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.


Craft/ materiality

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?

Industry/ independent

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?

Medium/ context

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? 

Representation/ technologies 

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?

Utopia/ ecology

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.


Ecstatic Truth III: Making Sense Between Fantasy and Fact, Lisbon, 2018

Disclaimer: This account represents my personal interpretation/memory of what was said by the various speakers at the symposium. It may contain mishearings or spelling mistakes!
Birgitta Hosea

10.00 Official introductions:

Professor Manuel José Damásio and Dr Paulo Viveiros (Universidade Lusófona) welcome everyone and introduce the Animation courses at Lusófona.
– Ecstatic Truth symposium organisers: Pedro Serrazina (Universidade Lusófona), Dr Tereza Stehlikova (University of Westminster), Dr Birgitta Hosea (University for the Creative Arts) give a brief account of the history of the symposium, the context of Werner Herzog’s statements about ecstatic truth and this year’s theme.

10.15 Keynote speaker: Susana de Sousa Dias (University of Lisbon)

Pedro introduces Susana by explaining that although she works with film, the processes that she uses of re-animating and manipulating archival footage are very close to animation.

Mugshots used in 48 (2009, Susana de Sousa Dias)

Susana’s work involves an archeology of knowledge. Through investigating archival footage, she seeks to uncover what really happened in Portugal during the years of dictatorship from 1926-74. But the archives are not a complete record. They represent documents created and collected by the authorities. Some actions by police like torture do not show up in the archives. So what is in there is the voice of the police, an archive of power, repression and censorship. Looking through the archives she doesn’t get the whole picture but is rather faced with a series of questions. What is an archive image, how to deal with what is absent? What is history, what are historical facts? What is documentary? What cinematic tools to use or invent? She is interested in how form shapes the content.

The history of cinema and photography goes hand in hand with a realistic paradigm, the notion that the photographic is proof of reality, is a form of evidence. This led to development of archives, news reels and a pact of belief with the viewer that is seen in the documentary. While cinema becomes an aesthetic system that focuses on narrative, documentary is predicated on this discourse that reality is visible and what is visible is, therefore, true. But is truth visible in these archives? She is not so concerned with superficial external images as uncovering memories and conflicting interpretations of those photographic image. In her film she interogates the archival footage through montage within the shot and decelerated movement. Her conception of history is influenced by Walter Benjamin – a fact of past is always a fact of memory.

NATUREZA MORTA (STILL LIFE), 2005, is one of her films that uses archive footage. Her initial idea was to tell a story about the dictatorship using images from the time, but the archival footage contained no oppositional voices. Looking at the images in depth on a Steenbeck, she held the material in her hands, could speed it up, slow it down, repeat. Within the images she found traces of disintegration of the messages that the regime wanted to portray. She is deanimating the image by stretching and altering the duration. Reframing the shots she is performing de-composition. She saw hundreds of hours of archive images, of which 12 minutes were chosen and expanded to last 72 minutes and, thus, she breaks the narrative threads intended in the historic footage, reinterprets it, questions the notion of one single truth. The process of decelerated movement opens up new interpretations.

In her next film 48 (2009), photographic mugshots taken by the authorities are used to tell stories of political prisoners of the Portuguese dictatorship. Although the people featured are from Portugal and its colonies, her intention is to raise issues more generally about authoritarian regimes. She interviewed survivors of torture who had been depicted in the photographs. Commenting on the historic photos of herself, one woman noticed details about her appearance, how much more dishevelled she was than normal and how she was tortured, those clothes she was wearing were used to clean the floor of excrement as part of the torturesL Each photograph is two dimensional. Simply shot with a white or black background. They have no movement. In the film voiceovers from the survivors give testimony about torture while the mugshots are shown in succession with no more than micro movements. The viewer finds themselves uncomfortably in the position of the photographer and the authorities, the perpetrators. She interviewed African political prisoners in Mozambique, but all the archive footage of them had been destroyed, so she used dark shots of landscape at night fading in and out to black, from surveillance footage with search lights taken by the Portuguese army during the colonial war to accompany these interviews. This footage is slowed down to 1% of the original.

[Photo by Pedro Serrazina]

In her approach to the archival material she works with, her intention is to create a space of thoughtfulness influenced by Ranciere’s notion of the pensive image, giving the viewer space to think. She works with discontinuities within continuity, mobility / immobility, reality/illusion. Her work raises two notions of temporal construction in moving image – cinema as reproduction of time or cinema as creation of time. These complex temporalities raise issues about history.

Q. Where did the sound come from in the first film shown?
A. No sound was recorded with the film, she used dialogue and, working with her brother, composed electro-acoustic music that is evocative and atmospheric

Q. Does she think of her work as a type of animation, manipulating the image?
A. She never thought of this before Pedro suggested this to her, but now, yes, this makes sense.

Q. When did she know to stop?
A. For her there is an articulation between the image and the word, she uses very long fade outs, she likes the after effect between images, the ghost that appears in the mind of the person.

