Here’s the first of our posts reporting on the Ecstatic Truth symposium, which was held on a warm Saturday in May at the Royal College of Art, London. A postgraduate (PGR) research event organised by Animation Research Co-ordinator Dr Tereza Stehlikova, the day launched the RCA’s new Documentary pathway, on its long-running MA Animation course, now under the new head of Animation, Dr Birgitta Hosea
We start with a run-down of the speakers and their papers, from the symposium programme, illustrated by our own Alex Widdowson:
“According to Werner Herzog mere facts constitute an accountant’s reality, but it is the ecstatic truth (a poetic reality) that can capture more faithfully the nuances and depths of human experiences. Given that animation has the freedom to represent, stylize, or reimagine the world, it lends itself well to this aspirational form of a documentary. The symposium explored the idea of “Ecstatic Truth” and reflecting, speculating and imagining how the animated form might elicitate the different facets of this poetic truth, through its unique language.
Keynote: Paul Ward
The ‘illocutionary force’ of animated documentary’
I examine how animated documentaries do what they do by linking to Austin’s ‘illocutionary force’ in his ‘performative’ model of language. The illocutionary force of a speech act is concerned with effect and intention: it points to what something means and what you mean by saying it (in the way that you do). Animated documentary’s power, poetry and potential weaknesses can therefore be understood by thinking about their illocutionary force.
Paul Ward is a Professor of Animation Studies at Arts University Bournemouth, where he is Course Leader for the MA Animation Production at AUB and supervises PhD students. He has published widely on animated documentary and other topics. He is a Board Member of the Society for Animation Studies and served as its President from 2010-2015.
Showing the Invisible
Roz Mortimer, PhD candidate, University of Westminster, UK
‘Traumatic histories and phenomenology as method’
My research is centred on a phenomenology of the invisible, by which I mean ghosts, atmospheres and emotions. In this talk I used my recent film This is History (after all) by Roz Mortimer to explore the challenges of making visible the invisible. In this film the image is digitally manipulated to visualise affect related to traumatic memory. The question is how can phenomenology reframe our relationship to traumatic histories?
Roz Mortimer is an artist-filmmaker and doctoral researcher at University of Westminster. Her experimental films cross the genres of documentary, fiction and animation and have been shown widely around the world since 1995. Taking documentary methods as a starting point, she incorporates fantasy into her work to create socially engaged films that question ideas around truth. Roz has an MA in Visual Sociology from Goldsmiths, and teaches universities in the UK and USA. www.wonder-dog.co.uk
Carla MacKinnon, PhD candidate, Arts University Bournemouth
An Approach to Authenticity: Using abstracted stop-motion to evoke physical and psychological experience in animated documentary
I am exploring the use of ‘tangible territory’ (Stehlikova, 2012) within the evocative mode of animated documentary (Honess Roe, 2013). In particular, how stop-motion may be used to evoke physical and psychological states that cannot be conventionally recorded, through the use of materials that encourage haptic visuality and filmmaking techniques that trigger a physical audience response connecting the viewer to the subject.
Carla MacKinnon is a PhD candidate at Arts University Bournemouth. She completed her Masters in Animation at the RCA in 2013 and has worked as a producer and festival programmer as well as director of award-winning live action and animated shorts. Her documentary installation Squeezed by Shadows is currently featured in the ‘States of Mind: Tracing the Edges of Consciousness’ exhibition at London’s Wellcome Collection. www.mackinnonworks.com
Ülo Pikkov, PhD candidate, Estonian Academy of Arts, Estonia
Presentation of short animation film Empty Space
Empty Space invokes a past memory, an apartment that once existed, and a small girl dwelling and playing there. It presents a story forged in the dreams of the father hiding to avoid capture and imprisonment. Empty Space is a reconstruction of a vision on the backdrop of the anxieties of the 1950s in the Soviet Union.
Ülo Pikkov studied animation at Turku Arts Academy in Finland and since 1996 has directed several award-winning short animation films (“Tik-Tak”, “Body memory”, “The End”, “Dialogos”). In 2005 he graduated from the Institute of Law in University of Tartu, focusing on the media and author’s rights. At themoment he is a PhD student at Estonian Academy of Arts. Ülo is the author of “Animasophy, Theoretical Writings on the Animated Film” (2011). www.silmviburlane.ee
‘The Dressmaker, remnants of a life. The re-creation of the Self and memories through animation’
Animation is a visual thinking and feeling media that helps us to express an internal reflection about our reality so called life, to make sense finding our peace of mind and heart; to re-construct our Self (the alignment of our thinking, feeling and acting). It is an alternative language to communicate and understand other points of views, other many selves seeking for the same: the ecstatic truth, our story in motion pictures.
