[-empyre-] from chris, independents, animation in teaching.

Christiane Robbins cpr at mindspring.com
Sat Feb 20 04:41:56 EST 2010

Chris et all,

I don't know what I can say other than thank you so very much for this  
post  - its a most welcome rupture!
My apologies in that I don't have any time to adequately respond - in  
order to do it justice.



On Feb 19, 2010, at 6:43 AM, christopher sullivan wrote:

> Hi everyone, as the week draws to the end, It has been an  
> interesting mix of
> thoughts and ideas. One thing that I wanted to talk about before  
> things draw to
> a close is my hopes for animation, and my thoughts on a pedagogical  
> side.
>             I feel that the independent animated feature is going to  
> increase
> exponentially in years to come (just hope I get my film to screen  
> before it is
> a infinite pool) I do hope that these new films will not be plagued  
> with the
> remakes and adaptations that are now overtaking Hollywood. Besides  
> Charley
> Kaufman, who is getting original scripts produced?  Even Wes  
> Anderson’s
> (another script writer) Incredible Mr. Fox, is an adaptation, again  
> Charley
> Kaufman prophetic, in the writing of Adaptation.
>             So the thing that we independent animators have to do is  
> create
> works that really take advantage of the qualities of animation that  
> set it
> apart from live action film, and particular for the west to catch up  
> with some
> of the cinematic chances taken in the east “for instance, Paprika”  
> or the
> highly disturbing Mindgame. Fringe feature anime is politically very
> conservative in particular with gender politics, and I am not even  
> talking
> about being queer enough, I am referring to the heterosexually  
> conservative,
> and completely fraternal in the sense of the internal mind; men  
> imagining
> fantasies of women.   But these films are very sophisticated in  
> regards to
> filmmaking. How they play with time, how they create and destroy  
> characters, in
> constant sates of death and resurrection. So I hope that We as  
> filmmakers can
> get the backing to create innovative films that challenge audiences  
> not as
> people going to see animation, but going to see demanding cinema.  
> See you in
> the trenches.
>         One other thought I wanted to bring up is whether you think  
> that
> animation is really a good tool to teach artists how to think. I  
> have debated
> this for years because of its very slow turn around, and the literal  
> amount of
> idea stuff that a student can handle during their studies. Every  
> successful
> student I have had, has had other outlets to plow through and  
> discard ideas, be
> it photography, comics, performance, live action films, writing. I  
> have never
> had an exclusive animator that I feel really used their time in  
> school fully.
> I learned more about making art in my early twenties in school doing
> performance than doing animation, though my artistic identity as an  
> animation
> artist via grants awards, employment, solidified at this time as  
> well.  I am
> pondering these questions; Is animation a medium that condenses  
> other artistic
> experiences into a less temporal vision, but not the best generative  
> medium? Is
> it a good intellectual teaching medium? Of course this is about  
> matters of
> degrees, as I do believe my students grow in my classes, but they do  
> grow
> slowly.
> What are people’s thoughts?
> Quoting Eric Patrick <ericp at northwestern.edu>:
>> Hi Richard,
>> This is really fascinating stuff...  not my area of expertise, but  
>> Fernanda
>> Viegas of IBM research in Cambridge is doing some of this sort of  
>> work
>> (http://manyeyes.alphaworks.ibm.com/manyeyes/).  Probably what we  
>> see more of
>> in our little animation neck of the woods is info-graphics for  
>> visualization:
>> http://vimeo.com/3261363.  Perhaps Paul is still around and may  
>> have some
>> interesting sources to add.
>> Sorry can't be of more help...
>> ep
>> ==============Original message text===============
>> On Tue, 16 Feb 2010 5:25:13 pm CST Richard Wright wrote:
>> 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...
>> Richard
>> 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
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> empyre forum
>>> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>>> http://www.subtle.net/empyre>
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>> ===========End of original message text===========
>> Eric Patrick
>> Assistant Professor
>> Radio/Television/Film
>> School of Communication
>> Northwestern University
>> 1920 Campus Drive
>> Evanston, Illinois  60208
>> _______________________________________________
>> 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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