Q. Did she use digital or optical methods?
A. She used digital.

Q. She has the idea she’s going deeper into an image, but as soon as the image slows down other ideas come in the mind of the viewer. Mainstream films nowadays are very fast and confusing, artists slowing down the image are changing the grammar: is that the same as going deeper? Artists films slowed down, shown as huge images in galleries.
A. She wanted to incorporate time to think for the viewer. She is not simply slowing down, but working with the continuity and sequencing, the vertical structure, the architecture of the film, issues of recognition and disrecognition, the structures of power

Q. With digital technology, can we now see more in the image? You can see more in the original film? Looking on a big screen you see details that are not in the original.
A. She says no, because she was able to work on an editing table looking at the original footage. At the moment she’s working with an album of scanned images.

BIO. Dr Susana Sousa Dias holds a PhD in Fine Arts/Video and an MPhil in Aesthetics and Art Philosophy. She studied Fine Arts-Painting, Cinema (National School of Theatre and Cinema) and Music (National Conservatory) in Portugal. She exhibited her works worlwide at film festivals, art exhibitions and venues such as Documenta 14 (2017), PhotoEspaña, Viennale, Sarajevo IFF, Visions du Réel, Pacific Film Archive, Harvard Film Archive, Arsenal Institut für Film- und Videokunst, Tabakalera, Museum of Contemporary Art of Ceará, etc.). She was guest artist at the Robert Flaherty Film Seminar, New York. She founded Kintop and was co-Director of the International Film Festival Doclisboa in 2012 and 2013 opening up new sections as Cinema of Urgency, Green Years and Passages (Documentary & Contemporary Art. She lectures at the Fine Arts Faculty of the University of Lisbon. Among her cinematic works are Natureza Morta (Atalanta Award Doclisboa 2006, Merit Prize Taiwain DFF), 48, Grand Prix Cinema du Réel 2010, FIPRESCI Award DokLeipzig 2010, Opus Bonum Award, among many others, Natureza Morta|Stilleben (3 channels installations, première at the National Museum of Contemporary Art of Lisbon) and Luz Obscura (Prix Spécial du Jury 2017, Les Rendez-vous de l’histoire, among other prizes).

11.15 Coffee break

11.30 Panel 1. Disputed Boundaries: Testimony, Memory and the Media

Patti Gaal-Holmes‘Grainy, blurry and out-of-focus’: into the frameless distance to the city of (no) memory

How can experimental excavations in ‘documentary’ filmmaking expose historical and aesthetic fissures, and spaces for ‘photofilmic’ engagements, existing between fact and confabulation? Patti presents a project that focuses on her father’s escape from Hungary in 1948. The project has a living nerve pend in the past that is brought into the future. Aware of the issue of nostalgia in dealing with family archives, she works towards a ‘critical nostalgia’ that responds to diverse political inflections. Her father swam across the Danube at night to escape, then took a train to Bratislava, then made his way across the border. This was his second escape, as he had previously been caught by Russian soldiers and sent back, ending up in a displaced persons camp in Austria. How can you document something for which there is no documentation, to convey the fissures and gaps of memory? There is no footage of this journey so she has been seeking traces. She has found his Belgian refugee papers, interviewed family, taken analogue and infrared footage of some of the locations.

[Photo by Pedro Serrazina]

Daido Moriyama’s ‘grainy, blurry and out-of-focus’ photography provides an otherworldly guide for investigating ephemeral spectres of history, travelling between past, present and future in a story of exile. Influences on her work:

  • Daido Moriyama Farewell Photography (1972)
  • Bill Morrison’s Decasia: The State of Decay, 2002, exploring the materiality of deteriorating archival images
  • Peter Forgaçs, Hungarian media artist, Private Hungary series decontextualised home movies and attempts a new kind of film narrative with vacuums, mistakes and pauses.
  • Penny Diopis, South African artist, uses archival footage from own family and family footage MY LOVELY DAY (1997).

None of these artists are making conventional documentary, but rather deconstructing history and complicating an understanding of the past. For Ranciere, fiction doesn’t necessarily oppose fact but can be used to identify the components used to construct history: the real has not vanished but has become a matter of enquiry. In her own work she searches for the residues and the ghosts of history.

BIO. Dr Patti Gaal‑Holmes (Arts University Bournemouth), is an artist/filmmaker and historian, Reviews Editor for Transnational Cinemas (Routledge) and Senior Lecturer in Film Production at Arts University Bournemouth. Works include the monograph, A History of 1970s Experimental Film: Britain’s Decade of Diversity(2015, Palgrave), and the experimental film Liliesleaf Farm Mayibuye: In Search of the Spectres of History (2016), screened at the 60th BFI Film Festival.

Romana Turina (Arts University Bournemouth), Silenced History in Film: The Stubborn Ecstatic Truth from Lunch with Family to Boris

With a reference to the emergence of the poetic through the use of stop-motion animation in two short essay films revealing the silenced history of the Slavs in the north-eastern part of present day Italy, Lunch with Family and San Sabba (Turina, 2016), this paper maps the irruption of the animated space in the project Boris (Turina, 2018), where the presence of an absence makes of a miniature a character, and the illusiveness of the past makes of animation the language where embracing the ecstatic truth means to release un-filmable reality.

Romana describes how she comes from Trieste, next to Slovenia and searching through the archives in Trieste, she found out by surprise her rown epressed family history of Slovenian ancestors. Her essay film uncovers a period of forced Italianisation of the people under the Fascist regime in Italy. Victoro Turina, her ancestor in the archive was referred to as a terrorist. She began to discover the history of a Slovenian underclass whose presence was suppressed. Post memory in this film is explored as inheritance of a traumatic familial history. The film establishes the background context through indexical archival materials such as and photography before using animation footage in the form of stop motion animation of a white room set used to express her own post memory. The set is examined and revealed as an illusion, just as the past has been deleted, generation after generation. The white room is a metaphor for what is there but not there, what is fake and what is real.

