Live Animation: animating in the moment

At the moment I am writing a paper on ‘Live Animation: animating in the moment‘ for the CAKE Conference and Festival next week and thinking about the links between performance drawing and animation, because the Dialogues of Performance III: Draw to Perform seminar is still fresh in my mind.

While many animators might consider ‘animating in the moment’ to be part of the debate between the pros and cons of ‘straight ahead’ vs. ‘pose-to-pose’ animation (to non-animators this translates as spontaneous unplanned sequences of animated drawings vs. keyframed sequences in which extreme poses are planned first and then the animation between these are created), my interest is in creating animation immediately so that it can be played back straight away.

Many filmmakers and animators inspired by expanded cinema have combined the live gestures of their own bodies in the act of mark making with analogue technology to create spontaneous projected moving images. I am always inspired by the following artists:

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Still from Paul Sharits ‘S:STREAM:S:S:SECTION:S:S:ECTION:S:S:ECTIONED (1971)

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Rolling over ‘Blinkity Blank’ (2014) Pierre Hébert

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The performance process of making:36 Frames Per Feet (2013) Vicky Smith.

Film made from the performance:

 

In my own work, I combine these ideas about spontaneous mark making and being in the moment with digital technology. In 2010, I completed a series of projects that involved the animation of white light. The first two projects were created with a Tagtool, an open source visual instrument that allows you to create drawings with a graphics tablet and simultaneously manipulate them with a joystick. Instructions for making them are on the Tagtool site. I did the programming and my Dad put together the electronics and controllers for me.

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Improvised collaborative performance (2010) Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance

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ARC: I Draw for You (2010) Performance Drawing Collective (Maryclare Foa, Jane Grisewood, Birgtta Hosea, Carali McCall), Centre for Drawing, Wimbledon College of Art

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In my next project, I started to experiment with the idea of animating myself into existence with the use of white light. Painting myself black, I drew white lines on myself while revolving in a circle. After I had digitally manipulated the original images, it looked as if a giant head was slowly forming out of white lines.

Projecting this film holographically with Musion Eyeliner technology, I was able to create the illusion that a giant head was forming out of white lines on the stage in three dimensions. At performances in Shunt and Kinetica, I performed within the holographic projection of my own head. Painted black to look invisible on stage, I drew white lines on myself again in a repetition of the marks created to make the film. It was very hard to photograph – the pictures below give a rough impression.

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Choreographing time: animation without a screen

Last night I was really impressed by Choreographing time: animation without a screen, a presentation of the Diasynchronoscope project by Trope at Goldsmith’s Thursday club at the Centre for Recent Collaboration.

Carol MacGillivray and Bruno Mathez, who collaborate together as Trope, showed their amazing screen-less animation and explained how it had emerged from experiments with perception, animation, physical computing, digital composition, sculpture and sleight of hand. I had previously seen their work Gaffer at Tenderpixel Gallery in which objects literally seemed to fly around the room.

As the work is site specific and relies on clever optical illusions it is almost impossible to photograph, but here is a video of their work.

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Open Story

Notes from the Open Story Symposium, University of Brighton 23/06/14

Apologies to any of the speakers if I mis-heard or misspelled any details from their talks.

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Paul Sermon introduced the symposium and explained that it is designed to showcase some of the thinking and contemporary practice in new forms of storytelling for diverse digital platforms as well as to look at the origins of challenging and reframing narrative.

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Story Experiences Panel

Robert Pratten, Transmedia Storyteller Ltd: Storytelling beyond the screen

The mission of their company is to bring stories to life and use computing devices to transmit story into everyday living. The platform they have devised is Conducttr (Pervasive Entertainment Platform). He showed examples of work his company has done, including multi reality gaming 19 Reinos for Canal +, Game of Thrones. The game involved role playing on Twitter. In retail stores associated with Canal +, there were physical places where you could download assets, tools etc to aid in the role playing game. The winner was crowned in a ceremony at the end of the TV series. Their company are encouraging people to think broadly about cross media experiences, not just watching TV shows, but creating game worlds with social media and physical devices. They maintain a database of everyone who has played the game enabling them to personalise the experience. They can track the users attributes such as the level of compassion they display or their stealth. Live demo of the Eavesdrop project. AirPi – device sending air quality information from Mumbai and the results would change the mood of a character. Immersive location experiences – Estimote devices – they are soon going to release the code for Estimo to work with their System and Android phones. Tech enabled actors can work with the system enabling immersive environmental gaming or theatre.

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Robert Pratten - Robert is CEO and Founder of Transmedia Storyteller Ltd, creators of Conducttr ­the pervasive entertainment platform. Robert’s experience uniquely places him at the intersection of entertainment and technology: he graduated from Salford University in 1989 with an honors degree in Microcomputing and quit work in 2000 to attend the London Film School. He has written, produced and directed two award-winning, critically acclaimed feature films - London Voodoo (2004) and Mindflesh (2008) as well as producing the transmedia project (which was the proof-of-concept for Conducttr) Lowlifes. Today he is an internationally recognized thought-leader in transmedia storytelling – regularly speaking at conferences including the World Innovation Conference and SXSW Interactive and also to transmedia meetup groups to encourage and inspire a new era of independent multiplatform creative thinking. He plays an active role in the continuing development of Conducttr and advising clients on how best to engage audiences using multiplatform interactive storytelling. Recent clients include CANAL+, Harlequin Mills & Boon and Disney. He is author of the book Getting Started in Transmedia Storytelling: A Practical Guide for Beginners. He can be found online as @robpratten.

Mark Dunford / Camilia Carsan, Silver Stories Project, University of Brighton

What is digital storytelling? Storytelling is an essential part of human existence. In his workshops people tell stories through ‘story circles’. Most participants have limited knowledge of using digital technology. They learn this and also to communicate with each others and to produce a PowerPoint / simple film with voiceover and still images. They bring to the workshop their own photos etc. Inspired by Joe Lambert Digital Storytelling Capturing Lives Creating Community (2002). Sharing ideas and insights, the groups assemble and edit a story and then reflect on and discuss what they have produced. Currently working in Romania where the projects are based in local libraries. Librarians are trained to run the workshops and then run them with local older people who have never used computers before. The participants were aged 50+ and regular library users. 270 stories have now come out of these workshops in Romania. Funding came fBill/Melissa Gates Foundation to teach the people IT. A lot of the stories are quite activist based and specific to that group of people. Academics have been analysing the digital stories that have been produced. Nick Couldry, has written about digital storytelling – sees it as full of rich democratic possibility. Giving people who don’t normally have a chance to speak out are given access to media and a voice. Anna Poletti, however, has looked at the form of digital storytelling, The idea of a narrative – the formal expectation of an arch and a catharsis, closure and universality – has limited what a story could be. The form determines the outcome and neutralises individual styles. Creating stories for a public forum may influence the sort of stories that people want to reveal – a fear of being too personal or exposing too much.. The participants themselves reported that they wanted to do something creative, to preserve memories for their grandchildren and share them with others online and to take control of the representation of their own stories / the way that life is portrayed in Romania. They acknowledged a critical, reflective, therapeutic and political dimension to the stories that were told.

Mark Dunford - Mark is Academic Quality and Partnership Director in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Brighton. He is also one of four founding Directors of the research company Digitales, and has led the delivery of major digital storytelling Œaction research projects as collaborations between community groups and academic institutions, including Digem (2009-2012) and Extending Creative Practice (2010-2012). He is currently the Principal Investigator on Silver Stories (2013-2015), which involves nine partners across six countries making digital stories with older people. Before he moved into academia in 2008, he was Executive Director of Hi8us Projects, a charity specialising in collaborative media work connecting community groups, media professionals and strategic agencies and the lead partner in Inclusion Through Media, a 27 partner research project operating in the UK and Europe with an overall value of £6.5m and was one of the contributing editors to the book of the same name (Open Mute, 2007) which explored questions around inclusion and media practice.  He has also worked extensively as a media consultant and has been employed as a member of staff at the BFI, BBC and Arts Council England.

Ben Barker, Experience Designer, PAN Studio: How does digital help us tell stories?

