[-empyre-] movement and animation

Paul Ward pward at aucb.ac.uk
Fri Feb 12 04:39:51 EST 2010

There is a great deal that Tom has brought to the table in his posts, but for the moment I'll latch onto the notion of how animation and animated images 'move beyond' or 'outside' (they 'swarm') their immediate location (a film, a TV programme etc). It gives us some interesting theoretical and philosophical points of departure for understanding and defining animation, and also some excellent entry points for empirical analyses of specific cases . . . whether this is the technological (the role of cel technology etc), sociological (the activity of otaku, cos-play), historiographical, and so on. I like the idea of animation and mobility not being limited to what happens (or appears to happen) within the frame. Of course, Norman McLaren's oft-cited definition about what happens *between* the frames being more important nailed this in another way (and another context), but this discussion appears to be extending things in a very useful way.


I think it is also interesting to think of the supposed opposition between 'limited' and 'full' animation as something of a fallacy. So-called 'limited' animation was always 'fit for purpose' in the sense that it was often animators 'cutting their cloth' according to their resources. In the case of UPA, this is seen as a graphically-designed triumph; in the case of (some) of Hanna-Barbera's TV work the limitations in the animation are compensated for by, amongst other things, the voice talent and pronounced sitcom conventions. 


The question for me is how an approach to animation that is termed 'limited' is actually full of potentiality - the lack of actual movement means that there is invariably (and inevitably?) the kind of 'compensation' I noted above. This might be in terms of baroque design, or foregrounding of other elements like voice talent. For animation students, though - those learning the craft of animating, whilst also (if I have anything to do with it!) thinking, philosophising, theorising their animation practice and the work of others - this whole ball of wax boils down to one thing: drawing. Limited animation can also be excellent animation if the images are able to harness energy and (e)motion. As Tom says, limited animation is predicated on (and makes a virtue of) a "so-called stasis" or "inaction" - but a static image *can* be full of motion, and this is what animators learn when they observe, capture and harness things in their practice. This is why life drawing and sketching observationally is so important for animation students; likewise, it is why being able to draw is *essential* for those who want to be animators - even if they end up working in an idiom that does not directly involve drawing (CG, stop motion or even, arguably, more experimental and non-representational forms of animation . . . even with this last category, I would argue that the ability to understand weight, form, gravity, how forces work on objects - all of which should be learned on any decent animation course, and the best way to learn them is by drawing - are all essential).


Animation is about *anticipation* of movement as much as it is about actual observed movement (maybe someone could reformulate that in a Deleuzian idiom!). The animators have to find a way to distil anticipation; the viewers actually experience that anticipation of movement as an affect. And maybe it is this phenomenon that is even more pronounced in so-called limited animation?


The other points I'll raise here are going back to some things that Suzanne said in her opening post. As I said in my first post, I am very interested in the ways that animation as a set of artefacts, and Animation Studies as the (inter)disciplinary field that addresses and interrogates them, appears multi-sited, discursive and what Tom might call transversal. In this sense, animation and Animation Studies are pervasive. I would also make a case for *animation* as a key term - I tend to agree with Suzanne that it is "fuzzy" as a concept, but I actually think that that is a *good* thing. I like fuzziness. Like "documentary", another term that is utterly straightforward to some people, utterly contentious to others (with the truth being that, really, most people find it somewhere in between; which is to say, a useful term to describe what they do/watch/make/critique on a day-to-day basis), I think "animation" as a term is evocative, descriptive, philosophical, romantic, exciting . . . I also think (personal view!) that neologisms like "the manipulated moving image" don't really come close to matching "animation" as a term. This is not to say, of course, that we shouldn't clarify, qualify and continue to dissect what we mean by "animation" in its myriad forms (and contexts). 