Inma Carpe: Born in the Mediterranean, I live and work abroad between my home base in Denmark and Los Angeles. An experienced freelance visual development artist and animation-lecturer, I specialize in short formats and pre-production, but also split my time as a production assistnat in film festivals. Currently I’m working and researching how animation and visual literacy improve Self-development and communication (emotions-beliefs) based on art production experiences connecting cognitive/affective neuroscience with film making/storytelling. www.carpeanimation.com
Leah Fusco, PhD candidate, Kingston University, UK
‘Northeye: past, present and anticipated narratives of a deserted medieval village’
This research explores the documentation of a DMV (deserted medieval village), previously an island but now a reclaimed landscape located on a saltmarsh in East Sussex, and addresses problems in recording fragile histories and stories in physically shifting landscapes. I’m interested in how drawn visual narrative through moving images can explore and capture alternative timeframes and readings of place.
Leah Fusco: After completing at BA (Hons) in Illustration at the University of the Creative Arts, I graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2010 with an MA in Communication Art and Design. I am currently working towards a practice based PhD at Kingston University, supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The research explores lost histories in landscape, using the deserted medieval village or Northeye in East Sussex as a case study. www.leahfusco.co.uk
Art and Science
Keynote: Abigail Addison
Silent Signal – probing the universal truth of science
With Silent Signal, Animate Projects has connected six artists working with animation and six biomedical scientists to produce experimental animations that elicit new ways of thinking about the human body.
The project’s producer, Abigail Addison, talked about how the artists engaged with their collaborating scientists’ data, tools and processes, and brought to life the science. She also explored how each artist challenged the universal truth of science in the work they have produced.
Abigail Addison co-directs Animate Projects, an arts agency that champions creative animation practice, and produces ambitious interdisciplinary projects, such as Silent Signal, with a range of UK-wide partners. As a freelance producer she works with individual artist and cultural organisation on developing, producing and exhibition experimental moving images projects. Abigail is a Trustee of film and photography charity Four Corners, and an Advisor to Underwire Festival. @AnimateProjects
Truth, Fiction and Poetry
Marc Bosward, PhD candidate, Arts University Bournemouth
‘Layers of Meaning, Layers of Truth: Fragmented Histories & Composited Video Collage’
The paper presented a body of practice-based research that interrogates the interface of live-action and animation, specifically, how found footage as an indexical element of lived experience functions within the aesthetic of a constructed ‘other’ world. In this framework, the construction of non-real spaces that synthesise animation and found footage are explored for their potential in describing alternate histories with reference to ontology and ideology.
Marc Bosward: I am a lecturer in Animation and Illustration at the University of Derby. My research interests include the convergence of digital and analogue practices in moving image, the interface of live action and animation, experimental animation, animation and history and memory and experimental non-fiction film. I am a first year PhD candidate under the supervision of Professor Paul Ward at Arts University Bournemouth. www.marcbosward.com
Alexandra D’Onofrio, PhD candidate, University of Manchester, UK
‘Reaching Horizons: exploring existential possibilities of migration and movement within the past – present – future through participatory animation’
Alexandra D’Onofrio, documentary film director and PhD candidate in AMP (Anthropology Media and Performance) at the University of Manchester. She graduated in anthropology at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, and then completed her MA in Visual Anthropology at the University of Manchester in 2008. At present she is in her final year of her doctoral research where she has investigated the stories and part of the imaginative worlds of three Egyptian men, though different creative methods, combining applied theatre, storytelling, photography, animation and documentary film making. Vimeo
Pedro Serrazina, PhD candidate, University Lusófona de Lisboa, Portugal
‘Notes towards the use of a documentary approach in the teaching of animation’
Since its early days, animation film has always reflected its cultural context at the time of creation. Nevertheless, it is still widely perceived as kid’s entertainment. Reflecting on practical examples and teaching methodologies, this presentation argued for a practice of animation which, by adhering to documentary strategies, engages with real issues, leaving behind the traditional Disney/anime/fantasy/game-inspired references that frame most of the animation students’ intentions at the beginning of their path. Rather than a matter of technique, and regardless of the much debated issue of “realism”, this text suggests that a teaching framed by a documentary approach, bringing questions of identity and social perspective to the core of the practice, reinforces animation’s thoughtful and participative role in the contemporary moving image debate.