Small studio based in London and set up 3 years ago, all have design backgrounds. Janet Cardiff’s ‘The Missing Voice’ an immersive audio tour of Whitechapel – it was linear but very influential on him. Permission to go to places you wouldn’t normally go. Mixing own stories with the city environment.The companies early work – Resident Evil Immersive Game in London with a grand finale in Shoreditch. The Secret Room, museum installation in Paris. A creepy bundle of glowing wires hidden in a cupboard – by plucking the strings you could change the lighting around the whole museum. Narrative systems – creating the conditions for other to tell good stories. Manifesto for a Ludic Century – Eric Zimmerman – he says we are in the playful century. ‘Hello Lamp Post’ in Bristol (2013) – inspired by idea that a city is a place of shared memories – could a city be a diary? How to create a system that allows to record and share with others what the city is about? The system uses unique codes, for example such that is written on a post box or a lamp post. Users can then send messages to objects via the objects unique code and get messages back left by other people. Almost 4,000 people engaged with it, sending over 25,000 messages. Currently working on ‘Run an Empire’ compete to capture and run your local territory. Alternate reality strategy game. Uses mobiles. Free for all, locative, multi user game. To capture territory you need to run around it. To capture someone else’s territory – run around it. But they could capture yours back. ‘Mudlark’ – data scrapes from Oyster cards / TFL data hints at potential of using open data. Slingshot’s game ’2.8 Minutes Later’ zombie game using abandoned infrastructure. ‘The Garden of Forking Paths’ Jorge Luis Borges – branching narratives, the book is the labyrinth – like a city full full of stories. Digital story exchange – not content creation in the conventional sense. We as the author set the tone of engagement.

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Ben Barker - Ben is a designer and co-founder of London based PAN Studio, producing interactive installations and experimental objects designed to find new ways of enriching everyday living. Pan’s recent work has focused on the digital re-appropriation of city space.  Their projects include Hello Lamp Post, a city wide platform for play and Run an Empire, a territory control strategy game that you play in the space around you.

Panel Discussion

What is the role of the designer if the user is creating their own story through participation? The designer is setting up the scenario. Sometimes the client doesn’t fully understand user interaction. The hardest bit of authorship is how much to allow, what limits to set, how much to moderate, how much to allow people to subvert the system – would the system be tough enough to handle this. How much can be shared so that users can make their own stories? One issue is access to the technology and ability to make it work. Transmedia Storyteller Ltd want their platform, which is in BETA, to be ultimately accessible to all forms of users to take advantage of – from personal consumers through to commercial usage. Is immersive gaming a niche interest or in the mainstream? Punchdrunk ‘Drowned Man’ this show has broken immersive theatre through into the mainstream, popularity of Secret Cinema Zombies Run – breakthrough of immersive gaming. Gamers are only just able to utilise the potential of GPS etc on smartphones. If each person brings their own mode of engagement to a story, how can you prevent the misinterpretation of a story? For example could ‘Run an Empire’ actually encourage postcode based gang rivalry? Answer – you have to trust that the game playing audience are capable of making distinctions and have the confidence that people can be responsible. What role do the ubiquitous social networking platforms have? Mark Dunford worked with young people initially and a lot of young people simply made work that looked lie Facebook profiles. Thats why they find it more interesting to work with older people who have never used IT before. For Transmedia – social networking is important to engage friends in the games that they are playing. In schools, younger people are not emotionally developed in terms of compassion, social media can help develop this if used positively, e.g. in ways to counter cyber bullying.

User Performance Panel

Birgitta Hosea, Central Saint Martins: Conversing with Cartoon Characters: At Home with Mr and Mrs Smith (2009) and Lunch with Miss Smith (2010).

Spontaneous, immediate, unpredictable, here and now: in Performance Studies improvisation is seen as the apotheosis of ‘liveness’. Created slowly in painstaking detail and then played back in a linear format, could animation ever be made to improvise in response to the stimulus of a live situation? Part of a body of work in which the position of the animator as a performer is examined, this paper presents art projects that question notions of linear temporality in the playback of animation through cartoon characters that can engage in live performance. Inspired by the theatre of the absurd playwright, Ionesco, and the improvisational animation of comedian Howard Read, two synchronous animation projects created in Flash were devised in which audience feedback leads to a direct and unpredictable response from an animated character. The web-based At Home with Mr and Mrs Smith (2009) aimed to elicit feedback from a globally dispersed audience that could immediately be responded to by a cartoon character. It was performed live as part of the 090909 Upstage online festival of cyberformance. The site-specific installation, Lunch with Miss Smith (2010), aimed to create a noumenal world of animation in which one visitor at a time was invited to have lunch with a cartoon character and then questioned about their experience. These projects raise issues around the definition of ‘liveness’, as debated by Peggy Phelan and Philip Auslander. This paper contends that ‘now’ can be achieved in animation through the use of digital techniques.

Plate 25. Lunch with Miss Smith, table dressing, 2010.

Birgitta Hosea - Birgitta is a London-based media artist. Her practice ranges from video installation and animated performance art through to commercial motion graphics and is included in the Tate Britain archive. In her work, she seeks to imagine new ways in which animation could be combined with the living body and emerging technologies. Expanding animation out of the screen and into the present through the use of interactive technology, holographic projections onto live performers, database characters and live video feeds, this has taken many forms such as a lunch party where participants are invited to have a conversation with a cartoon character and a séance with a medium who channels digital doubles and emits electronic ectoplasm. Birgitta works as Course Director of MA Character Animation and Research Leader for Performance at Central Saint Martins. She has been awarded an Adobe Impact Award, a MAMA Award for Holographic Arts and an honorary fellowship of the Royal Society of the Arts.

Jeremy Radvan, University of Brighton

“My name is Jeremy and I draw!” He is going to present his research into drawing. One of the problems with drawing the world is that everything moves. Video, gifs, 3D animation, live feeds: movement is becoming default. The depiction of movement in a still image has always been a problem. (Shows Rembrandt drawings) The figure can be traced in a topographical way, the shape of a figure can be defined in a way in which the posture / balance shows the potential for movement. The way in which the drawing is on the surface can say something about the movement. In his own work he started drawing from direct observation using the swimming pool as subject matter, drawing repetitive motion using a computer. Drawing repetitive motions from observation at the Royal College of Music using a mouse and Director. Became interested in the idea of using animation for performance. Avatar project involved projection into the performance space and doing live drawing, looking for points of contact between the drawing and the dancers. This was done using Flash, but he realised he needed to do more programming, learnt coding and created his now digital drawing system using onion skinning, video brushes, pattern brushes and having pressure sensitivity. He investigated the programme by taking it into the life drawing room. Is drawing on a computer a drawing at all? Is drawing an activity or an artefact? Is drawing on a computer closer to printmaking? In the instant of making a mark, a balance is achieved between the precisely placed mark and the expressive stroke, imprecision and inter determinacy. Drawing as an epistemic activity – an activity that extends your cognition. Boiling in animation. Clip from The Mermaid by Alexandr Petrov. He wanted his system to create boil, so that it became part of the medium rather than an artefact of the process. He has used it in performance with dancers and well as for installations and to create quick animations. He sees his work as animated illustrations. Shows landscapes with figures moving through. He is also interested in pre-cinematic forms. Myriorama – shuffle cards to create different landscapes. Using Processing, the code takes an illustration and loops it in a random way but produces a continuously animating landscape moving in parallax.

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Jeremy Radvan - I am a teacher and a draughtsman. I studied BA Illustration at Manchester Polytechnic. Drawing movement has always been part of my work and this has lead onto a study and practice of animation. My MPhil (the Use of the Computer as Tool for Observation, RCA, 2000) was primarily concerned with animation and my subsequent research including MSc Creative Systems at Sussex, was born out of a number of collaborative performance projects with dancers and musicians. These included performances at The Royal Opera House, Saddlers Wells and The Tramway in Glasgow. My long-term research project is centered on the relationship between drawing and digital media. It began in 1997 and has involved an investigation into the qualities of digital media as a medium for drawing, encompassing real time drawing as part of dance performances and the development of custom written animation applications. I am currently collaborating with a composer with the aim of creating a series of longer animations. Jeremy is a senior lecturer in Illustration at the University of Brighton, investigating digital media as a real time practice, drawing through custom designed animation software.

