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

T Goodeve tgoodeve at gmail.com
Sun Feb 14 15:29:07 EST 2010

Dear All,


So much comes and goes in these posts, meanwhile I am trying to catch up
with what you animation studies people are writing and theorizing so as to
enter the conversation with some degree of relevance. It’s clear that
animations studies is the vital field of active discourse for questions of
our times that cinema studies was in the 80s when I was dipping my head in
such ink. But oh am I behind. On this point, and it includes the “fuzzy”
category of animation being discussed, I really appreciate Suzanne’s way of
presenting “animation studies” as a category to be theorized because she
doesn’t separate cinema, nor infer this sense that cinema/cinema
studies/film/film theory/the cinema etc is what “was” but rather there is
this totality of elements, including experimental film, that can be included
within what is called animation that has been running parallel with cinema.
(yes, yes, it’s all dead) That was kind of what my clumsy question was a
while ago. We can say no to cinematic specificity but then we know it always
has to be there because how could you talk about the Quays without
referencing the structure of interior mind we become while “inhabiting” as
opposed to viewing their films if not for , I don’t know, to use an old
school term, “the language of cinema.” or because of just plain cinema
itself. (I never was one with Noel Carroll.) Or, to use Thomas Lamarre’s
book, the camera AND the Animation Stand.

For instance, in all of their films, they use rack focus from foreground to
background within the context of stop motion as well as having the camera
pan quickly to the left or right or tilt up giving the viewer the sense of a
mind watching and thinking its way through their puppetverse. Since these
worlds are built from puppets and objects via stop motion, using Thomas’s
discussion of movement image from Deleuze might be more productive than
using film theory but the Quays world is one of cineamation more than
animation if one really wants to give it a name (I’m wary of these things).
But as a writer, not an academic, it is very, very difficult. Suzanne’s
notion of how to think about animation though is so encompassing. Her
history is not animation as something “new”, although the paradigm we are in
is and cinema as “pure cinema is what Stephen Heath would call the
storytelling machine of the 20th century, as the digital/new media, or
better “animation studies”? is the storytelling machine (and cultural
engine) of the 21st.

In general the Quays work slices into all categories and engages many of the
issues people have brought up. Defining their films has always been
impossible. Calling them animators has always felt a bit silly. Music,
architecture, dance, stage design, are as relevant as film and animation or
puppets. Music and sound in fact are in some ways more so.  Sound is
something I want to discuss the week after next.

And the question of art and the Quays is a big one. One of my big fantasy
projects has been to suggest a Quay show to MOMA. I mean, if they can do
Pixar, Kentridge, and Tim Burton why not the Quays. The scariest part is the
Quays themselves: “Oh, we’ve thrown away so much stuff.” Archives anyone?

Something just occurred to me. The function of the Quays kind of films is so
vastly different than anime and the kind of brilliant and comprehensive
cultural study Thomas Lamarre has done in his The Anime Machine. It’s kind
of interesting to have both Suzanne and Tom both as moderators. In some ways
they seem to represent two completely different modalities of animation
studies, or their objects of studies do. Is this at all true and if so,
that’s kind of important to point out isn’t it?  And while I’m at it, Lev
Manovich and Cultural Analytics is certainly an entirely separate zone  as
well? This seems important,yes?Thank you all. I'm hoping I'm catching up.

On Sat, Feb 13, 2010 at 10:38 PM, christopher sullivan <csulli at saic.edu>wrote:

> 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
> http://www.saic.edu/degrees_resources/departments/fvnm/index.html#undergrad_curr/SLC_8078
>  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&#8232; underground, but will soon surface.  My Filmography
> of
> screened work is Aint Misbehavin’ The Beholder, and Landscape with The Fall
> Of
> Icarus.
>             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
> 312-345-3802
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
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