[-empyre-] interpreting datasets from science and nature in animation (Richard)

Suzanne Buchan sbuchan at ucreative.ac.uk
Thu Feb 18 20:16:04 EST 2010

Hello all, hi Richard

Not having read your project draft, it might be a stab in the dark but the following works
and projects might be what you are describing:

An artist who uses distinctly analog 'stuff', including growing crystals(!) on film strips
and using his own blood  is Thorsten Fleisch.
His website has most of his films and conceptual ideas: http://fleischfilm.com/
His poetic film ENERGIE! / Energy! is made by exposing photo paper to high voltage discharge
Fleisch also published an essay describing his chemical and physics based process:
 "Borderline Bilder." in animation: an interdisciplinary journal 2009, No 2.

Also, FORMATION OF A SPIRAL GALAXY from The Four-Dimensional Digital Universe Project, Japan
is a remarkable film that uses astronomy data sets to create what the film title describes: 

a 1 1/2 minute excerpt used to be downloadable, and there is a new project up on the site as well.
An essay on the process by Takaaki Takeda,  National Astronomical Observatory of Japan,
for Siggraph:

A special issue on animation in sci- and biotech is in planning for the ANM journal, and this is the 
kind of work we aim for our authors to address. 


-----Original Message-----
From: empyre-bounces at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au on behalf of Richard Wright
Sent: Tue 2/16/2010 23:25
To: soft_skinned_space
Subject: Re: [-empyre-] CG and all things fuzzy, and some thoughts on ethics
Hi there,
I just wanted to respond to a couple of recent posts about animated  
documentary and those thorny indexicality questions.

I once wrote a proposal called "Data Visualisation as the Successor  
to Documentary Film Making" (thinking actually of animated film  
making). I wonder if Paul or Erik or anyone else had any thoughts  
about this possibility of taking data records and animating them?  
Either directly and algorithmically or using more interpretative or  
even non-digital techniques? The source of the data and the  
circumstances in which it was obtained can also create difficult  
ethical questions, quite apart from questions of veracity (they might  
have been obtained under torture for example).

There are very few film examples of this I can think of, not even my  
own. One of the few is Aaron Koblin's "Flight Patterns" (http:// 
www.aaronkoblin.com/work/flightpatterns) and another is Jane  
Marsching's "Rising North" (http://www.flickr.com/photos/ 
efimeravulgata/3496999939 for a view of the installation version of  
the video). Andrea Polli possibly. Much of it to do with climate  
change data. I'm not mentioning these specific ones because I  
particularly like them (the "Rising North" piece, for instance, looks  
a bit too much to me like deciphering a multimedia interface). But I  
was struggling to think of any others and I wondered if anyone else  
knew of any film makers that were moving in this direction...


On 15 Feb 2010, at 18:37, Paul Ward wrote:

> Hi, it's me again!
> A couple of my main research interests are Animation (quelle  
> surprise!) and Documentary, and I've been looking into how  
> animation and nonfiction work together (or not) for some time now.
> See Chapter 5 of my book "Documentary: The Margins of  
> Reality" (Wallflower, 2005); plus "Animated interactions: animation  
> aesthetics and the 'interactive' documentary" in S. Buchan (ed.)  
> with David Surman and Paul Ward (Associate Eds.) Animated  
> 'Worlds' (John Libbey, 2006). The latter discusses 'Going Equipped'  
> alongside Bob Sabiston's 1999 short 'Snack and Drink'
> I think the idea of animation as a 'filter' is apposite - it is the  
> filter through which re-presentations of real people and events are  
> 'creatively treated' (to echo John Grierson again). This also makes  
> some interesting possible connections to animation and memory, or  
> animation and states of mind, and how these areas overlap (or  
> contrast) with 'documentary'. Animations like 'Waltz with Bashir',  
> 'Persepolis' or Andy Glynne's short films 'Animated minds' (about  
> mental health) are all, arguably, sub-types of the animated  
> documentary category, but approach it in very different ways
> best wishes
> Paul
> ________________________________
> From: empyre-bounces at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au on behalf of  
> christopher sullivan
> Sent: Sun 14/02/2010 18:22
> To: soft_skinned_space; Suzanne Buchan
> Cc: soft_skinned_space
> Subject: Re: [-empyre-] CG and all things fuzzy, and some thoughts  
> on ethics
> Hi Suzanne, thanks for the generous discussion. As a "practitioner"  
> I will say
> that I am really not too bothered by the issues of representation,  
> and truth, or
> authenticity, I think those are interesting points of discussion,  
> but nothing
> that will ever be cured. but are we really that confused in the  
> theater? I have
> found that children for instance have very clear understandings of  
> what is real,
> what is manipulated, what is fantasy. the idea that media is  
> continuously lying
> to us, can also lead to a lot of political empathy,
>       I teach an alternative animation history class, and one of  
> our weeks we
> show all non fiction animation.
> here is the week.
> Reading: Understanding Animation, chapter 3 Narrative strategies.  
> 68-92
> Week 6 October 19th NON FICTION-
> These films all use animations power to manifest images that have  
> no filmic
> record. The result is a curious take on truth and representation..  
> Is there an
> emotional safety in these cartoony depictions, of otherwise  
> unbearable images?
>  Roger Ebert , speaking about Grave of the Fire flies.
>  John and Faith Hubley. Sample 1960-75 The Dara Dogs. Denise Topicoff.
>  -A is for Autism, Tim Web 1998. Champaine by Michael Sporn.
>   Some Protection, Marjut  Rimmenen,1987 -Brother, Adam Benjamin  
> Elliot 2003-
>   Going Equipped ,Peter Lords 1989 -Abductees , Paul Vesters 1998
>  The Fetishist, Jim Trainer 1998- Ryan, Chris Landrithe 2003
>  A Room Near By, still life with animated dogs, Paul Ferlinger  
> 2002- 2004
> these films all deal with the strange in between possibilities of  
> animation as a
> filter for truth. I often show Ryan this week also, The students  
> are always
> interested in discussing the inclusion of Chris Landreth in the  
> film. it is
> both interesting and problematic, that his desire to implicate the  
> documenter,
> is also very problematic. does he truly believe that his state of  
> crisis
> parallels Ryan Larkin, in a SRO facility?
> I argue that the real issue of representation through animation is  
> not nearly so
> complicated. and why do we have to create a theoretical censoring  
> bureau,
> just make the work, and let it hit people, all sloppy and imperfect.
> do the questions below really need to be brought to some kind of  
> conclusion?
> is it truly a crisis?
> "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  
>> digitization
>> 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."
> as media professors, I think we have to also challenge media  
> literacy Dogma
> which implies that all viewers are completely at the mercy of the  
> moving image.
> once something is digital, sorry Lev, but it means nothing, it is a  
> technical
> expedient.
> Animators have the opportunity to carve out new and wonderful ways  
> of creating
> work and bringing subjects to the screen that were not possible  
> before.
> A true act of political subversion is the recent screening of Don  
> Hertsfeilds
> new films. the audience came to see funny. instead they saw an  
> amazing maturing
> of his work into a dark and beautiful piece that made me weep  
> several times.
> He really seized the moment to talk about something important.
> I say let's focus on content, not media, and get to work making the  
> films that
> we feel must be made. 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 <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
> _______________________________________________
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