Charlotte Gould, University of Brighton: All the World’s a Screen Large urban screens installed by the BBC for the Cultural Olympiad have been handed over to local authorities because of cutbacks. Large temporary screen have been used for over a century. Freud reports taking his family to see large scale urban projections in 1907. Nam June Paik ‘Good Morning Mr Orweell’ 1984 Wanted to use video as an empowering force. Walter Benjamin – the audience as producer. Allan Kaprow’s Happenings – art as experience. Audience engagement, audience becoming part of the artwork. Browning (1964) definition of agency as ‘possibility for freedom, communication, comprehension and mystery. Roy Ascott – audience part of whole system. ‘Picnic on the Screen’ (2009) project with Paul Sermon for Glastonbury Festival. Telematic project in festival goers sit on a blue mat, see themselves composited via realtime chroma key into a picnic with people from another remote location and can move around animated items. Also made for Liverpool Biennale with augmented reality tags and interacting with audiences in China. ‘Seven Stages of Man’ project. A set with seven rooms, each room representing a different age, inspired by Hitchcock. MACBA Study Centre Residency. Standing a blue screen cloths, people could bring their own props, experiment and play with the environments they were in and could create their own mini dramas. 2011 audiences between Manchester and Barcelona connected by high definition video link. Participants in Barcelona could use an iPhone app to chose one of 7 different animated sets or webcam feeds to place the other users in. Users could play with their counterparts in Manchester to create their own films. Participants included poets and performers, they could be seen recreating recognisable elements of films, ‘topoi’ they had previously seen.

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Charlotte Gould - Charlotte is Academic Programme Leader for Visual Communication at the University of Brighton and has developed a number of interactive environments for large urban screens that explore user identity and the notion of a floating narrative. Through this work she encourages creative urban play and looks at the way the audience can experience the urban space through telepresent technology. Through her research she explores the creative and cultural potential that urban screens have to offer in the digital media age and how these emerging technologies and the digital infrastructure impact on the way that the public interacts within the urban environment. She has developed a series of projects, which allow the public to co- author the work through the creation of their unique narrative and she has undertaken a number of interactive installations and projects with key industrial partners, which include an interactive installation for Moves09 at the BBC Big Screen in Liverpool and for the BBC Big Screen at the Glastonbury Festival. She also produced an interactive installation for ISEA09 at the Waterfront Hall Belfast and for Moves10 at the Bluecoat Gallery Liverpool. “Shangpool Picnic” was a collaboration with Liverpool John Moores University and the University of Shanghai, linking Liverpool and Shanghai together as part of the Liverpool Biennial.

Roderick Mills, University of Brighton: Looking Towards Illustration as a Hybrid Practice

Illustrators have branched out into graphic novels, animated film, exhibition design, clothes, posters, books etc. William Blake – necessity to make own work to provoke it. The smartphone changes how we communicate, make work, are commissioned. We are in the time of the iPhone, it is no longer a telephone. Within Illustration it is important that you make the work you want to, regardless of the form. No longer relevant to talk about whether work is analogue or digital. New technology has led to time becoming compressed. Identities have become more complex. How to become a ‘master’ not a ‘slave’ of technology? Future challenges and dangers. To face them we need to realise various things. Context. Writing is an important skill for illustrators and designers. T-shaped people – who have a depth of knowledge in one area but can comfortably move across disciplines / media. Visual storytelling – narrating a project to a client or across a brand. Interactive inks that react to heat. Examples of projects from Moving Brands, Hugo & Marie, Quentin Jones – 2-3 min films for fashion., Tara Dougans. Life span of an illustrator is 5-7 years because of the rapid consumption of images.

Roderick Mills - Roderick is Senior Lecturer & Year Coordinator for BA(Hons) Illustration level 6 at the University of Brighton. Since graduating from the Royal College of Art, Roderick has worked across most areas of illustration including editorial, publishing, corporate literature, web design, advertising, exhibition design & animation. Working with international clients including The BBC, Royal Mail, The Design Museum, The National Theatre, Opéra National de Paris, Penguin Books, The New York Times, Yale University, Pentagram Design, New York MagazineDie Zeit Germany, Le Monde France. Awards have included: Print Certificate of Excellence USA, Society of Publication Design SPOTS, Sciart Research Award The Wellcome Trust, AOI Images 24 Pentagram Prize, The Quentin Blake Award for Narrative Illustration RCA, The Folio Society Awards RCA, The ED&F Man Portfolio Prize RCA. Recent exhibitions have included Super Contemporary at The Design Museum, participation at LISTE 09 The Young Art Fair in Basel, & 4. Kunstsalon Berlin is represented in both London & New York by Heart Artists’ Agent. In 2011 Roderick joined the Board of Directors of the Association of Illustrators and since March 2012 has been Deputy Chairman of the AOI, presiding over various committees including the Illustration Awards Steering Group & VaroomLab Editorial board. Is also the co-founder of the Illustration Forum MOKITA, which has stage two symposiums at Somerset House.

Generative Storytelling Panel

Fiddian Warman, SoDA: Open Story – Generative Storytelling Enabling Non Linear Community Driven Narratives

Since SoDAs inception, crossing over physical and digital – culture, learning and social change. He also founded Makers Guild. People who had mixed physical and digital – wearable technology, internet of things and the Awesome Foundation – Dragons Den type initiative for projects about social change. LEDs for Olympic Park, ‘Energy Ring’ for the Science Museum, blocks of light moved around it using Newtonian physics and visitor comments can be displayed on it. ‘Neurotic’ – software using neural networks, which was trained to love punk music and linked to pogoing punk robots in the ICA. ‘Viral Corpse’ to create forking narratives. ‘Sodaconstructer’ online physics simulator – used in schools for creating physics, models Hooks laws, can play with gravity and springiness, travelling the world still in science fairs, ‘Sodarace’ in conjunction with QMU. Community driven development, funded by EPRSC. ‘Moovl’ using springy physics for young children. New HTML5 version of SodaConstructor. MASH – takes still images / text and mixes for creative effect, a version made for Pfizer in which imagery from biologists and physicists and combined them, displayed in communal areas of the building to enable conversations between the two disciplines in the building. Version for the British Council exhibited at the Tate. Imagery taken from Damascus and London and montaged together. Another version in which Flickr users in UK and China could upload and tag images, their software allowed people to write haikus that pulled in imagery from Flickr and projected onto 360 degree screen in Shanghai. Boeing wanted work for people to interface with in a broad way. Users could upload imagery and text on a website about what travel meant to them that was then shown on large media wall at Shanghai Expo. Social innovation irrepressible.info – campaign for Amnesty International. Web app compared search apps between different countries e.g. UK and China, allowed them to measure what was being censored. ‘RGB’ project for school, kids ask questions which kids can vote on, results are logged in real time. ‘Play Your Place’ a web based game building app, allows kids to produce games about their social environment and what kind of world they’d like to live in. Allows kids to bring own drawing into games. ‘Datastore’ – asks people to give up their data and put results into punch cards.

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Mark Prendergast, animator, artist, filmmaker

Wants to create projects without beginning or end, in two states at one time. Moire dot effect animation created by zooming into and manipulating a print with heads on the dots. Two people facing each other, each taking a picture of the other, pixelation animation so each character appears to be drifting and floating through the space. Animation workshop for kids as part of the Kurt Schwitters exhibition. Resulting film combines pixelation of participants, stop motion and rapidly changing collage. Then he did a workshop at the Bauhaus institute at Weimar, which involved refilming / distorting screen media / projected film and slides. Deconstructing of digital and analogue.

Mark Prendergast - Mark graduated in 2012 from the University of Brighton with a first class honours in BA Illustration. Mark is a Designer, animator and experimental filmmaker. He primarily works with images, sound and motion. Mark tries to search for existing materials and systems that can be exploited to produce new types of movement and say new things. For him his work is a series of ongoing explorations and investigations. Mark currently lives and works in Berlin. He is part of the HORT-collective.