I think that the "fuzzy concept" idea is also an area worth more discussion - rather than it being a pejorative, it could be embraced (and it has of course been embraced in linguistics and logic, by people like George Lakoff). It means that "animation", in all its complexity, ambiguity and - yes! - fuzziness can be the label we aspire to. I've found Carl Plantinga's adaptation of Lakoff in his work on documentary to be very useful . . . as noted above, "documentary" is a term that raises hackles for some (with Noel Carroll, for example, proposing that it be replaced with the label "films of presumptive assertion" or "films of putative fact", neither of which get my vote, despite any descriptive power they might be argued to have). As John Grierson once said "Documentary is a clumsy description, but let it stand." The same could be said of "animation" . . . 


Best wishes





From: empyre-bounces at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au on behalf of Thomas LaMarre, Prof.
Sent: Tue 09/02/2010 21:16
To: soft_skinned_space
Subject: Re: [-empyre-] movement and animation


Wow!  What a cool set of questions!  Maybe I can begin with these questions about moving images and the movement-image...

Initially, due to certain received ways of thinking about world, we're probably tempted to separate the production of movement (the moving image) from the experience of movement (or reception of it as a movement image).  When I refer to the moving image, I am making that kind of gesture, and the my schema might seem rather dualist in that respect: moving image as mechanical production, and the movement-image as the experience of movement that happens in the image.  But like Bergson and Deleuze, I tend to think that these are never truly separable.  And one of the things I like about Deleuze's approach is his insistence that the experience of movement in cinema is a real experience of real movement.  It isn't an illusion (or a Kantian experience of the possible, a condition).  In this sense, Deleuze is somewhat phenomenological, but there isn't a pre-formed autonomous subject that has this real experience of movement.  Rather there is an event that gets sorted out in various w
 ays, and maybe prolonged because it feels worth prolonging.

For Deleuze, the movement-image is not just the experience of movement in cinema by a subject.  It is an overall coordination of a variety of image types - action-image, perception-image, affection-image, etc., which, if one wants to be reductive, are not entirely unlike long shots, medium shots that attribute perception to a position, and close-ups.  This movement-image is a sensory-motor schema, a moment of embodiment as it were.  So you're already part of the event; if you're watching the film, you're already in this sensory-motor schema, in its orientations of forces.  Of course, this movement-image is in a sense made possible by mechanical reproduction and projection of images, but the experience or event isn't reducible in a kantian way to its conditions of possibility.  And even if we say that different viewers have different experiences with cultural determinants, we can nonetheless say that this infinity of interpretations is not in opposition to a finite materiality

What's more, because the movement-image is grounding an embodiment, even though it can't be called deterministic or coercive, it is a competency, a literacy, or more simply a habit.  It is the time-image that opens these bodily habits to thinking and feeling.  This is what, in Deleuze's or Simondon's way of thinking technology, allows humans to think within a material formation or embodiment.  In other words, we begin to think via the force of moving image, not just to ground habits.

Now, when it comes to animation, I do think that what is sometimes parsed as an opposition between full and limited animation is more like what Deleuze sees in terms of movement-image and time-image.  The so-called stasis of limited animation is a sort of 'inaction' or 'inoperativity' that opens the thinking and feeling immanent in the movement-image (classical animation).  This is where the sense of gravity and constraints is played out in very interesting ways in animation, rather differently than in cinema.

But animation adds a new wrinkle to this situation, and I tend to part with Deleuze here (or at least to extend his approach differently).  Deleuze sees how difficult it is for the time-image not to succumb to the mass production of cliches (mass-produced images), but when he wrote the film books (before the VCR really) it probably easier to think that time-image presented certain critical possibilities.

Today things are rather different, but I think Deleuze sets the problem up correctly.  One of the developments that one sees around lineages of limited animation in Japan is the breaking of the frame of the image (precisely because everything comes down to layers and distribution of elements within the image), as the force of the moving image comes to the surface and cannot be contained in depths and in embodiment and embodied affect.  Image elements begin to move across media, and at the same time, the 'event' of the real experience of movement swarms outside the image frame, into the social, so to speak.  These image elements provide new frames for embodiment and affect, which are today prolonged beyond the framed image, distributed into performance, festival, ritual, collecting, and other activities, but these are not just a supplement to the event of the moving image but are the event.