Lunch with Family (Turina 2016) from Romana Turina on Vimeo.

BIO. Romana Turina is a writer/filmmaker and historian, and Senior Lecturer in Screenwriting at Arts University Bournemouth. Recent works include the essays films, Lunch with Family (2016) and San Sabba (2016) shortlisted at the AHRC Research in Film Awards and Hollywood International Independent Documentary Awards.,

George Barber (University for the Creative Arts), The Poetic and Conflict: The Freestone Drone

George Barber proposes that the poetic is more effective at bringing to life what really happens in war and conflict than the documentary or broadcast news approach.  To illustrate he will show extracts from the Mindset Suite, a collection of his recent work on IEDs, Drones, War, amputation, ecology and the anthropocene.  His new works use a lot of computer animation.

[Photo by Tereza Stehlikova]

In our current times we are almost permanently at war. Through the four essay films he has made about trauma and war, George wants to propose the poetic as a form for taking in contemporary politics at a deeper level. Watching the news colonises our imagination and desensitises us. Often war is presented in a comic book type situation with stories about drone operators shown as former gamers, distanced from the act of killing, operating at a remote and virtual level. Everything about war comes from the news. It’s addictive and forms our experience of the subject. What becomes lost is the metaphor, the poetic. Other forms of complex ideologies come to us in the form of metaphor. For example, religious texts are written in a poetic register: the poetic helps us to understand complexity. The poetic helps emotional articulation and involves the body. Ultimately, life is a dialogue with ourselves, our own interpretations of the world. The news shuts down dialogue. The commentators play on and manipulate emotions. On the other hand, metaphors universalise. Great metaphors transcend individual circumstances, bring us together in identifying our own circumstances with that metaphor and, therefore, connect our experience. The role of the imagination, is to provide a way for us to place ourself in another’s shoes. Comparing poems and news media – could it be said that the poetic is difficult to understand and the news is unambiguous and clear? However, the poetic gives time to think and an emotional weight, it defies the over simplification of complexity.

In his film The Freestone Drone, techniques of estrangement and humour are used to question accepted notions of war shown through archival footage. Mocking the construction of a children’s story, the construction of narratives and, indeed, the construction of dominant narratives of reality as shown on the news, the film questions the nature of reality.

The Freestone Drone (extract) from George Barber on Vimeo.

BIO. Professor George Barber is a well-established moving-image artist. His works have been shown at many international festivals, competitions, galleries, been broadcast on television and awarded major prizes and grants.  In 2018 he had work at the Towner Gallery, Eastbourne, Haroon Mirza curates the Arts Council Collection, Group Show entitled ‘We stared at the Moon from the centre of the Sun’:  In 2015, he had three solo shows: Young Projects Los Angeles, Waterside Contemporary, London, and Chapter Arts, Cardiff.  He had a film showing at the London Film Festival in 2016, ‘Dude Down’ and ‘Akula Dream’ showed in last year’s festival as well as at Oberhausen in 2016.  He has had work shown at Kate Macgarry Gallery, The Whitechapel Gallery, Split Film Festival, Croatia, BFI Southbank, Royal Academy, Tate Britain, and Victoria & Albert Museum.  He has also had retrospectives at the ICA, and Dundee Contemporary Arts.

12.15 Q&A chaired by Pedro Serrazina

The papers presented so far have all involved responses to the archive, to history and employed different strategies to uncover gaps in historical documentation – the point of view of the unrepresented, victims of torture and oppression, the point of view of a drone. From the personal and familial (Patti/Romana), the archival researcher (Susanna), to the artistic approach that is concerned with a poetics and a politics of representation, all are different approaches to uncover a ‘truth’ from the partially written records of history. Each tries to question or to rewrite history when is impossible to uncover the ‘true’ history, when closure is impossible and there is no one definitive ‘true’ version of events.

One questioner asked George what his film was about, revealing a desire for a straightforward and easily digestible narrative thread as opposed to opening out problematics, ambiguity and questions about the construction of reality.

12.45 LUNCH

1.45 Keynote speaker: José Miguel Ribeiro in conversation with Paulo Viveiros

BIO. José Miguel Ribeiro (1966, Amadora, Portugal) is a film director, an illustrator and a teacher. In 1995, his film A Suspeita (25 ‘) was awarded several prizes, including the Cartoon D’Or 2000. In 2012, José Miguel Ribeiro founded, together with Ana Carina Estróia, the production company “Praça Filmes”, in Montemor-o-Novo, Portugal. In recent years he has made the television series for children titled As Coisas lá de Casa (Home things), and the short animated films Passeio de Domingo (Sunday Drive), Viagem a Cabo Verde (Journey to Cape Verde) and Estilhaços (Fragments). The latter was selected for competition at the 2016 Locarno Film Festival and received the best documentary film award at Clermont- Ferrand in 2017. He is currently developing the feature animation film Nayola, with a script by Virgílio Almeida, based on the original theatre play A Caixa Preta, by José Eduardo Agualusa and Mia Couto.