Nicholas Marechal, LCC: Open Work, from Potential to critical: three case studies

His work floats between installation and filmmaking. He prefers the term ‘open work’ to ‘open stories’, putting interaction and moving image together. He is a founding member of community of practice High Tech Low Tech. ‘A Hundred Thousand Billion Poems’ by Raymond Queneau (1961) – a book that is sliced into thin slivers of text that can be flipped to create many different pods. Cyberbetic Tower in Paris, Nicolas Schoffer (1963), a project to capture information about the city – how many children born etc – and the information then displayed as colour and light. ‘Silent City Taipei’ (2005) He was commissioned to do a work with a writer – Shengfang Chou – storytelling was an important element, as a filmmaker he wanted to challenged conventional narrative structure, he was able to do this through using programming. DVD player picks up random number and played different DVD chapters. He is inspired by the Cybernetic movement – Joel de Rasnay, ‘The Macroscope’ (1974). Gregory Bateson – ‘The Language of Communication’ . ‘Intrusion(s) (2008) – walls, a piece of work in reaction to his neighbours, using Max MSP. Student project using scenes from Hitchcock’s ‘Rear Window’ put into space. To engage students to learn coding, he is getting them to engage with cinema.

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Nicolas Marechal - Nicolas is an interactive designer, installation artist and filmmaker, he teaches on the BA design for interaction and moving image and the MA interactive design communication at the London College of Communication (University of the Arts London). Nicolas gained an MSc in Electronic Imaging from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design (University of Dundee) and a BA in Film Practice at the Institute of Broadcasting Studies (Belgium). He started his career by directing, editing documentaries and video art. His work has been either broadcasted or exhibited internationally. For the last ten years, he has worked as an interactive artist and designer. His latest exhibited work, ‘+soundscape’, is an audio interface for a soundscape in collaboration with sound artist and LCC senior lecturer, Peter Cusack. Recent works include: IMI Max patches – a learning tool to program Max in the visual arts (2010-present), +Soundscape – interactive soundscape installation (2009), Intrusion(s) – interactive audio and video installation (2008), CITYroom – interactive video installation (2006) and SILENTcity – Taipei, interactive video art (2005).

Panel discussion

All this work that is being generated that is not quite fine art, but not quite commercial. There used to be a festival called Tranmediale. Students are no longer so interested in the digital. Has is stopped being cool? What future employment patterns are there? What used to be cutting edge and take a team of progammers to do can now be done simply, so it is not so easy to make money for doing it. Open data, internet of things, using digital to control physical objects in the real world – all emerging trends. What is the breakthrough from this work into the popularly acclaimed mainstream? Julian Assange? Instagram? Its important to come back to the non-digital and be refreshed by other forms. We give too much respect to technology. The right software depends on the student themselves. Approachability to technology – how to treat digital techniques in the same way that analogue tools used to be used, subvert them. How worried are you about your ideas being stolen by big companies? It is inevitable, you have to stay ahead of the game, keep innovating and get known for it. Amnesia – projects get made by a new generation without realising they have been done before by a previous generation. Argument in teaching – should we train students to be critical or how to make things / craft / be technically adept? How to combine both of them? Digital artisans – a return to a hand-on deep relationship to what you are making rather than just a superficial approach. There has to be an economic context, we do not have anywhere near the sort of funding to keep projects going – they cost a lot of money. Are new discourses around storytelling necessarily about the digital / the forms used? Is also about the political, economic, social context. All recent research says what used to be thought of as hype is not the case, fusion of digital innovation / liberal arts / creative technology is actually driving the economy. Where are we going and how can the creative sector get its fair share in order to be able to reinvest in the future? How has your work changed over time? What does the new work have in common with the earliest? A desire to unpick technology and show the workings still carries on, but no longer time to be as experimental as before. Will there be a backlash against technology? But is there a hierarchy between old and new technology? Java is now insecure and projects needed to migrate to HTML5. People shouldn’t get hung up on one particular tool or approach, but be flexible enough to use different methods. There was a time when artists could use all their tools, but now the idea that you and your computer can make anything work is no longer true, you need a team of skilled coders behind you – back to the times of only certain tools being able to work with certain exclusive tools.

Narrative Reframed Panel Matthew Noel-Tod, University of Brighton

Clips from his work Bang (2012), made as part of residency at the Chisenhale Gallery to reflect regeneration of Victoria Park (co-comissioned by Tower Hamlets council), looking at users of park – primarily children or animals – through their perspective and not that of adults. Riots – display of dissatisfaction with consumer society, partly started through Blackberry text messaging. Appropriation and recuperation of previous radical imagery like the smiley. Short version played in underground (Canary Wharf and Hackney Downs). Text revolving is a palindrome that means ‘we go in circles into the night. We are consumed by fire’. Guy Debord used in his final film to reflect on the work of the Situationists. 1973 film ‘Can Dialectics Break Bricks’ in which a popular kung fu film was cut up and re-voiced, a marxist appropriation and detournement of popular culture. Inspired by this, he did a re-mix of Gravity with writer Benedict Seymour. Their project Can Dialects Break Gravity? Redubbed sections with Sandra Bullock voicing elements from SCUM Manifesto by Valerie Solanus, other text Conquest of Space replaces George Clooney’s voice. They are voiced by speech synthesis engines. Both pieces of work shown were public commissions.

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Matthew Noel-Tod - Matthew is Course Leader for BA(Hons) Moving Image at the University of Brighton. His work as an artist and filmmaker has been exhibited internationally and is represented in major international collections of moving image work. Matthew studied Fine Art at The Slade School of Fine Art, Norwich School of Art and Design and Fachhochschule Aachen and holds and MA in Feature Film from Goldsmiths, University of London. He participated in the Collegium Sacilense of the Pordenone Silent Film Festival, Italy, 2000-2001 and completed the LUX Associate Artists’ Programme, London in 2008. He was artist-in-residence at The Center for Contemporary Art, Warsaw in 2005 with an Arts Council England International Fellowship and in 2008 he was selected for the Film London Bristol Mean Time Residency at Picture This, Bristol. He received a Film London Artists’ Film and Video Award for his film Nausea (2005). From 2011-2012 Noel-Tod was artist-in-residence in Victoria Park, London with Chisenhale Gallery and he is a current recipient of the ACME Studios Firestation Work/Live residency 2010-2015. Matthew’s work is held in the collection of the Pompidou Centre, Paris; the British Film Institute National Film and Television Archive and is distributed by LUX, UK.

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Louise Colbourne, Artist and Curator / Instigator / Aggregator

Originally coming from sculpture. Clip from her film ‘Dot’, she is interested in the push / pull between materiality of actual things and the immateriality of digital processes. In the manner of ‘Tom, Tom, the Piper’s Son’ or George Barbour’s scratch video, her film resamples a clip from a classic film (looks like a sequence for the Wizard of Oz’. For her curation is about bringing things together and creating a picture. She is interested in artist-led projects, working on an equal level with artists on independent projects. She likes to work intuitively and impulsively as well as to be open and inclusive. Accessibility is important and she wants to build wider audiences with festivals or open spaces. Having a community is important, to share knowledge – technical and intellectual. ‘Just Like That’ a group show she put together after graduating from the Slade. ‘From Slapstick to Horro’ – an exhibitions revealing a physicality in film and video from slapstick through to demanding projects in horror – at Guest Projects in London. ‘Nature is the Church of Satan’ – group show of artists working with the dark side of nature. ‘Solo’ – seven different artists films shown together at the same time, hard to manage conflicting sound tracks. ‘Motion in Form’ a series of six solo shows – artists working with film. ‘The Big Screen’ at the Latitutde Festival. She programmes all the artists and has free reign. Also shows live film performances. Lots of interactions between artists and musicians has resulted. Interesting woodland venue. Don Letts often plays – DJing and scratch video. She puts out student call for work as well as for more established artists. ‘One Hundred Foot’ project working with 100foot of film. ‘Flood’ at the Jerwood Gallery, Hastings.