This probably seems very abstract, but for me it is a good way to begin to think about what Paul and Suzanne were calling the pervasiveness of animation, without reducing the activities around animation to secondary status.  I think moving image analysis and a sort of post-phenomenology provide a key to understanding what is called in cultural studies the 'conjunctural' and elsewhere the 'transversal.'

So maybe the impulse to have real dimensional movement, perception and performance shouldn't be thought today as a 'let's get back to reality and away from the illusion of images' but in terms of an intervention in this post-image-image distribution.  That's why I like the swarming of animation elements into social movements and activism.



On 08/02/10 3:34 PM, "Johannes Birringer" <Johannes.Birringer at brunel.ac.uk> wrote:

hello all:

thanks for such a stimulating discussion, and i am also anxious to learn more about Japanese manga and how Tom reads  content/narrative,  and their impact, or impact of the "animation machine" on our perception of what movement is.

In fact, i had wanted to ask  - after reading the elaborate and sometimes more technical analyses (provided by Tom) which i loved, what the presumption of "movement" is in the constellation movement  / animation or what Tom Lamarre from the beginning of his posts called "movement in animation".

Is this a generally accepted simple term for you all, is "moving image" or (Deleuze) movement-image not something that needs much further and closer interrogation, if we were to approach it from our phenomenological sensibilities as movers and as people living and  perceiving through/with  movement?

What kinds of movement are we talking about, and when Tom addresses Japanese manga characters or avatars, and their "movement,"  what theoretical or physiological/kinetic or empathetic models are you applying, and what qualities are interpreted in your analyses of compositing (which were not so much addressing characters and how they move, human non human or other wise)?

When i am asking about how you interpret "movement" inside moving images or animation, i am addressing the animate in ways in which it affects our sense of bodilness and our grasp of what it means to move, or not, or acknowledge gravity or constraints, mirror them, or intuit them, and the psychogeogrpahies of our being in specific environments  -- and i have been wanting to ask this question since Thursday, when David Heckman wrote about:

>animation........[and] a whole bunch of really important cultural, technological, and economic questions that are related. While the visual aesthetics of animation are significant,
there is also an aesthetic dimension to the temporality of animation. How motion is represented is, in my opinion, often related to how space and time are experienced.  The constraints of space and time are significant both in how they contribute to our notions of reality and how they exist in tension with our desires.  >>

when we raise animation's relationship to our empathies and desires, and our moving through space,  i think we are also asking what Renate perhaps refered to in terms of real dimensional movement perception/expereince of projected images in architectural space; Renate is near  something I recently read in an intervierw with video artist Bill Viola, when he comments on how important it is for him to install his projections in a real space which, to him, can resemble a Renaissance chapel or the kind of virtual reailty projected in such immersive environments [cf. V. Valentini , 2009, "On the Dramaturgical Aspects of Bill Viola's Multi-media Installations," Performance Research, 14 (3), 54-64.]

I wonder what kind of movement reception we can infer from cosplay activities in urban space or from other dramatiurgies, and how such dramaturgies flow back to motion graphics, or whether industial practices are being adopted (variously) for other kinds of "movement" by  creative users , and how.

Johannes Birringer
dap lab
west london


Dear Tom and Lev,

I have enjoyed both of your perspectives on animation and visualization
this week.

Tom your discussion of assemblage made me think of my own process. I am
happiest when manipulating and assembling disparate forms mixing and
merging them to create flows of images, ideas, thoughts, writings and
actions. Both the content in the frame as well as the space between or
outside (as in another project or thought) comprise the work,.  But let's
take that one step further.  When my work is ready for exhibition I like
to see it  projected in an installation in real time within architectural
three-dimensional space (as opposed to screened on a flat surface), where
the movement of the human body is allowed to negotiate between creating
further layers and surfaces or interrupting others.

What do you all think about the classic ways in which we view animation in
the movie theater, or television and now you tube/the internet?  How could
other potential forms for reception unleash animation and the flows in
indeterminacy?   I don't think that 3-D animation comes near to what I'm


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