PV: An excerpt from his last film Fragments is screened. This shows a personal point of view on the Portuguese colonial wars. An animation that won the Best Documentary award at Clermont Ferrand, it wasn’t originally framed as a documentary. Why should this film be considered as a documentary when it wasn’t intended as that?

JMR. It was a personal story about himself and his father. He used to live in a military neighbourhood and play with other army kids. The film is exploring a normality in his own life. The Portuguese short film agency framed it as a ducumentary and submitted it on his behalf.

Journey to Cape Verde by José Miguel Ribeiro from Sardinha em Lata on Vimeo.

PV. His previous film, Voyage to Cape Verde, is about a personal journey with his own voice as a narrator and yet this film is not considered as a documentary?

JMR. He made this film like a journal, doing lots of drawings as this is his way of experiencing and recording reality, he wanted to express the changes he felt inside. With Fragments, the story of the US soldiers who went to Vietnam is very familiar, but people are not so familiar with history of Portugal. 1974 marked the end of dictatorship and the beginning of democracy and ending of colonialism. A complete change in the country, so that those military who returned from the colonies returned to a different country. This is something that has not been spoken about. Those soldiers felt they has lost a part of their youth for nothing – the country didn’t want to know what they had done, kept it all quiet. This was his Father’s generation – he wanted to bring a voice to them, to be a part of the story of Portugal, although it became personal, about his father and himself.

PV. For his new animated feature film, José has been researching in colonial archives about Angola. He plans to mix archival footage and animation. Is animation not enough? Does a documentary need to involve photography?

JMR. Painting and drawing can be deeper than photography, but when you show a film to an audience, cutting in a live action image into an animated sequence causes an explosion, feels aggressive, an intervention. For him, mixing 2D and stop motion and archival footage shows different approaches to reality. He develops a film through a process, is always changing, not totally planned in advance. He likes to be provocative, working with different techniques allows him to construct a different body with different realities.

PV. Will the new film be a documentary? Is he working with external events?

JMR. He doesn’t like these labels, is just working with material that involves reality. He likes to experience new ways of doing things and experiment,

PV. But animation is hard. Needs to be prepared and planned in advance?

JMR. Maybe that’s why he likes to cut in live action, gives him more flexibility. The animatic is the most creative stage for him. He takes found images from the web and cuts in his own drawings.

[Photo by Pedro Serrazina]

Questions from the audience:

Q. What makes a documentary – is it the intention, is it the editing? Why do we have to use these labels? The clash between live action and animation disorientates the illusion, the imagined world.
A. José explains his use of different techniques. We are used to certain codes, the more we question them the more we can open our minds to different ways of showing the world. We shouldn’t keep to a code of staying all in animation.
Q. Good to explore, keep it open.

Q. How does he do the research? Interviews / photos?
A. He’s reading Angolan writers, hearing their narratives. Has visited Angola a couple of times and will go and stay in a village for a month. Influence of a book by Svetlana Alexievic about how women experienced war in Soviet Union, The Unwomanly Face of War. The book shows how different their experience of war is to men. The book is full of interviews with not much of her own voice. It won the Nobel prize. For example, a woman who was dressing wounds on battlefields, she was small and some men were big, but she knew from their weight if they were dead or not. So he wants to put the perspective of women in the next film.

Q. How did the story of his father effect him, did it change how he saw his father?
A. Of course, like other soldiers’ children his father would often talk about war. It effected the whole family, but these stories aren’t normally told, rather kept in boxes inside.

2.25 Panel 2. Making Sense: The Politics of Portrayal

Yijing Wang (Central Saint Martins), Ethnographic Animation: Participatory Design with the Longhorn Miao

This research argues animation can be used as an innovative form of ethnographic documentary. Firstly, post-colonialism in ethnographic documentary will be discussed; and then a use of representational strategies for presenting minorities’ customs from their own perspective will be illustrated. Finally, principles of participatory design will also be addressed.

Following Edward Said’s Orientalism, post-colonialist ideas began to influence Western academic disciplines such as anthropology. This had an effect on ethnographic filmmakers working in live action, who started to work with much greater participation from the subjects portrayed. In films such as Born into Brothels and Chinese Take Away, the subjects portrayed are given cameras to capture and express their own reality.

Her own research focuses on the Longhorn Miao people, who live in a remote mountainous region of China and represent one of China’s indigenous minority communities. Tourists have started to come to the region, so now some of their traditional culture is prepared like a performance for those tourists. This has resulted in a misunderstanding of the traditional culture.

[Photo by Pedro Serrazina]

In her book Animated Documentary, Annabelle Honess Roe defines three key uses of animated documentary as evocative, non-mimetic and mimetic substitution. Yijing’s own use of animation in documentary is evocative, so that people can experience the world through the subjective view of the Longhorn Miao. To create the animation, Yijing is working with 10 local art students who have interviewed their elders and she is teaching them animation and how to make their own designs move. Thus, through the process of making an animated film, she combines her own observational drawings with the work of the Longhorn Miao people themselves. This process combines the emic and the etic, in other words, the outsider’s view of an insider group and the perspective of the insiders themselves. This production process is taken from participatory design, a technique used in industrial design to work with the end users of a design in the development of that design. In the project, she herself has provided animation skills and a structure for the ethnographic fieldwork. The way she worked with the participation of the villagers was in two groups. Group 1 – students who are interviewers, designers and animators. Group 2 – consultancy panel of villagers who give feedback on work-in-progress.

