[-empyre-] movement and animation

Johannes Birringer Johannes.Birringer at brunel.ac.uk
Sat Feb 13 04:02:41 EST 2010

Dear all:

thanks, Tom , for your exquisite responses to my questions about qualities, affects and perceivabilities/perceptions of movement in the experience of motion (sensorymotor), and movement in animation or images (and i of course implied dance and all kinaesthetic forms not least dance films or videodanse and choreographies of the camera) , and thus for me the question enveloped, on the one hand, the projection media-performances (in the media arts contexts and three dimensional spaces of exhibition) that perhaps explicitly involve the physical presences and reactions or behaviors of audiences, as well as the swarming out and the social choreographies in response to anime, a topic which I have not done much work on but which of course intrigues me  a great deal as i read your comments and your references to fan cultures and cosplay activities or, say the interreferences between characters in animation and theatre (kabuki) --- the kind of interferences surely implied by initial posts (Renate or Tim) made also regarding South African artist William Kentridge's work, who, prior and during his work on his animated films, had worked with the Handspring Puppet Company in Johannesburg doing plays such as "Faust").   [incidentally, was there  talk of Oskar Fischinger?] 

I am less interested in  Deleuze and the often impenetrable discourse derived from Deleuze, but very much valued your response, Tom, and was impressed by the data base you and your teram are building, this is very valuable......; well I would need to go back to the two Deleuze film books on time image and movement image and rethink them in light of current critcal reflectiobs about the digital and about "animate form"  and the fold (in archiecture, cf. Greg Lynn, Eisenman)

Now, Paul has more or less continued this thread by alluding to perceptions of movement and stillness...... .

>>>   Paul Ward wrote >>>

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 –

and I like Paul's  emphasis on life drawing or drawings;  it reminds me also a bit of the turn of the century work produced in dance via motion capture and new software 3D graphics possiibilities opening up -- you may have heard of Paul Kaiser's collaboration with Bill T Jones on "Ghostcatching", and with Merce Cunningham on "Handdrawn Spaces" and "BIPED"  - i believe the beauty of these animations and the "creatures" that Kaiser, Eshkar and Marc Downie later developed for Trisha Brown's dance company and their own projection work ("Pedestrian" for example, which "swarmed out:" and was shown in Brooklyn on the side walks at night or in public plazas............)  Much of their animated bodies look handdrawn and calligraphic, smooth and soft and fluid and "still" as well, their limbs may seem suspended (frozen for a second) but our brains or muscles and tendons always carry on the movement and "compensate" indeed,;  our bodies therefore are animators, aren't they?

 (Kaiser and Eshkar's software I think was called Character Studio, which is not a bad name for working with motion captured kinetic data on transfering the live dancer body and distinct personality to the living animation of its distinctive personality, spawning it off, as Bill T Jones called it).

Still?   i think we agree there is no "stillness" ever in movement or in a body standing still or waiting/expecting, and what Paul is mentioning here briefly, the potentiality or virtuality of movement, the "anticipation" or expectation of motion in "not motion" or before/after motion (where does a gesture end?) is a very wonderful reference to phenomenological interests, amongst many folks in movement studies and dance,  & in current cross over studies of gestures and movement as they are also imagined in neuroscience (with emphasis on neuroplasticity).

What Paul describes as :

....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.>>

is beautifully and extensively studied by movement researchers who also choreograph or work with movement animation (dance / film  / animation).  What you call "anticipation", Paul, has been described very eloquently as  "pre-acceleration"  by Erin Manning* (and i would say in movement experience we of course have post acceleration, the slow down and cool down of our motion exertions, being pulled by gravity and weight and exhaustion and excitement and so on....... and how we might also see the detrimental effects on our consciousness or brains  slowly when imaging is affecting us fragrantly  (seen the things flying at you in "Avatar" and feeling dizzy?, our eyes crossed and hurting?   ...and surely they study this in the games industry I would think.), and Manning offers a good reading of E-J.Marey's movement machines of the 19th cenrtury,  during the time of Muybridge's motion studies, which I suppose predate the "animetic" or animatic machine Tom suggested. 

Thinking about the affect of such movement perceptions,  one might speculate on why recent animation and animated films have been so very successul, in (cross-)cultural terms, and how the movement experience is , or is not connected to the content/myths and ritual archetypes or motor archetypes (connected intensely to our emotional experence of our animal natures, energies), or whether this is a general psychological effect of animation intrinsic to its medium. 

(but have many of you not argued there is nothing medium specific about animation anymore? has "animation"  thus chaged into a different medium or plays on a different pyschosocial frontier?).

Johannes Birringer
artistic director, DAP lab

_ *Manning, Erin. Relationscapes: Movement, Art, Philosophy. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2009.

_  For reference to our company's work on UKIYO, a mixed reality choreographic installation involving real performers and animated characters/avatars, see


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