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Louise Colbourne - Louise is an artist and curator with a keen interest in interdisciplinary film practices, which focus around issues of the body, expanded cinema, and modes of production and presentation within the digital age. Coming form a background in both dance and sculpture Louise’s work is concerned with movement of the body in space, rhythm structures and placement. More recently an interest in 16mm films has developed due to the material qualities of the film surface and the performative possibilities of techniques using the projectors themselves. Louise also appropriates audio-visual material gathered from a range of sources to include you-tube clips and found educational films as well as her own hand developed 16mm films. Louise curates a programme of video art, film and music for the Big Screen at the Latitude Festival in Suffolk each year and co-runs the Electro Studios Project Space in St Leonards. She has curated screenings for the Loop video art festival in Barcelona, the Liverpool Biennale, the Whitstable Biennale, the Jerwood Gallery, Hastings and the No.w.here film collective in London amongst many others.

Mark Thomas, Filmmaker / Soup Collective, Manchester

He used to do visuals for Elbow and go on tour with them. Founded Soup collective – core of 6 filmmakers / artists – arts group / production company. Music video. Dennis and Lois – couple they have been filming in New York over a number of years (since 2005) who collect music memorabilia and have been around the music industry for years since CBGBs / early punk. He is a cab driver in Greenwich Village. Between them they have a wealth of memories and a museum’s worth of artefacts. His only regret – that he never picked up Andy Warhol. They have over 60 hours of footage of this fascinating couple. In recent years, the collective have started to do more work with museums. Has given them the chance to develop other methods of working. Imperial War Museum North – immersive theatre space, Theatre Exchange, Football Museum. Experimentation with Kinnect and dancer triggering content. ‘Personal Museums’ is a recent project. Responding to a call about people who create own museums from their own memorabilia. They had made their own 3d scanner from Kinnect. Could they scan peoples personal collections and then print them? The project brought together the multiple skills of the collective. Residency at the football museum. Green screen technology. Build up a collection of objects and then trigger objects of different types. Final output – what kind of device could show the objects? Ended up with 12 miniature objects. Interested in early technology / peepshows. Each object had a RFID tag, which can link to different stories / images of objects plus audio interviews from the people who had brought in the object and the memories that their object had triggered. Actually, the technology is secondary. It is the story being told that is of most interest. Down sides to interaction and film working together, but its an exciting time. Is the technology informing what we do? Peter Greenaway is about to do a film for Nokia. Are we leading the technology or is it leading us?

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Mark Thomas - Mark holds and an MA in Creative Technology from the University of Salford and has been actively involved with all aspects of moving image since graduating with a BA Hons in Interactive Arts from Manchester Metropolitan University in 2000, working both independently and collaboratively with film, video and interactive media. Since founding Soup Collective in 1999 Mark has developed his role as both an independent Film-maker, directing promos and documentaries for acts such as Elbow, Doves and Editors – and is a Creative Director within Soup Collective and SoupCo, developing large-scale AV projects and installations for clients such as the Imperial War Museum North, the National Football Museum and the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester. Mark currently divides his time between his work with Soup Collective and teaching animation in the School of Arts and Media at the University of Salford.

Martin Andersen, University of Brighton / Andersen M Studio

His studio works with photography / graphic design / moving image. Early experiments with paper animation in collaboration with his sister. He has also been doing a lot of photography – 10 years travelling around the world documenting dog shows. Main income comes from graphic design / publication design / TV stations / ad agencies. ‘Going West’ promo to advertise reading books for New Zealand Book Council, chose a passage from book, Visual research for the scenery. Concept was to make the animation come alive out of the paper from the book, ‘Going West’. Strap line ‘Where Books Come to Life’. Latest paper animation is for Shackelton, Discovery Channel – made an animation out of maps of the Antarctica. Boat created out of maps made from before Antarctica was found. Lots of visual research for boat and landscape. every time they get a job, they like to try out new techniques. Crumpled maps with black sprayed on made the seas. Mood boards for lighting. For a personal project he wanted to document group behaviour at football matches. Wearing a football scarf to blend in he is like a participant observer, getting to know the fans, able to get closer and witness out of control unruly behaviour at matches, having access to photograph scenes that would not be permitted to outsiders by hardcore fans. Examining emotions – like losing / winning / getting caught up in group emotion / anti-fascism. His photography has quite an ethnographic dimension.

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Martin Andersen - Martin is a senior lecturer in Graphic Design at the University of Brighton. Founder and creative director of Andersen M Studio, an independent multi-disciplinary art and design studio that produce graphic design, photography, animations, films and music for a wide range of different clients (Cartier, Southbank Centre, American Express, Channel 4, Magnum, Reuters, Martini, Unilever, Accenture). Martin’s work has been exhibited internationally in the UK, Spain and France and published in books and magazines worldwide.

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Panel Discussion / Wrap up

Does ‘new’ technology have more of an immediacy for storytelling? Facebook / Twitter can be used to get in touch with groups of people who may become subjects or users. Accessibility to found and borrowed footage / montage. Context – what role does context have in the practice, in positioning the work and its message? All of the artists on the panel are using appropriation in some form.

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Another thing that all the artists on the panel had in common is that they all used collaboration in some way. Does film have to be a collaborative process? Is this the case for artists film, although it was the case for industrial filmmaking, technology enables artists to make films on their own. The audience experience is communal. Matthew Fullers book ‘AntiMedia’ he talks about grey media – spreadsheets, Gantt charts etc, the grey media underpins all these projects, media that seems inherently uncreative, Is this the next frontier for critique / deconstruction? The Open Story blog will feature documentation and opportunities for feedback.

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Goodbye Piccadilly: 16th May 2014 – 8th March 2015

Films by students of MA Character Animation at Central Saint Martins bring the First World War to life at the London Transport Museum

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Second Year students of the course worked with archival recordings from the museum’s oral history collection to augment the exhibits in the Goodbye Piccadilly exhibition, which runs from 16th May 2014 –  8th March 2015 at the London Transport Museum in Covent Gardens. One of many exhibitions commemorating the outbreak of the dreadful events of World War 1, this show focusses on the Home Front – events in London.

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The accomplished animated films combine a mixture of techniques such as hand drawing, stop motion, Cel Action, Maya, Flash and After Effects to visualise elements of the collection that exist in the form of sound recordings only. This includes an account of the origin of the song ‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary’ and the stories of women’s suffrage during the First World War, such as the struggle of women bus conductors for equal pay. The concepts for the films were selected by museum staff from a series of pitches by the talented students, who worked together in teams of four to complete the films to a strict deadline.

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Calls for Papers: C.A.K.E. / BFX

Deadlines are approaching for two forthcoming conferences that invite proposals for papers on interdisciplinary themes related to animation.

CALL FOR PAPERS ~ C.A.K.E.
Edge Hill University 14th – 18th July 2014

In July 2014, Edge Hill University will be hosting a unique five-day festival and conference on Sino/UK creative animation practice research. C.A.K.E aims to provide a forum where Keynote speaks Paul Ward and Paul Wells and industry specialists Mackinnon & Saunders and Cubic Motion, as well as key speakers from CICAF will provide exciting opportunities for practice and theory, and cross-cultural debates to take place.

The conference represents a core strand within the Creative Animation Knowledge Exchange (C.A.K.E.) event that celebrates a growing relationship between the UK and Chinese animation industry and education sector. The objective of C.A.K.E. is to nurture a long-term cultural partnership with the ambition to form new collaborations, commissions and enterprise relating to creative animation practice, industry, academic research and knowledge exchange.

Final deadline for submission: 25th April 2014 (Abstracts for Papers)

Please send a 200-word abstract and short bio to Alex Jukes 

alex.jukes@edgehill.ac.uk
Further information will be available via: www.edgehill.ac.uk/cake

CALL FOR PAPERS: BFX 2014 Conference

Bournemouth University, September 22 – 24, 2014

The BFX Conference was setup in 2014 to run alongside the BFX Festival hosted by the NCCA (The National Centre for Computer Animation) at Bournemouth University.

Digital Convergences 2014

This conference intends to present and analyse the convergences that are occurring across and within the genres of moving image, in part resulting from the impact of digital technologies.