BIO: Yijing Wang is a PhD candidate in Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London. She earned her undergraduate degree at Central Academy of Fine Arts, China (2013) and MA at CSM, UAL (2015). Since her BA course, she had been working on several projects on Chinese minority themed animation. Currently, her PhD research uses animation as a form of ethnographic documentary, exploring animation’s potential to document the underrepresented cultures of minorities. Drawing on new approaches to animated documentary and preliminary studies of the Longhorn Miao, she is preparing an animated documentary with this group, to test animation as an innovative form of ethnographic documentary.

Joan Ashworth (Independent Artist), Portable culture: animation in Stories in Transit (SiT) refugee project, Palermo, Italy

In Stories in Transit, Marina Warner, mythographer asks: can culture and specifically storytelling provide shelter for people who have lost their homes? Artists, writers and musicians were brought together by Warner to devise workshops. One such workshop was in animation run by Ashworth with Lee Shearman, illustrator/animator, in Palermo.

Believing in the power of storytelling and that stories are better outside of the body, Warner used part of some literary prize money she’d been awarded to set up the Stories in Transit project. Addressing the experience of refugees in European camps, the project looks at the immaterial needs of refugees once their immediate material needs have been temporarily met. Many of the children in transit have missed their schooling at a time when their minds are in a state of plasticity, have possibly experienced trauma and lack positive creative outlets. Warner’s original idea was to create a story box that could be taken around camps. A team of creatives working on the project contributed ideas. Ashworth introduced the group to Rajanstani folding storyboxes as researched by Nina Sabnani in India and also Lotte Reininger’s work in silhouettes for materials to use in animation or as puppets in case there is no electricity. With some plans in place, small and large groups went out to meet the displaced people. Many of the young refugee participants had no papers and therefore no rights. The volunteers artists were reassured that if the participants were traumatised, there was psychological support available.

A small group of 4 people travelled to Palermo in April 2018 to introduce animation to the refugees.

[Photo by Tereza Stehlikova]

The project this time began with hearing about a statue that represented a local mythological character – the genius of Palermo. The refugee children went through the streets sketching different statues of this character and then made maps of the city, my Palermo. The aim was to see the host city through the eyes of the young displaced people. Ashworth introduced images of Archimoboldo’s paintings to introduce the idea of collage from collected leaves, spices form the markets etc. The majority of the refugees were boys who were more willing or able to engage with the tasks. A small number of girls took part and were harder to engage and were sometimes noisy and disruptive, lacking in concentration, but still making interesting art-work. The project workers recognised that the girls could have experienced more trauma than the boys, or been more affected by their experiences. Taking a story written by one of the boys, they then cut out silhouette characters with the intention of animating them as stop-motion cutouts. Progress was slow due to the large number of participants and difficulties of concentration but when shooting began, some participants were impressively engaged and quick to understand the possibilities.

Warner asserts the importance of getting people to make new stories, and Ashworth proposes that animation is a valuable medium to help construct a new dreaming forward, to imagine a new future. Putting their cut-out characters into time, the images bring to mind the future. Ashworth had noted this ability of animation through her work with Animation Therapy. The participants all have mobile phones and have been given stop motion apps. The team are going back in September and will exhibit the work-in-progress in the Puppet Museum in Palermo and later at the Hayward Project Space in London. The UN has started to respond to the idea of the immaterial as part of human rights, that we need to think about migrants rights to education and creativity.

BIO: Joan Ashworth is an artist/ filmmaker/ independent scholar whose animated films explore women’s rights, meadow swimming, fantasy and mermaids. Ashworth’s background includes commissioned titles, commercials and graphic identities for cinema and TV and collaborative medical research projects such as CHILDSPLA: and Animation Therapy. 1994- 2015, Ashworth led the renowned MA Animation at the RCA. She lectures internationally on Filmmaking, Animation and Writing: Publication: Ashworth is a participant in Stories in Transit, initiated by Marina Warner to address refugees right to a life of the mind. Ashworth studied at the National Film and Television School and co-founded 3 Peach Animation where she directed many commissions including opening titles for Tim Burton’s Batman 1. Ashworth later co-founded Seed Fold Films making How Mermaids Breed and Mushroom Thief. Ashworth is in production of a documentary on Sylvia Pankhurst, suffragette and artist.

2.55 Q&A chaired by Birgitta Hosea

IMG_8553.jpg[Photo by Tereza Stehlikova]

Q. From the morning’s papers which looked at working with archives to uncover the gaps in the representation of the past, these two papers looked at using the participation of others to create animation collaboratively about their own unique cultural experience. Both projects gave the gift of learning how to animate to the participants. Will either group go on to study Animation as a profession?

JA. The project left behind stop motion apps, as all participants have mobile phones. They hope they will continue, but it’s early days and they are in transit and traumatised.

YW. Working with the local college, she has given classes, engaged students as designers and animation assistants and left behind some software for them. The participants had never made their batik drawings move before and she very much hopes that after they have all finished working on the animation, the students will continue to use animation to record their own experiences.

