CAA CONFERENCE PANEL TO BE HELD IN LOS ANGELES

College Art Association 2009 Conference
Los Angeles, February 25-28, 2009
Session Date and Time: Friday, February 27, 2009 2:30 PM – 5:00 PM 
Concourse Meeting Room 408B, Level 2, Los Angeles Convention Center

THINKING EXPERIMENTAL ANIMATION BEFORE WILLIAM KENTRIDGE: 
AN ART HISTORICAL U-TURN


SESSION ABSTRACT
Chair of Session:  Dr. Janeann Dill
Experimental animation was presented as fine art by its creators long before the art world acknowledged William Kentridge's work, the widely-accepted marker to distinguish animation a "legitimate" language in fine art. Looking beyond the constraining nomenclature of cartoon inherited from Sergei Eisenstein and forwarded by Gilles Deleuze and Rosalind Krauss, this panel visits an earlier history of art practice and critical thinking in experimental animation that was passed over by art history and then relegated to film history, where it was equally ignored. Considered neither art nor film, experimental animation dropped out of critical consideration entirely from its 1921 origins in the first experimental animation film, Opus I by Walter Ruttmann, until the early 1970's with the writings of Louise O'Konor (on Viking Eggeling), Standish Lawder (on experimental film), William Moritz (on Oskar Fischinger), and Jeanpaul Goergen (on Walter Ruttman). With seminal texts by P. Adams Sitney, Visionary Film: The American Avant-Garde (1974), and Cecile Starr and Robert Russett’s Experimental Animation: An Illustrated Anthology (1976), a nascent canon of critical art history in experimental animation was formed.

Progeny to Modernism’s belief that the human condition is comforted by new technology to enable the spiritual, sensual, and rational in art, contemporary experimental animation offers a resolve to fulfill pictorial ideas in time. Inherently, experimental animation is an aesthetic to pulse rhythmic separations between space and time as invisible interstices in a frame-based consciousness of expression and perception, projection and reception. From the technologies of optical toy to electronic imaging, a space-time continuum (Eisenstein’s posit of dynamism) is understood here as a kind of drag or pressure at the interval of singular frames in motion to create an invisible tension that is gravity-like in its timing. In the creative practice of animation, technical considerations are symbiotically tied to aesthetics to render a distinction between movement in time and timing as animation. The foundational principles of animation adhere to laws of timing motion, e.g., bouncing ball, walk cycle, and waveform. Beyond the concept of “art in motion,” when these foundational principles are not operating in some degree as rhythmic timing, movement occurs absent animation.

Rooted in the art historical trajectories of experimental animation, experimental film, digital art and expanded cinema, this panel links the critical histories of art, film, and philosophy as one. This session serves not only to excavate its panelists’ individual research, but, collectively, to engender a critical authority previously languishing.


PANELISTS and ABSTRACTS:
Thought and Timing In the Round:  Muybridge, Engel,  Deleuze
Dr. Janeann Dill, Institute Director, IIACI: Institute for Interdisciplinary Art and Creative Intelligence (Think Tank)
Faculty in New College (Interdisciplinary Studies), University of Alabama

Along with Sergei Eisenstein and Rosalind Krauss, Gilles Deleuze perceives animation at the level of single-frame technology and names all animation “cartoon.” For Deleuze, there are conditions that determine cinema. His critique involving films previously positioned within the terrain of experimental animation is excavated in this paper and put forward as compelling critical thought to place experimental animation outside cinema. Deleuze is alert to the implications of Muybridge’s “horse’s gallop” as an historical change of status in movement in painting, dance, ballet and mime to release values that are not posed. Jules Engel’s Accident (1973) is a two-fold work of lithography and experimental animation to equally assert this awareness in the history of art, cinema, and experimental animation.  Aside from a surface language of animal locomotion, the primacy of the frame as a principle of timing acceleration, deceleration and variation is fulfilled in the collective Muybridge, Engel and Deleuze.


Pat O'Neill:  The Old Dodge and the Rhizome, On the “Experimental” and the “Real”  
Professor Erika Suderburg, Departments of Art, Media and Cultural Studies, and Dance, University of California, Riverside.
This paper examines Pat O'Neill's two feature length films Water and Power (1989) and The Decay of Fiction (2002) and their relation to the conceptual and geographic topography of Southern California, the mechanics of the optical printer, and the history of experimental cinema in relation to place, memory and imaging.


An Art of Radical Juxtaposition:  The Expanded Cinema of Stan VanDerBeek and Robert Breer
Dr. Andrew V. Uroskie, Assistant Professor, Modern and Contemporary Art, Photography and the Moving Image, Department of Art and Affiliate Faculty, Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies, Stony Brook University.
This paper takes up the discourse of assemblage in the early 1960s as a way of reconceptualizing the terrain of animation within which the practices of Robert Breer and Stan VanDerBeek have long been considered.  As a merely pictorial conception of collage was giving way to a more wide-ranging model of assemblage as environmental juxtaposition, these artists sought to rethink the institutional norms and spectatorial preconceptions regarding film’s material form, site, and mode of encounter.  Already known for refusing both the “deep space” of the theatrical feature film and the two-dimensional field of modernist “visual music,” their work underwent a further transformation within their site-specific cinematic interventions.  Examining Breer’s cinematic performance within Stockhausen’s Originals (1964) and VanDerBeek’s “Movie Mural” for Cage’s Variations V (1965), I show how an interdisciplinary, intermedia practice of expanded cinema was then emerging as a radical extension of the assemblage tradition.


Signature as Sense and Sensation: Animating Affect as Musical Diagram
Dr. James Tobias, Assistant Professor, Cinema and Digital Media Studies, University of California, Riverside.
Digital appropriations of modernist animation or accounts of modernism as prosthesis together prompt renewed questions about the ethical dimensions of artwork on the interstices of aesthetics and technics. Reading for sense and sensation in Fischinger's 1947 animated film Motion Painting #1 prompts a different account of ethics, aesthetics, and technics. Rendering visible the modern's invisible materialities (Kesting’s clockwork of energetic time; Bloch’s alternative “carpet motif” history of industrial modernity) in science, art, or philosophy could leave the untutored in the dark.  Motion Painting #1 animated the concerns of transmedial modernisms where inventing technics was requisite to stylizing an accessible, ethical aesthetics of modern materiality as affect.   Identifying the ethical dimensions of work marginalized yet widely sampled expands notions of authorial signature. Where inventing machines accompanies aesthetic advances, a signature effect (beyond a work’s “hand” or a patent application) emerges between the sense composed for, and the sensation generated in, reception.


 

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