Pedro Serrazina is an animation director and senior lecturer at Univ. Lusófona de Lisboa currently undertaking a practice-based PhD on The Creation and Use of Animated space in Animation, with a grant from FCT, Portugal. Pedro combines work as a director (his last film was the award winning Eyes of the Lighthouse, 2010) with an academic career in Portugal and the UK. He has published academic articles, a book of short stories & illustrations, and is currently preparing his next film, with funding from the Institute of Portuguese Filmmaking. Vimeo
Keynote: Brigitta Iványi-Bitter
Animated documentaries from Hungary and Central Europe:
From the 70s’ cinema verité to contemporary art practices
Animated documentary films from Hungary and the neighbouring countries are reflecting the actual historical context of the era they were made. The genre itself became prevalent in Central Europe during the 70s due to cinema verité in Western Europe and documentaries with a socially critical edge and had a comeback in the 2010s with predominantly female directors, who gave it a poetic twist. In both eras artists of the region experienced dictatorship or later a socially engaged, critical position, therefore animated documentaries usually serve as complex traces of the past as well as pieces of art. Artists-directors to be introduced: Béla Vajda, Kati Macskássy, György Kovásznai, Éva Magyarósi, Eszter Szabó, Zbigniew Czapla, Ewa Borisewicz, Malgorzata Bosek.
Brigitta Iványi-Bitter is a freelance researcher of Central European animation history, animation film producer, curator of contemporary art (including animation) exhibitions and author. Berigitta completed her PhD at the Doctoral School of Film, Media and Cultural Studies, Eotvos Lorand University, Budapest, Hungary in 2012. Her Research thesis was on Cold War era experimental animation films in Central-Eastern Europe, with special focus on the legacy of the Pannonia Film Studio (Hungary) and György Kovásznai’s (animation film maker) Oeuvre. Brigitta is a Lecturer in the History of Animation and in Contemporary Media Art and animation at Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design, Budapest. Vimeo
Ecstatic Truth and Human Condition in Animated Documentary
Final discussion introduced and chaired by Mark Collington.
Mark Collington is the author of Animation in Context (2016) and course leader up the MA & BA (Hons) Animation Courses at the CASS, London Metropolitan University. He completed his own animation studies at the Royal College of Art. His MA films, and subsequent Arts Council England funded animation commission work, have been screened on television and at a number of international animation festivals. His personal work primarily explores relationships between architecture and animation.
Other Symposium content:
Workshop with Judit Ferenz, PhD candidate, Bartlett School of Architecture
‘Animating the layers of history’
The workshop explored the role of the narrator in creating history. It introduced attendants to a specific Hungarian conservation method (falkutatás) that uncovers the different historical layers within the walls of a building, as a means to narrate the history of that building. We translated falkutatás into animation using the multiplane animation desk in experimental ways and collectively produced a series of short animations which are be uploaded to a website created specifically for the workshop.
Judit Ferencz is an MPhil/PhD student at The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL. In her architectural research by design she is developing a new methodology to talk about history in architectural heritage. She studied illustration and animation at Kingston University, and art history at ELTE University, Budapest. She has a freelance illustration practice and is teaching illustration at The Cass, London Metropolitan University and City Lit. www.juditferencz.co.uk
Zoetrope by Hugo Glover, PhD candidate, Innovation Design Engineering, RCA
My research focuses on placing the animator as the central axis of animation making. By basing my approach in the arena of ‘design thinking’ I am attempting to construct an understanding of how animators think, and how they access and utilize their embodied knowledge of the world to inform their creative decisions. Using the framework of second order cybernetics my work explores control of change between animated objects viewed through a zoetrope.
Hugo Glover is an MPhil/PhD Candidate in Innovation Design Engineering (IDE) at the Royal College of Art. His research focuses on the creative exploration of stereoscopic 3D space through the use of digital stereoscopes, which house experimental CGI animation. By creating a physical space, as well as a digital stereoscopic space, Hugo’s work explores the hinterland of these two realities. Vimeo
The Ecstatic Truth symposium was coordinated by Dr Tereza Stehlikova
Tereza Stehlíková is a London-based artist working primarily in the medium of moving image. She is currently a research coordinator on the Animation programme at the Royal College of Art. Stehlíková is a founder of Sensory Sites, an international collective based in London that generates collaborative exhibitions, installations and research projects that explore multi-sensory perception and bodily experience. Current projects include developing a collaboration with professor Charles Spence of Cross Modal Research Laboratory, Oxford, as well as a collaboration with the Centre for the Study of the Senses (UCL), investigating how interactions between the senses can be utilised in the expressive vocabulary of cinema.
More reporting to come soon – watch this space!