3.15 Coffee break

3.30 Panel 3. Between Fantasy and Fact: Technological Simulation and the Real

Melissa Ferrari (CalArts), Intersections of Science, Myth, and Phantasmagoria: Using Experimental Animated Documentary and Magic Lantern to Excavate Nonfiction within Cryptozoology

Cryptozoology is a pseudoscience that intrinsically exists between fantasy and fact. This presentation provides an overview of Melissa’s practice in using experimental animated documentary, magic lantern lecture, and phantasmagoria to illuminate the implications of belief, politics, and wonder in skeptical cryptozoology. The role of CG animated documentary in visualizing cryptozoological nonfiction media will be examined.

[Photo by Pedro Serrazina]

Melissa explains the field of cryptozoology, the study of creatures that haven’t been proven to exist based on unsubstantiated folklore. Documentaries in support of this pseudo science use doctored footage of creatures like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster as a form of evidence. These hoax videos with doctored photography actually feature on accredited channels like National Geographic and Animal Planet, whose brands as channels rely on their showing actuality, real footage not faked news. Mermaids: The New Evidence was all faked and aired on Animal Planet. These faked documentaries lessen the truth claims of these channels, who chase ratings rather than the ‘truth’. These faked animated documentaries use CG animation, which has become the language of science. What then are the ethics of the animator whose work supports a lie? This is a big issue in the USA where steadfast beliefs in anti-science natprratives, irrational beliefs and religion are privileged over fact.

Phototaxis Trailer from Melissa Ferrari on Vimeo.

Her film Phototaxis (2017) is based on interviews from Narcotics Anonymous with people have thought they’ve seen the Moth Man. Narcotics Anonymous, is also pseudo scientific, is proven to have low success rates. Influenced by the history of the role of the Magic Lantern as part of lectures that publicised science and Phantasmagoria shown as debunking of illusion and superstition with a tension between sceptics and believers, she has been doing performances with magic lanterns to show fantastic, cryotozoological creatures in connection with animated documentary.

BIO: Melissa Ferrari is an experimental animation artist, documentary filmmaker, and scholar. In her practice, she seeks to unveil the mystery and wonder that lies in the shadow of nonfiction, rather than fiction.  She is currently pursuing her Masters of Fine Arts in Experimental Animation at the California Institute of the Arts (’19). Her films have been shown internationally in venues such as the Ottawa International Animation Festival, Slamdance Film Festival, and Black Maria Film Festival.  Previously, she worked as an animation artist at Dusty Studio in New York City, where her nonfiction animations were featured in The New York Times Op-Docs, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, Nautilus, TED Talks and PBS.  Melissa received a BA in Philosophy from Tufts University where she focused on the philosophy of experimental documentary and a BFA from The School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Chantal Poch (Pompeu Fabra University), “And the Earth was Without Form”: Generated Images in Terence Malick’s Voyage of Time

This presentation will explore the role of visual effects in the documentary Voyage of Time, which not only puts the latest technology into the search for the oldest images we can think about, those of our origin, but also chooses to do so more through wonder than factual truth.

Voyage of Time is a scientific documentary for iMax that uses CGI to explain science. Malick’s grandiloquent direction is a result of a 40 year process of development working with VFX experts. Dinosaurs have an important role in CGI, a link between the future and the past, a recreation of the prehistoric. The film relies upon extensive scientist consultation. But how can it be a documentary when there is no real reference? It’s part of a commercial turn towards spectacle in documentary. In stories of wonder – like the BBC’s Blue Planet, we are presented with experience not interviews or testimonies. How is the wonder in this film constructed? There is a contrast with footage of ordinary people shown in everyday urban life and fantastic imagery. There is wonder at the atmosphere that surrounds the earth – seen in traditions of science fiction like 2001 A Space Odessy. Images generated by computer are used to evoke an ecstatic truth. The film ends with children playing in an urban situation  Different constructions of the truth are employed: one is about measureable objectivity and the other is about wonder and immersive experience.

BIO: Chantal Poch holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Audiovisual Communication (Pompeu Fabra University, 2015) and a Master’s Degree in Contemporary Film and Audiovisual Studies (Pompeu Fabra University, 2016), during which she worked as a teaching assistant and wrote her Master’s Thesis “To climb a mountain: Werner Herzog and Bergfilm”. For her PhD she is focusing on the nostalgic quest for a sacred lost origin in the works of Andrei Tarkovski, Werner Herzog and Terrence Malick within the Center for Aesthetic Research on Audiovisual Media at the same university. She has recently published in the monograph “El cuerpo erótico de la actriz bajo los fascismos. España, Italia, Alemania (1939-1945)” (Cátedra, 2018) and spoken at the International Meeting O Cinema e as Outras Artes (Universidade da Beira Interior, 2017) and at the Doing Women’s Film and Television History IV (University of Southampton, 2018). She combines her research with poetic activity.

Katerina Athanasopoulou (Plymouth University), The (un)peeling of the Truth, aletheia and catharsis: poetics, pathos and empathy

How can we use Virtual Reality and animation to create experiences that encourage doctors to be more attuned to patients? Reflections on Katarina’s current doctoral research in VR in healthcare training, looking at concepts that intersect medicine, philosophy and art, such as ‘theatre’, ‘ecstasis’ and ‘catharsis’.

[Photo by Tereza Stehlikova]

Katerina explains that her practice is CGI animated documentary. She is currently undertaking a PhD where she is based in a performance department. It deals with the affective affordances of VR interactive documentaries within healthcare training and whether doctors can be taught whether to be more empathic towards patients through VR.

