[-empyre-] CG and all things fuzzy, and some thoughts on ethics

christopher sullivan csulli at saic.edu
Sun Feb 14 14:38:30 EST 2010

Hello All this is Chris Sullivan, 
If I am Early just wait til Monday, not sure when you want the week to start.
I am an independent animator, and teach animation at The School of The Art
institute of Chicago. In the Department of Film Video New Media 
  For Maya Curriculum look under Art And Technology

about me, 
	 I have been creating animated films and performance work for the last thirty
years, the first ten of which took place in Minneapolis, and now In Chicago
since 1989.  My films have been show nationally and internationally, and I am a
recipient of Grants from The John Simon Guggenheim foundation, And the
Rockefeller Foundation.  I have shown work in Ottawa, Zagreb, Moma, Los Angeles
Animation Celebration. 
I have been working on epic piece called Consuming Spirits, for a decade , so I
have gone a bit
 underground, but will soon surface.  My Filmography of
screened work is Aint Misbehavin’ The Beholder, and Landscape with The Fall Of
             In my work I am interested in positions of power in one on one
communications, especially notions of submission and control. I am particularly
interested in such politics in relation to the family, and in relationships of
love and hate.  I also do performance work, after working in film exclusively
for 14 years the stage bug bit me again, and I happily return to perform my new
piece, Mark The Encounter. I am very interested in making serious film with
animation, serious film for adults. I like to keep things a bit unstable, so
that people are not sure if something is funny or tragic, sarcastic, or heart
felt. I like to use deep, smart humor, as opposed to gags. I like to show loose
ends, and exposed props in my work, I am not creating illusion, but a sloppily
glued together valentine.

On to topics:

One thing about the topic of technology is that I am very excited about the
future of independent animation and digital compositing technology. I am
finishing my last 16mm generated Film, and actually look forward to the
possibilities with digital animation. I am particularly tuned into 2-D digital,
and my students use Flash, After Effects and Toon Boom. And they make great
work. We also use stop motion, and digital cameras.  Looking at the wonderful
results with Persepolis, Yamamura’s the Country Doctor, Igor Kovalyov Or Paul
Fierlingers work; also check out Tom Schroeder’s Yellow Bird. I do not know why
filmmakers are threatened.  On The CG side Jim Duesing, Joshua Mosely, and
Skhizein ,by Jérémy Clapin. All amazing.
              It is far easier to make painterly, material, dirty, textured  2-D
animation with digital media, than it ever was with film(excepting destructive
animation, Quay’s, Piotr Dumala, Caroline Leaf, William Kentridge. 
               Interestingly most of my students draw by hand and then scan,
even with Wacom Screens at their disposal.
As far as New Media, or digital Media, if that is your subject matter, I am
really not interested, I have never been a formalist, and I will not start now.
 Pixels are boring, so are cell paints. I want to see animations about Love,
Hate, Sex, Death, And yes childhood memoirs fall under that list.  I believe in
teaching animation from the perspective of writer director, and have all of my
students create their own original works, those students fair far better in the
commercial world as well. 
            I believe that Technology is a tool, not a subject,  work that tries
to address globalism, technology, greenness, or ideas about media saturation,
seams obvious to me, and to my colleagues and students. Animation is the
medium, The content, comes from the human experience. 
      When I teach my students Rotoscoping, I show Dennis Topicoff’s His Mothers
Voice, when the lights come on we talk about the film as they all dry their
eyes, then they are interested in the possibilities of rotoscope.
      another amazing thing, ten years ago my students could not draw, now they
are all very good drafts people, thank graphic novels I guess. 
      what do others think, and turn me onto some great work you have seen
lately. Chris.

Quoting Suzanne Buchan <sbuchan at ucreative.ac.uk>:

> Renate
> (I can't turn off HTML on the email I'm suing, so I hope the inserted line
> breaks improve reading.)
>  Many practice-based animation and film programmes - as well as photography
> and design -
>  are increasingly replacing analogue with digital, with all the
> implications.
>  While I'm not a hands-on 'practitioner' per se – I don't teach practice – I
> can say that
>  my university has two programmes, and both use digital tools but foreground
>  fine arts-based style, process and students attend life-drawing classes.
>  There are others who follow the same material-based philosophy, including
>  Simon's and the RCA' this is not, however, representative of the wider
> general
>  shift to digital. 
> With the current disastrous funding cuts at HEIs in the UK, a room of
>  computers is more sustainable than puppet animation studios and
>  art rooms; hence it is becoming digital almost everywhere. This has 
> implications on how students learn, speeds up production instead of 
> slowing down, the process of drawing, painting and model building 
> is very much part of developing narrative, and good analogue films 
> need time. Others here in empyre who are practice-based can probably
>  answer your question better.
> Your question about CGI brings me to another set of thoughts about the
>  digital and the artefact and some ethical implications that arise from the
>  use of CGI in animation and film. Since the digital shift, the manipulated
>  moving image has been the focus of heated debates around representation,
>  truth values and ethical responsibility of its commissioners, makers and 
> distributors. The unreliablility of the photographic image as it became
>  enhanced or altered by digital technologies has had a profound effect 
> on audiences, a topic thematised by Thomas Elsaesser, Lev Manovich
>  and Siegfried Zielinski, ethical philosopher Jane Bennett (The Enchantment
>  of Modern Life, 2001) and by others who may be on empyre. 
> The increasing convergence, barrage and resulting pervasiveness of 
> manipulated imagery, including traditional and digital animation, has 
> overwhelmed many of its viewers, and this has pressing philosophical
>  and ethical connotations. In terms of the status of indexicality and truth
>  claims of the visual, in 1998 Elsaesser suggested a crisis was evolving:
>  "Any technology that materially affects this status, and digitisation 
> would seem to be such a technology, thus puts in crisis deeply-held
>  beliefs about representation and visualization, and many of the
>  discourses – critical, scientific or aesthetic – based on, or formulated
>  in the name of the indexical in our culture, need to be re-examined." 
> (Elsaesser, Thomas, "Digital Cinema: Delivery, Event, time", in: 
> Cinema Futures: Cain, Abel or Cable?,1998. Pp. 201-222)
> While following these debates, I became sensitised to one specific i
> mpact of manipulated images during a screening of Roland Emmerich's 
> 1994 Independence Day. In the rather naive encounter between the
>  American missionaries and the alien Mother ship we witness a brief
>  moment, only a few frames, when a fireball engulfs the pilot on impact. 
> Now in itself, this is not an unfamiliar scene, and it has been repeated
>  in action and war films to excess. My point here is that the image 
> manipulation was of the 'invisible' sort, i.e. not 'in-your-face' CGI that
>  creates spectacle that is highly aware of its difference to so-called
>  normal perception and representation. 
> The fireball in the cockpit was created to look like live action. 
> So –  what's the problem? Well, in that fraction of a second of ID4, 
> an image flashed in my mind that, depending on your generation, 
> may also be indelibly etched in your own.: this 1963 photo by Malcolm Brown 
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Th%C3%ADch_Qu?ng_D?c
> The mental image of this while watching ID4 was an emotional response
>  on my part, a response of what could be described as 'negative empathy'
>  that incited ethical awareness about the inherent 'wrongness' of this scene.
> This personal example might illustrate why we need articulated critical 
> reactions to films like these, to  facilitate a sober understanding of the
>  impact such films are having on our collective sense of ethics.
>  In light of the inane acceptance of violent images 
> just because we are 'used to them' and the role CGI and animation 
> has to play in this, addressing the crisis rooted in the loss of indexical 
> truth could effectively address a re-examination of the discourse around
>  ethical responsibility in image production. Discussions around animation –
>  especially the kind we are not supposed to see – have tended to focus
>  on technical wizardry and the properties of programmes to create the
>  impossible. It may be part of a new body of work for critical
> investigations
>  of spectatorial manipulation in a digital age, a territory that needs
>  ethical navigation to understand the philosophical  consequences of
>  this kind of imagery. 
> The next issue of the ANM journal (5.1) will have an essay by philosopher 
> and cultural studies scholar Elizabeth Walden that explores just these
> issues
>  and discusses a puppet animation film; she discusses how "elements of 
> the narrative structure and the camera work give the materials used in the
>  character’s project a moral standing in the film, which draws audience and
>  filmmaker as well as the character into an ethical situation which is 
> significant to our shared moment in the digital era." 
> So I'll leave this for now, and see if anyone has some thoughts on it.
> I'm also happy to engage with the Quays' works, if there is interest out
> there.
> Suzanne
> -----Original Message-----
> From: empyre-bounces at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au on behalf of Renate Ferro
> Sent: Sat 2/13/2010 04:37
> To: soft_skinned_space
> Subject: Re: [-empyre-] CG and all things fuzzy
> Dear Paul and Suzanne,
> Can you both talk about how CG fits into your animation programs?  At
> Cornell, Computer Graphics and 3D animation is taught by Computing
> faculty.  It is in the art department where students, particularly
> recently, have been creating stop action, frame by frame, roto-scoping,
> drawing based and a medley of other fuzzies. Whether working  from
> photography based or original drawing. their novel, quirky rendering
> styles, interdisciplinary interests and criticality make their work fresh
> and innovative.
> How does it work in the UK?
> Renate
> 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
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empyre
> Art Editor, diacritics
> http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/dia/
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre

Christopher Sullivan
Dept. of Film/Video/New Media
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
112 so michigan
Chicago Ill 60603
csulli at saic.edu

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