[-empyre-] high/low art economies

Renate Ferro rtf9 at cornell.edu
Sat Feb 13 15:06:12 EST 2010

Dear Suzanne,

Many thanks for bringing up the issue of "animation" within the context of
the museum.  A few months ago the Whitney Museum in NYC hosted the
animated project "Play/Pause," an array of double screened animated
paintings set to a musical score by Sadie Benning.  In December, the
Museum of Modern Art in NY featured the blockbuster multi-media work of
Tim Burton.  In the catalog's introduction, Burton admits that the museum
was the very last place he expected his work to reside.  Tim Murray and I
visited the exhibition twice.  It was so crowded on both occasions not
only were we unable to see the work but we left the museum early because
of the hoards of tourists that gravitated to what I perceive is a show
that was launched to lure the viewer who ordinarily opted out of buying an
entrance ticket.

Those of us in close proximity of NY are looking forward to the opening of
William Kentridge's show at the MOMA but also his collaboration at the Met
for his artistic intervention into the opera "The Nose."

So I agree that the work "fuzzy" is most appropriate for the broad
interdisciplinary/multi/mixed media that animation encompasses.  The
low/high divide is dissipating in the US because of economics.  Bringing
popular culture into institutions that usually feature high art is a
strategic way to broaden the demographics of the viewers.  Perhaps the
Tate and the MOMA will include the Quay Brothers phenomenal work sooner
than later.


> I'm very glad to be 'here' with you and all involved in this empyre
> thread. (I hope this post doesn't turn into overlong lines that you need
> to scroll to read - if so I'll try to rectify this in the next one)
> I'd like to briefly pick up on what Paul wrote about 'fuzzy' terms - the
> reason for posting this is to encourage people to consider the complexity
> of techniques and forms that fall under that umbrella, and to give some
> regard for the hundreds of genres that the form can express. It is most
> pointedly *not* a genre.
> For example,   The Library of Congress Moving Image Genre-Form Guide
> allocates animation as one of three Sublists (the others are Experimental
> and Advertising) that is classified in Subdivisions according to
> techniques and technologies. This is unusual in that other genres are
> described with historical, ideological, aesthetic or content-based
> terminologies:
> http://www.loc.gov/rr/mopic/migsub.html#Animation
> It is much like the troublesome term 'experimental film'. . In September
> last year, a ListSERVE debate ensued around a call for proposal for the
> FSAC Film Genre Series, two of which were anime (which is a genre) and
> experimental film. A discussion ensued, and Jeffrey Skoller for UC
> Berkeley offered up some valuable arguments for the case against
> ‘genrification’ of experimental film. Analogous to the Cinema & Media
> Studies Special Interest group Ex-FM (that founder Michael Zryd asked me
> to be a founding member of precisely because of animation's 'fuzziness')
> members’ concerns about experimental film the very fuzzy term of
> 'animation' needs unpacking and redefining into a number of related areas
> of critical engagement and authorship
> An example for this is Stan Vanderbeek's collage and cutout film work (the
> next issue of animation: an interdiciplinary journal - ANM for short -
> will be a special issue on him). Vanderbeek's animation films are
> 'experimental' but they can also be allocated to genres of  dark comedy,
> activist, diary, lyrical, reflexive, public affairs, war (using the LoC's
> gernres). Many animation films express social critique, political satire,
> commodity culture, gender, issues of representation, for instance Martha
> Coburn, Paul Vester, George Griffin,Vera Neubauer and many more.
> So 'fuzzy' terms can be a good thing, they can also be a disservice to the
> multliplicity of styles, content and form, not to mention the multiple
> platforms animation is increasingly using. Part of my concern with the
> term is to do with the artefact - another theme you were interesting in
> pursuing here - and the (improving) high/low art divide between 'serious'
> and 'art' animation. William Kentridge and Robin Rhode are to my
> knowledge, two of the few  'animation' artists to actually break through
> this divide. Why aren't the Quay brother's works in Tate Modern? Why do
> they screen Fischli & Weiss, but not Jerzy Kucia's or the Quays' works in
> the same contexts? An example is their currently touring DORMITORIUM
> exhibition, that was recently at Cornell.
> There is a long way to go to correct a common perception that animation is
> not art. On the BBC’s website, one reviewer of the 2007 exhibition
> Momentary Momentum: Animated Drawings at Parasol Unit Foundation for
> Contemporary Art, London (which includes Kentridge and Rhode), states, “It
> would be wrong to refer to these works as just ‘animations.’”  ( Francesca
> Gavin, “Moving Drawings at London’s Parasol Unit,” Collective: The
> Interactive Culture Magazine, March 8, 2007,
> http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/collective/A20531611.)
> This comment is symptomatic of the common misconceptions of 'animation',
> as the Parasol Unit’s selection of artists merges “just” animation with
> art, perhaps, in reversal, challenging in its own way the high/low divide.
> The concern is that the terms elides some (of course not all of it is art)
>  animation from art economies and I agree with what you write, that " 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). My
> critique of the term is not that it is pejorative - rather that in (many)
> people's mind it doesn't differentiate between Looney Tunes and
> Vanderbeek's 'Dance of the Looney Spoons):
> http://www.ubu.com/film/vanderbeek_dance.html
> (Ubuweb has over a dozen of his films online)
>  So I think it is very much in the ballpark of writers and filmmakers to
> contribute to expanding and defining the term, and this is increasingly
> the case as more animation and moving image studies scholars apply their
> specialist knowledge and expertise to animation in all its variety. This
> is what I mean by tired canons. So I'll end this post here and look
> forward to what comes next.
> Suzanne
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre

Renate Ferro
Visiting Assistant Professor
Department of Art
Cornell University, Tjaden Hall
Ithaca, NY  14853

Email:   <rtf9 at cornell.edu>
Website:  http://www.renateferro.net

Co-moderator of _empyre soft skinned space

Art Editor, diacritics

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