So often animated documentaries start with the voice, relying on a vocal narrative soundtrack. Interestingly, just telling a traumatic story starts the healing process, even if it is to a recorder. Herzog talks about the word aletheia, the Greek word for the truth and it’s roots which come from the not-hidden, the revealed. Catharsis is a process in drama whereby the spectator identifies with the character and experiences a cleansing release through empathy with their story. It was this sense of emotional identification that Brecht sought to do away with in his theatre. She has also been looking at Anne Friedberg’s 6 precepts of cinema spectatorship, Brenda Laurel’s idea of computer as theatre that is based upon Aristotle and Peggy Phelan’s idea that the ontology of performance is that it can only be in the present, here and now and cannot be reproduced. In considering these ideas she has become more critical about the concept of VR as an empathy machine. VR is theatre with the audience set in a spatial context and the spectator also partially a director of the experience. 3D animated VR allows you to explore space peripatically by moving around. In VR you also become an unexpected performer, moving around in front of others waiting their turn.

[Photo by Tereza Stehlikova]

In her film Branches of Life, 2016, a Wellcome project to create portraits of the organs, she creates an internal environment then travels round it like a cinematographer. To create this animation she was present at an operation with a woman who had lung cancer. Anatomical theatres of the past and operating theatres of the present are also sites of performance. They have so many parallels with the theatre – costumes are donned, doctors are in the starring role with curtains to reveal or conceal.

She is currently in an early stage of her research. Following a visit to see a staging of Cheek by Jowl’s Pericles, she built the space in Unity then used mo cap to animate characters within it.

BIO: Katerina Athanasopoulou is a Greek-born artist living in London who creates animated films for cinema and gallery space. She studied Fine Art at Aristotle University in Greece and graduated with an MA Animation from the RCA in 2002. Her films have been shown internationally at film festivals and galleries, including Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival, Thessaloniki Biennale 5, Holland Animation Film Festival, European Media Art Festival, and The Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb. Katerina is currently a 3D3 doctoral student within Plymouth University, researching the affective affordances of VR animated documentaries within healthcare training.

[Photo by Pedro Serrazina]

4.15 Q&A chaired by Tereza Stehlikova

Q. The three papers are all in a dialogue with the poetry of science.
K says poetry is a resistance to dying, is related to performance, is about making patterns in the chao. With Herzog his poetry comes from editing, but in VR it’s more about sculpture and performance.
M. The history of science shows a history of the romanticism of facts – science has not always been ‘factual’. There is a worry nowadays about fake news and anti-science.
Q. Perhaps there is a fear of poetry as it’s not measureable or quantifiable.

Q. Do doctors have empathy? If so, how can they then cut people?
A. K thinks they need to be more attuned. Concept of philotemo rather than empathy – it’s about honour.

Q. Is the VR training more general or for particular pathologies?
A. K says ethics committees take years to approve research proposals. More likely she’ll work with patients.

Q. Do people believe the crypto documentary programmes?
A. M says yes – they’re on Animal Planet, a reputable channel.

Q. Should we ethically be participating in making fake science programmes?
A. M explains the implications are that these techniques could also be used for climate change scepticism, race hate ideologies etc.

Q. How can you curate or experience VR as a group? It is experienced alone, despite being an empathy machine.
A. K says we read books on our own. Also what about differently abled people – set ups in galleries are primarily for able bodied people.

Q. Books and films are more accessible to people. Will VR ever take on?
A. K says maybe it will be more like arcades and peep shows. Maybe it will never fully catch on.

4.45 Coffee break

5.00 Keynote speaker: Joan Fontcuberta: The Decay of Lying and Veroficition practices

BIO: Joan Fontcuberta was born in 1955 in Barcelona, where he lives and works. With nearly four decades of prolific dedication to photography, he has developed a both artistic and theoretical work which focuses on the conflicts between nature, technology, photography and truth. He has done solo shows at New York MoMA, Chicago Art Institute, Valencia IVAM, London Science Museum among others, and his work has been collected by the Metropolitan Museum of Art (NY), San Francisco MoMA, National Gallery of Art (Ottawa), Folkwang Museum (Essen), Musée National d’Art Contemporain – Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris), Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam), MACBA (Barcelona), MNCARS (Madrid) MEP (Paris) and others.

PV introduces JF as a contemporary artist using photography to question the truth and our belief in images and the credibility of institutions to tell the truth.

[Photo by Pedro Serrazina]

JF comments on the current immersive global scene in which we are experiencing World Cup football together. He shows a shot from a sports magazine about a football match and how it used a doctored picture to question the decision of the referee, but the picture was proven to be faked. After complaints, the newspaper’s excuse was that it was digital mistake, an error – however anyone who uses Photoshop knows that cloning someone out of a picture and moving the position of someone else is a complex process with a number of clicks. It couldn’t simply be just a mistake. Football now commonly uses a Virtual Assistant Referee with an examination of footage from many angles. Seen from a panopticon position everything will be seen and there is no more subjective judgement: technology replaces the authority of the referees judgement. Before the daguerreotype all images were made by hand, by the body, since photography we delegate to the machine, because we are not part of that machine we have the idea of its objectivity. There is a distinction raised here between the forensic and the detective – the forensic provides evidences, the detective provides a model of what happened. The referee is like a detective. Does the VAR show facts? Or does the interpretation of it by the referee create the facts?