Through an interdisciplinary approach, the BFX conference invites authors to examine various theoretical positionings with a view to realign the discussion in the light of current technologies. The conference seeks to revisit the arguments that position film, animation and art as aesthetically, structurally and intellectually different.

DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSION: 15/05/2014

For more information and to submit online: click here

 

 

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Traion I (Ferme)

Dans Ma Cellule, Une Silhouette, 1st February – 20th April 2014, Centre d’Art Contemporain, La Ferme du Buisson, Noisiel, Paris

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Maryclare Foá and myself were commissioned to create a new piece of work for this exhibition inspired by the legend of the first drawing told by Pliny the Elder. In this apocryphal tale a Corinthian maiden, whose name is not recorded, traces a line on the wall around the shadow of her lover as he is about to depart. Her father, Butades, a potter, fills the outline with clay and fires it in his kiln.

This action of Butades’s daughter, in which she attempts to freeze time and contain presence, is seen by many art historians as the foundational act of Western painting and drawing.

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This exhibition curated by Lore Gablier for La Ferme du Buisson features the work of different artists who use drawing to investigate the visualisation of absence, loss and desire. Artists included are: William Anastasi / Abdelkader Benchamma / Mathieu Bonardet / Geta Brătescu / Maryclare Foá & Birgitta Hosea (Performance Drawing Collective) / Jean Genet / Dennis Oppenheim / Santiago Reyes / Till Roeskens / Carla Zaccagnini.

Here is the English translation of the text by curator Lore Gablier about the exhibition:

I have the shape of a dead man on the wall of my cell. He’s been in his grave almost five years now, yet his shadow still lingers. He was no one and nothing. All that remains of him is a handful of old rape charges and a man-shaped pencil sketch. Perhaps it’s just superstition, but I can‘t help but feel that erasing it would be like erasing the fact that he ever existed. That may not be such a bad thing, all things considered, but I won’t be the one to do it.

 - Damien Echols, Life After Death

(Damien Echols was sentenced to death by the state of Arkansas in 1994 after being wrongly convicted of murder at the age of 19. He was released from prison in 2011)

Offering an exploration of drawing in its relation to gesture and the body, the exposition Dans ma cellule, une silhouette turns to the story of the daughter of the Corinthian potter Butades who, before her lover left on a long journey, “drew an outline of the shadow of his face as cast by the light of a lamp.”  If this seminal act, as told by Pliny the Elder in his Natural History, has come to be considered as an allegory for the origin of drawing and painting, it is, at the same time, an invitation to renew our relation with the visible.

Through her act, the young woman refers us to that which remains invisible in the visible  in this instance her desire, which cannot reconcile itself in the image. What we see is, as such, always inhabited by the absence of what we cannot see, an absence that not only structures our vision, but also allows the advent of a potentiality or, as Jean-Luc Nancy explains,  “the indeterminate possibility of the possible as such, a potentiality of being [pouvoir Ítre] that is not the abstract form of a being that remains to be embodied, but is rather itself a modality and a consistence of being: a being of power [Ítre de pouvoir], the reality of momentum, of birth and beginning.”

Freed from the gaze and returned to a physical act, drawing opens up a multiplicity of forms and potentialities, as the works brought together for this exhibition testify. Drawing becomes alternately the inscription of a gesture, a repeated action or constraint, a narrative support, the means of a tactile exchange, the boundary of a theatrical space. Or else, drawing hallows itself out, empties itself, by erasure, comes to life. In each case what drawing reveals is the body itself: a body that lends itself less to being active, efficient or operative, than it does to a momentum through which it releases its sensuality.

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Birgitta Hosea setting up the work with the help of Anne Pietsch, Lore Gablier and the technical staff at La Ferme du Buisson.

SpaceView2Traion 1 (Ferme) 2014 (Maryclare Foá & Birgitta Hosea)
Material: Mixed Media (Graphite on paper, projected animation, chalk)
Dimensions variable

Artists Statement: 

Just as Butades’s daughter traced the outline of her lover before he left on a journey, so we (Foá & Hosea), following the same method, tracing round the shadows of our bodies cast by the electrical light onto the paper surface, attempt to hold time by fixing our shapes in place.

The multiple lines in this Traion (trace of presence in motion) also attempt to hold motion while leading into the gestured animated outlines of our digital shadows.

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MA Graduation Film 1999

It is with some nostalgia that I load my graduation film from MA Computer Imaging and Animation, London Guildhall University, 1999. In this film I was exploring the concept of psychological epidemics: how ideas spread like viruses. This experimental short film combines hand-painted Super-8 footage with DV video, text animation, 3DS Max and After Effects. It features Sandra Louison in the lead role as an office worker. 15 years on I wince at the wobbly bits, but still enjoy all the textures I was experimenting with.

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Liquid Boundaries at the Shenzhen Architecture and Urbanism Biennale

Central Saint Martin’s Head of College, Jeremy Till, recently curated the UK Pavilion at the 2013 Shenzhen Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism taking an animated approach to his exhibition design concept with films made by students of MA Character Animation and MA Communication Design. Taking place in Southern China, this is one of the world’s most important architecture exhibitions, with over 500,000 people estimated to visit over the course of three months.

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Responding to the Biennale’s overall theme of urban boundary, architect and architectural theorist, Jeremy Till, responded with a concept of liquid boundaries. He explained to students:

We live, Zygmunt Bauman tells us, in an age of liquid modernity. Labour, capital, time and commodities have achieved an unheard-of sense of fluidity as global flows of people, money, the virtual and goods dissolve previously stable conditions.

And yet against this socio-temporal liquidity, space has apparently hardened, throwing up ever more rigid boundaries as the production of space is increasingly codified and commodified. The proposal for the UK pavilion at the Shenzhen Biennale investigates how a new generation of British architects, spatial agents and activists are challenging the fixity of boundaries and the regulation of space. From co-housing to the Occupy movement, temporary interventions to playing with codes, the exhibit will show a range of methods through which boundaries have become liquid – suggesting that these more fluid spaces are best suited to emerging social conditions of negotiation and flexibility.

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The UK Pavilion was a joint production by several of the MA courses at Central Saint Martins. The curatorial team working for Jeremy Till consisted of myself, Alison Green, Tricia Austin and Rebecca Wright. The exhibition displayed films by students from MA Character Animation and MA Communication Design and was designed by students from MA Communication Design and MA Narrative Environments. A catalogue was produced by students from MA Culture, Criticism and Curation that was designed by students from MA Communication Design. Having the only seating area in the whole exhibition was a real draw!

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IMG_0827The animations in the pavilion were a response to the work of architects and planners.  Open City, directed by Yukai Du (production team: (Kee) Jiaqi Liu, Andrea Gulli, Mohan Ganesha) responded to ideas about creative commons for the city proposed by 00 Architects. See more of Yukai Du’s work on her website.

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The Planning Game, directed by Ria Dastider (production team: (Frank) Yu Wang, Natalia Biegaj, Laura Keer) took the form of a retro game to illustrate the ideas of David Knight, DK-CM Architects, who aims to make planning popular. See more of Ria Dastider’s work on her website.

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Here is David Knight talking about his research into making planning regulations more accessible:

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Ghostly Apparitions: Nishiki Kag-E at the Japan Foundation

On Wednesday 30th October 2013, I was lucky enough to be present at the London Premiere of Nishiki Kag-E, a Japanese magic lantern performance based on a reconstruction of how the work would have been presented during the Edo period (1603-1867). These ghost stories were put on by the Japan Foundation to celebrate Hallowe’en.

Nishiki Kag-E performers

Nishiki Kag-E performers

In the European tradition, magic lantern projectors were large, unwieldy and held in a static position although a little movement could be introduced to the images through manipulating and swapping the slides (and in some instances a form of dolly was used to zoom the images in and out). In Japan, however, a different tradition evolved whereby a number of performers held and manipulated mobile wooden projectors behind a paper screen. The performers wear straps to attach the projectors to their bodies. I was fascinated to see this, since in a piece of work I made at the Centre for Drawing in Wimbledon in 2009 with the artists group formerly known as Drawn Together, I made myself a similar contraption so that I could walk around the room with a moving projection of animation that echoed the process of drawing being carried out by the other artists.

