[-empyre-] Animation - posted by Paul Ward
pward at aucb.ac.uk
Tue Feb 9 22:56:51 EST 2010
Apologies for my tardiness in making an initial post. I am delighted to
be taking part in this web-forum - a chance to discuss some important
matters in relation to Animation and the scholarly activity that moves
around and within it. I am also pleased to be 'tag teamed' with Suzanne,
as we have worked together for a number of years (on, amongst other
things, the Sage-published 'animation: an interdisciplinary journal' and
2006's anthology 'Animated "Worlds"') and we have some areas where we
are in strong agreement . . . but some others where we part company!
This is great for a forum such as this. As Suzanne posted before me,
I'll pitch in with what I was going to say as an initial 'position
statement', but some of it will now be framed as a response to points
that Suzanne has flagged up. And I am sure there are going to be many
more things we will discuss and dispute as people join in!
First and foremost, I have always seen Animation as a field of activity
- and Animation Studies as the forum in which it is taken apart, kicked
around and put back together again - that is, to echo Suzanne,
'pervasive'. Or interdisciplinary. Of course, Animation and Animation
Studies are strongly (inextricably?) bound up with the categories of
which they are supposedly a sub-category - 'Film' and 'Film Studies'.
Much (though by no means all) Animation scholarship is concerned with
'mainstream' or studio work - predominantly from the USA. But there has
always been a tradition of people talking about 'non-mainstream' work;
or how the 'mainstream' and the 'non-mainstream' interact and are in a
dialectical relationship. And how Animation is part of or informed by
discourses from Graphics, Fine Art, Computer Science, Philosophy and a
multitude of other disciplines.
This is something that has interested me in my research into Animation
as an interdisciplinary field (see "Animation Studies, disciplinarity
and discursivity", Reconstruction, vol. 3, no. 2, Spring 2003.
http://reconstruction.eserver.org/032/TOC.htm) or Animation Studies as
the apparently paradoxical 'multi-sited site' where different
'communities of practice' intersect, overlap, collaborate and do battle
(see "Some thoughts on theory-practice relations in Animation Studies",
animation: an interdisciplinary journal, vol. 1, no. 2, Nov 2006, pp.
229-245). One of the explicit points in the latter essay was the
fluidity of what we are talking about here - Animation is and always has
I am certainly in agreement that a more nuanced and detailed focus on
the 'profilmic' elements of Animation - whether they be cels,
sketchbooks, storyboards, puppets - is going to strengthen our
understanding of the productions themselves and the people who made
them. But, despite Suzanne's reference to 'tired canons', I would say
that there is still much work of this sort to be done in mainstream
studio (and TV) Animation - we need to continue with work that attends
to the popular. Not at the expense of examining experimental or
independent work, but in recognition that they are part of the same set
of questions (the 'high/low' debate is often framed as an either/or,
when it is another dialectic, a conjoined twin).
The context in which I teach at the Arts University College at
Bournemouth (AUCB) is practice - though I am not a practitioner, the
students I teach are making animated films and the majority of them, no
doubt, want to go on and become 'Animators' in a professional capacity.
What is important is that the skills - practical and intellectual - that
they learn at AUCB are understood as transferable and applicable to a
wide range of contexts. In this sense, someone who has studied
'Animation' and made an 'animated film' as part of their studies is
fully equipped to go on and work in a variety of other contexts.
Implicit in my last comment is a question I'd like to raise: what is the
role and function of the education we are working within and towards?
What is the place of Animation as a *practice*? (And, how is *theory*
applicable to practice?) There is a grand tradition of apprenticeships
in Arts, Design and other crafts and the position of 'vocational'
training and education has to be seen as a continuation of this - albeit
one that is not fully continuous with (or even fully sympathetic
towards) the tradition that preceded it. I am certainly not arguing for
an instrumentalist view of (animation) education - there's an industry,
they need people-who-can, let's 'train' these students to *be* those
people - but the realities of 21st century capitalism mean that we have
to debate these matters as well as the points already raised. And a
fuller understanding of the political economy of all animation
production would be part of this.