Football has a social and political dimension. For Miguel Calderon’s film Mexico v. Brazil (2004),  he requested copies of all 32 matches between Mexico and Brazil, in which Brazil usually won and in all those matches Mexico only scored a total 17 goals. He then re-edited it so Mexico seemed to win 17-0 and recreated the audio track with a professional sports commentator. The video is 90 mins long and seems like an official video. Calderon showed it to an unsuspecting audience in a cafe as an unofficial match and they believed it.

This is an example of what JF calls veroficition – a mixture of fiction and veracity. The screen is a platform to articulate our view of reality. Totalitarian regimes are the masters of doctored photos . He shows examples of Stalin photos with people removed – one by one four characters are cut out in successive versions of the photograph as the people in it fall out of political favour.  The phrase ‘decay of lying’ in the talk’s title is taken from an essay by Oscar Wilde who says the good lier is the artist, the bad lier is the politician. Verification is used in both political activism and artistic strategy and questions the very notion of the truth. Verofiction hides its illusory nature until it is unmasked. Lies underlie the fake news today – don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.

[Photo by Tereza Stehlikova]

His own strategy of faking news is designed to infiltrate the news. His project Deconstructing Bin Laden (2007) uses a parody of news media. He was commissioned to do a piece for a magazine and wanted to use this to question the truth of journalism, so he invented a middle eastern photo agency and constructed a story about a fake investigation of a so called terrorist mastermind. This character was played by himself and placed into Al Yazira photos and footage with Osama Bin Laden. In the story this character is revealed as a bit part actor who had starred in adverts and a minor rom com. But actually it was him. Circulated on the internet, some of these stories were taken for real. His intention was not to trick or deceive but to expose the mechanism of manipulation. The pictures were clearly fake – they include one of an impossible stunt – him standing on a donkey on one leg. However, a Spanish newspaper used one of his images for real. JF also made some fake newspapers, written in Arabic, showing his character in doctored pictures. In the text he says it’s doctored, but most Europeans can’t read the Arabic. The text also includes couscous recipes. He was fascinated by the way Bin Laden became a scapegoat, the face of global terrorism. Since the fall of communism a new enemy had to be created and given a face, an archetypal villain. He shows a series of images that compare the construction of images of Bin Laden with issues images of the Middle Rastern cartoon baddy from Disney’s Aladdin. Bin Laden was a Hollywood baddie orchestrated to boost the ratings and stimulate a boost in arms spending, post capitalism.

[Photo by Tereza Stehlikova]

The media representation of Obama’s spectacular hunt for public enemy number 1 was a fascinating case study. An official press photo of Obama and Hilary Clinton with military chiefs watching a live feed of the operation to liquidate Bin Laden, all with serious intent faces, was publically circulated. This photo is carefully selected, a particular visual representation. In the official film version, ZERO DARK THIRTY – THE GREATEST MANHUNT IN HISTORY, directed by Catherine Bigelow, we are not shown a documentary but a controlled account in which we we are supposed to trust the highest official story. As details of the operation came out, this official account was shown to be a hoax. The seriously ill terrorist leader was already in custody by the Pakistanis. The CIA etc didn’t uncover his position. His whereabouts didn’t come from torture, but a Pakistani official who was bribed to give up the location. There were no heroic deeds, no Navy Seals busting in. Bin Laden wasn’t dropped into the ocean, his body was totally ripped apart by bullets. He shows two CGI constructions of the myth of the Bin Laden capture from news channels. They share the aesthetic of video games to recreate missing images from the operation. Lots of fake images of Bin Laden’s body circulated. To generate an aged version of Bin Laden to try to capture him, they used pictures of a communist leader from Spain.

JF concludes that his work in photography is in dialogue with photojournalism, to undermine and deconstruct the authority of the image. For him this is all about anti-authoritarian, anti-institution. He started doing this kind of work nondigitally as a critique of news media. He thinks this kind of work has even more relevance in a digital world. He introduces viruses, like a vaccination, to introduce doubt through hoax to provoke criticism and scepticism about the information we receive.

6.00 Q&A/Closing discussion chaired by Paulo Viveiros

Q. What does he think about 9-11? Building came down too neatly? Hiroshima buildings were obliterated very differently.
A. JF says we need to critically review all information we receive. Reality is never as simple as it is presented. The perception of the fact recreates the fact.

Q. Who is the watchdog? What about the fatigue of the public in debunking the news? IN looking for the truth?
A. This makes him think of 1984 and Brave New World, two social models – in the former censorship, violence and repression and citizens can only access certain information, in the latter people are happy and submissive to power through being manipulated by pleasure so they don’t care about the truth. So where are we now? We need to create some resistance. We image makers have a responsibility, to infiltrate, to hack the news that we receive, as artists as teachers  we have responsibility for the creation of the iconic landscape.

Q. This critical approach of transgression – where does it take is?
A. He has been teaching all his life and his paternalistic impulse pervades his artwork. His work is intended like weapons to shake the viewer’s conscience.

Q. Is the truth nowadays tied in with algorithms and big data?
A. He agreed. Perhaps today to find out the truth you ask Google.

6.30 Drinks and informal discussion. Close.

Speakers and organisers [Photo from Pedro Serrazina]