Handheld projector, Drawn Together, 2009

Handheld projector, Drawn Together, 2009

The Fantasmaglia Japonica Ikeda-Gumi  group from Osaka, Japan use a much more comfortable and ergonomic system than I used myself. Professor Mitsue Ikeda from Osaka University of the Arts has researched and reconstructed projectors from the Edo period.

Professor Mitsue Ikeda, Osaka University

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The wood that the ‘furo’ projectors are made of is light and heat resistant so the performers don’t burn their hands with the heat of the light source. Through back projection onto a paper screen, each performer manipulates a separate character or element in the story. They can also swap and flip slides from the ‘taneita’ (slide carrier). Through the actions of their bodies and switching between different character poses on slide, a great range of expression is possible including distortion effects when the slide is projected at an extreme angle.

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The performance that I saw was a ghost story Sakura-shiranami hyoito-bukuro (Cherry Blossoms, Foaming Waves, Flicking Bag). The plot concerned a burglar who was extremely disturbed to discover that objects he tried to steal had become ghouls behind this back. A live narrator recounted the story and made sound effects behind the screen. As we were seeing the show in London, we benefitted from digitally projected subtitles in English at the top of the screen.

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The roots of the stories that were performed in Nishiki Kag-E came from traditional bunraku and kabuki theatre. This work is considered to be hugely influential on the development of Japanese animation as the performer is creating the animation of a hand painted character in a live scenario. Professor Ikeda informed us that this form of entertainment became popular after the first magic lanterns were imported from Holland during the Edo period. They were hugely popular until cinema began to replace them at the turn of the Showa Era (1926-1989).

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I found the following clip of another troupe on You Tube, however, the performance lacks the subtlety and complexity of movement created by Professor Ikeda’s group.

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4th Animation Postgraduate Research Group / Graphic Novels Research Students Symposium

Illustration by Pen Mendonca

[Image by Penelope Mendonça, 2013]

The Animation Postgraduate Research Group was set up in 2011 by Dr Paul Ward of the Arts University College at Bournemouth as a safe and supportive network in which MPhil/PhD students can exchange ideas and disseminate their research. To join the group and receive further information about this and future events, contact <pward@aucb.ac.uk>.

The 4th APGR Symposium was held at Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design, University of the Arts London on Saturday 23rd March and was extended to include researchers from the field of comics for the first time. The symposium featured a range of international speakers from the disciplines of animation and graphic novels who spoke from diverse practice-based and theoretical perspectives at the cutting edge of their subjects. Although graphic novels are without sound and movement and animation lacks a tactile, sensual interaction with paper and page turning, during the discussions that ensued many similarities between the two subject areas emerged:

  • a concern with humour, visual storytelling and the representation of character;
  • both disciplines have strong and inclusive communities of practice and scholarship;
  • there is a shared sense of work which externalises personal, interior thoughts and quirky ways of looking at the world.

Here is a list of the speakers and panel sessions with abstracts and speaker details:

International Communities of Practice (chaired by Professor Joan Ashworth, Royal College of Art):

Chanya Hetayothin, “Thai Shadow Play, ‘Nang Talung’: An Alternative Direction for Animation”

Abstract:

This presentation will examine ‘Nang Talung’, the shadow puppetry of the southern region in Thailand, as a creative source for my animation. I shall present the working process of the animated film. This investigates how I have modified the puppets, their movements and how I have integrated this traditional puppet performance into the contemporary animation.

Bio:

Chanya Hetayothin spent almost 10 years in the Thai animation industry working as art director and animator. She is currently a PhD student at CCW (Camberwell, Chelsea, Wimbledon College of Art), University of the Arts London,  (Year 3). Her PhD research started from an observation on how commercial models such as Disney and Anime affected Thai animation. Looking back to her own roots, she adopts Thai shadow puppetry as a raw material for her animation. Her research investigates how to integrate this traditional shadow play into contemporary animation.

Eliska Decka, “I am an animator…so now what?”

Abstract:

In this paper, I would like to present a first part of my current Ph.D. research which consists of the analysis of the career possibilities of young animators willing to make an independent authorship animation after finishing their perspective university studies. (The 3 year research is planning to focus on the budding New York independent animation scene in particular and on the possible translation of some of its good practice to the stagnant contemporary Czech animation.)

During this first phase of my research, presented in this paper, I have mapped the situation of the educational systems in American and European animation field. I used the methodology of oral history and led a number of in-depth semi-structured interviews with pedagogues, students, recent graduates and animation producers to find the key problems and challenges in the important transformation period from an academic safety net into a tough life of an animation professional. Apart from the interviews, I have worked with the texts used in the animation classes and with the student films as well. I also use my longtime experience as a festival dramaturgist and newly as a teacher. At the end of the paper, I would like to present some conclusions and possible recommendations that I have reached so far and discuss them with the audience.

Bio:

Eliska Decka is a first year Ph.D. student of Film and TV School of Academy of Performing Arts (FAMU) in Prague. With her academic past including MA from a Film Studies Department (with a thesis “Autobiographical Elements in Films of Czech Female Animators”), Faculty of Arts, Charles University in Prague and MA from a Law Faculty, Charles University in Prague as well, she focuses her research and publication activities on the connection between animation theory and practice with especial interest in gender issues and social influence of animation and vice versa.  She has been member of the Society of Animation Studies since 2009 and presented her papers at SAS conferences in Atlanta, Edinburgh and Athens. She teaches at Jan Amos Komensky University in Prague, publishes in various Czech and international cultural journals and compendiums and collaborates as a dramaturgist with a Czech Festival of Film Animation Olomouc.

Timothy Jones “Inscribing Common Ground: Social Learning in the Indian Animation Trade Press”

Abstract:

Recent studies of labor in the creative industries have made great progress revealing how film and television practitioners conceive identities, form social networks and generate production culture. However largely absent from the debate is the role played by a different kind of creative worker – trade press writers. This paper analyzes the unique contribution of a nascent trade press to institutional learning and community cohesion in the formation of an Indian animation industry.

Via semi-structured interviews with editors, columnists, bloggers and web-portal administrators, I explore the perspectives of writers about animation on skills development, organizational culture and identity. Applying a Communities of Practice approach, my research reveals how they manage knowledge crucial to sustaining national animation practitioner networks, despite substantial spatial and interactional limitations. Describing themselves not only as cheerleaders and aggregators but as ‘connectors’ and ‘ecosystem catalysts,’ their writing provides a conduit for social learning by which newcomers enter production communities, acquire subject awareness, shared tastes and norms. Likewise they offer a forum for experienced practitioners to debate positions and influence common agendas; these writers do not merely provide commentary on industry from the outside but are located within the very structures they cover. They identify as members of an animation community and are recognized as such by others, blurring established creative and critical roles and boundaries. Though they are not necessarily animators themselves, their identities are complex, and the creative contributions they make demonstrate the need to privilege a range of critical activities in assessment of animation production culture.

Bio:

I am a 3rd year PhD candidate at the University of East Anglia, School of Film, Television and Media Studies. My current research concerns social learning in the creative industries, specifically animation education and the development of production culture in Indian animation practice. This paper is drawn from one of four chapters in my work-progress dissertation directly concerned with structures for animation learning and identity formation, falling between analysis of animation schools, commercial design institutes and professional associations. Existing in a contested space between media industry and animation studies, I believe my project directly addresses unresolved current challenges in both fields. Having participated in the last several PGR events, I am eager to explore these concerns with my fellow emerging animation scholars. I completed an MA in Critical Studies from the University of Southern California, School of Cinematic Arts. I am active in ASIFA and the Society for Animation Studies and a managing editor for the latter’s journal Animation Studies.