From: empyre-bounces at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
[mailto:empyre-bounces at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au] On Behalf Of Renate Ferro
Sent: 08 February 2010 19:09
Subject: [-empyre-] posted for Suzanne Buchan
Last week's guests and participants developed a cohesive and impressive
debates and discussions, along with a plethora of publications not
associated with 'Animation Studies.'
Renate invited me to participate this week with a focus on the Quay
since their DORMITORIUM exhibition was recently on display at Cornell
in Rotterdam, Philadelphia, New York etc). I'm happy to do this, as my
book The Quay Brothers: Into a Metaphysical Playroom will be published
this fall by
University of Minnesota Press, but also because Thyrza Nichols Goodeve
(week 4) is
also intimately familiar with their works (I cite her Artforum piece
is a rich
and articulate exploration of their works).
A way of forming a continuum with last week would be to explore what Tom
wrote Feb 4th: "In Anti-Oedipus, Deleuze and Guattari present a model
about continuity and process by way of three syntheses - connective,
and conjunctive" - I found a potential for understanding the Quays'
notion of 'disjunctive synthesis' (and it was Tom who generously spread
in front of me) via notions of vitalism that are grounded in
and Heinrich Von Kleist. Discussing their poetics could also be a start,
participants want to pose questions we could go from there.
I do however have a few other themes I'd like to put on the virtual
last week was centred on digital CGI image production, techno-aesthetics
reception, I'd suggest a shift to the stuff, the material, the artefact
used to make
pre-digital, or 'pure' animation, be it 2D, painted, drawn, puppet or
animation, particularly in independent work that operates outside the
of animation scholarship. Tom mentioned an archive with 100,000 hours
ARC archive has an estimated 2 million artefacts - production materials,
drawings. etc. - the profilmic materials used to make animation before
shift. These artifacts are increasingly rare since digital production
around the 'high/low divide between animation and art in the 'art
economies' is part
of this, as are installations (I'm thinking in particular of Gregory
(http://www.gregorybarsamian.com), that I consider 'extracinematic
Another theme is one last week also touched upon (Tom used the term
is a notion of 'pervasive animation' and its multiplatform
current paradigm of animation studies resides in a hegemonic corpus of
commercial cinema production. Last week's thread named a plethora of
areas of visual culture production that are indicative of both a wide
production and consumption across platforms and its academic, critical
In terms of medium specificity, we could discuss the 'manipulated moving
term I prefer to the rather 'fuzzy' and unsatisfying one of
relation to experimental film. I'm also happy to discuss
A bit more information that might be helpful:
PhD in Film Studies from the University of Zurich and Guest Professor at
University for Applied Sciences, University of British Columbia Film
most recently at 'Boundary Crossings' at Pacific Northwest College of
member and Co-Director 1995-2003 of the Fantoche festival in Switzerland
(www.fantoche.ch), and active as a film, exhibition and conference
Pervasive Animation, Tate Modern 2007 (webarchive:
A founding member of Cinema and Media Studies special interest group
has published on a range of topics, including spatial politics,
spectatorship, animation curatorship and James Joyce. Many of my ideas
interdisciplinary animation studies are in Editorials for animation: an
interdisciplinary journal (accessible online)
Prof Dr Suzanne Buchan
Professor of Animation Aesthetics
Head of the Animation Research Centre
University for the Creative Arts, Farnham College
Farnham, Surrey GU9 7DS, UK
Tel:+44 (0)1252 892 806
www.ucreative.ac.uk : www.ucreative.ac.uk/arc
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Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal is the first cohesive
publishing platform for animation that unites contributions from a wide
research agendas and creative practice.
The Pervasive Animation symposium, a collaboration between the Animation
Centre and Tate Modern is now available online, featuring Norman Klein,
Snow, Vivian Sobchack, Tom Gunning, Anthony McCall, George Griffin,
Beatriz Colomina, Edwin Carels, Siegfried Zielinski, Lisa Cartwright,
Hardstaff and Esther Leslie:
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