Gender and drawn narrative (chaired by Dr Birgitta Hosea, Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design, University of the Arts London):

Julia Greither, “Make the boys read! – Graphic novels as an enhancer of reading motivation”

Abstract:

During the last centuries, changing developments in the media were a constant. However, the ability to read, understand and reflect texts remain part of the most important skills in the modern and even the post-modern society. In the latest PISA- study of the OECD (PISA 2009a: 18ff.) reading literacy was the evaluated major-competence. The importance of reading literacy is evident, but the motivation to read declined under the OECD-level in the UK as well as in Germany. Especially boys do not read for entertainment in their spare time, and in all OECD participant states girls exhibit better reading skills than boys. In the last years reading promotion of boys is a main task in the literature classes, but the research has not found an efficient way to enter the findings of the theoretical reading research in the practicable method for education at school. The thesis of this lecture is that Graphic novels (as one of the favorite reading interests of boys) are able to be the foundation of a motivating literature class. The PISA-studies shows that boys significantly read more comics than girls and that reading comics in spare time is associated with being an inferior reader (PISA 2009b: 35f.). Linking these two facts – the interest in comics on the one hand and the need of reading promotion on the other hand – one may recognize the importance of graphic novels in the field of reading promotion for boys. The relevance of this thesis is increased by german studies, which demonstrate the deviation between the reading interests of pupils and the lecture-choice of teachers: The pupil.s favorite literature genres like fantasy or detective stories were rarely read at school. Teachers more often choose texts with a realistic and educational content, although this type of texts is one of the most unpopular ones for pupils. The genre of a text is often connected with its the length and this marks a further barrier for inferior readers, especially if the teacher chooses a book with more than 200 pages. The consequence is clear – the motivation to read is killed softly, sometimes already in the first years at elementary school (Richter/Plath 2005: 44f.). But the maximum of disaffection is reached in the grammar school in the age 14- 17 years only a quarter of the boys are pleased or very pleased with the literature class books. (Bischof/ Heidtman 2002: 30f.) Graphic novels offer the opportunity to use the interest of the pupils as a starting point to show them literature structures in combination with the visualization in the panels. The engagement of lettering and picture opens also less talented readers the possibility to understand texts and get an emotional connection to them. The synopsis of this lecture is the systematization of theopportunities of graphic novels with the three-step-conception by Christine Garbe (Garbe 2012:296ff.).

Bio:

Julia Greither studied German Language/Literature and theology at the Martin-Luther-University of Halle-Wittenberg and then passed the traineeship as a teacher  at the Latina A. H. Francke in Halle/Saale. She is currently a PhD student at the Institute of German Language and Literature, Departement of Didactics of German Language and Literature, Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg

Penelope Mendonça, “Mothers Storying the Absent Father: A Graphic Novel “

Abstract:

This paper will explore the way pregnant women/ first-time mothers of young children represent absent biological fathers through their stories of conception, pregnancy and early parenting. Bringing together my practice (drawing and graphic storytelling) and background in public engagement using graphic facilitation, story telling and accessible information, this process will seek to contribute new insights, approaches and original outputs. Engagement with women often on the fringes of research about motherhood will help inform a fictional, entertaining graphic novel which supports greater understanding of contemporary family life, alongside a written thesis analysing the theory, research findings and creative choices behind the novel. Given the early stage of the project this paper will provide an introduction to my research interests, practice and proposed methodology.

Where the biological father has been absent since before birth (for reasons other than employment) women may feel a need to rationalise, defend or invent their choices and/or circumstances, whether they were planned and/or full of uncertainties. What do the narratives of these women tell us about motherhood, the performance of gender identities and family life today? What does this reveal about social context and culture? How can a methodology including graphic facilitation, experimental drawing and the language of comics contribute to our understanding, and challenge stereotypical, over-optimistic or romantic representations of pregnancy and early parenting? And given the subjectivity of memory and autobiography, and the way stories can emerge from a slip of the tongue, an image, a Facebook post, or a silence, what opportunities does the graphic novel form, with it’s ‘pictures, words, and the space between them’ (Wolk, 2007), present when exploring the ways in which women construct, adapt, or attempt to control absent biological father representation?

Bio:

Penelope Mendonça is an independent graphic facilitator and artist with twelve years experience of engagement and development work within the private, public and third sectors. Using process design, meeting facilitation techniques, graphic recording and illustration, Pen supports a diverse range of organisations, businesses, communities, adults and children to listen, reflect, find creative solutions and agree a vision or plan. As part of her approach Pen visually captures key issues on large wall charts in real time for meetings and conferences. Pen is known for her ability to represent diversity, and issues that may be considered sensitive or controversial.

Pen has a BA (Hons) in Fine Art from Chelsea, University of the Arts (London), an Msc in Citizenship Studies from Birkbeck, University of London and is currently undertaking a PhD at Central Saint Martins (UAL). Born in New Zealand, Pen has a Diploma in Parks and Recreation Management (Lincoln University, NZ), has worked in India, the Middle East and the UK. Pen trained in graphic facilitation techniques with Grove Consultants International in 2000. Since then she has developed a significant body of highly original work tailoring her practice to meet the needs of each unique project. Her artwork, writing, storytelling and animation have been used widely in publications and websites on care, personalisation, disability and age. Prior to setting up her own business Pen worked as a National Officer for a large disability charity. She has a background in mental health, learning disability and older people’s services, she has provided direct support to people as well as managed care services, and even cleaned some of them.

Sequential narrative analysis (chaired by Dr Roger Sabin, Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design, University of the Arts London):

John Miers, “Score and Script: a practice-based investigation into the relationship between visual form and narrative content in comics”

Abstract:

Taking as its starting point Nelson Goodman’s discussion of ways of identifying and notating works of art, the Score and Script project aims to provide insights into the interdependent and mutually informing nature of visual form and narrative content in the cartoonist’s creative process. I began the project by creating a single-page comic, and then providing two groups of fifteen cartoonists with templates derived from that page. One group created single-page comics from a sparse written account of the events I had depicted, from which all visual description was removed, while the other used as their starting point a diagram that specified the location and dimensions of significant visual forms but provided no narrative information. The project is still ongoing, but twenty-three completed pages were exhibited in November 2012 at the Centre for Recent Drawing.

This paper will present the results gathered thus far and reflect critically on the theoretical basis of the project. Initial interpretive frameworks applied to the pages produced, based primarily on George Lakoff’s work on categorisation and conceptual metaphor, will be outlined, and some possible conclusions presented. I will also briefly discuss ways in which this interpretive process has continued to guide my individual practice, both through suggesting subsequent artistic research projects and informing comics produced outwith the context of formal research.

Bio:

John Miers is a PhD student at Central Saint Martins. His practice is motivated by an interest in the unique visual languages of comics and graphic novels, and their ability to communicate complex subjects to diverse audiences. His work can currently be seen in the billboard-sized comic “Foyles: A Graphic History” on Charing Cross Road. Recent and forthcoming publications include Studies in Comics, Solipsistic Pop 5, and the Newcastle Science Comic.

Tony Venezia and Nina Mickwitz, “Bringing It All Back Home: Mediating the Iraq War in US Comics”

Abstract:

This paper consists of two connected parts. It opens by tracking a range of responses to the Iraq war in US comics, before more closely examining Brian Wood’s DMZ (DC/Vertigo, 2006-2012), a comics series emblematic of certain trends in recent mainstream American comics.  The DMZ incorporates the processes of mass mediatisation of conflict within its formal texture, and at the same time adopts tropes of post-apocalyptic and dystopian sub-genres to narratively engage with anxieties concerning the Iraq war.

Bios:

Tony Venezia has recently completed his PhD at Birkbeck College, writing on Alan Moore and the question of History. He is a founding member of Comics Grid, co-organises The Contemporary Fiction Seminar and the Transitions Symposium in Comics at Birkbeck, coming up to its 4th year. Tony guest edited the latest issue of the Intellect journal Studies in Comics; From Akira to Žižek: Comics and contemporary cultural theory.

Nina Mickwitz is a PhD candidate and associate tutor at the School of Film, Television and Media at UEA, writing a thesis on comics and documentary. She is also involved with the organisation of the Transitions Symposium.

This event was supported by MA Character Animation, part of the Centre for Performance at Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design, University of the Arts London: http://www.csm.arts.ac.uk/ma-character-animation.

[POSTSCRIPT: The next Comica Independent Comic Fair will be taking place at Central Saint Martins on April 20th 2013. Click here for more information.]

 

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