Part Five looks at ways of getting animation out into the world and thinking about audience and implications for the type of event, scale and duration.
(Course end date 26th Dec 2022)
Showing animation without a screen
An Optical illusion disc (phénakisticope) is spun displaying the illusion of motion
of a ball through a hoop, a monkey swinging on branches of a tree and a zebra
jumping through an opening between two trees in a circle.
In the 19 th Century, optical devices such as the phénakistoscope – check displayed
animated imagery long before cinema and motion pictures were invented. The
phénakistoscope (pictured above) is a spinning cardboard disc attached vertically
to a handle. A series of pictures showing sequential phases of animation are
arrayed radially around the disc’s centre and small rectangular apertures are
spaced evenly around the rim of the disc so that the images, reflected in a
mirror, can be seen to move when viewed through the moving slits. The scanning
of the slits across the reflected images keeps the images from blurring together,
resulting in the illusion of a single moving picture.
Optical devices and toys from this period used circular shapes and worked with
animated loops. Looped animation was the first trope of animation that you
encountered in part 1 of this unit. Indeed, the present day incarnations of these
optical toys are GIF animation – both show short, continuous looped illusions of
Most versions of optical devices from the 19 th and 20 th Centuries could only be
viewed by one person at a time. Early film was also consumed individually at
places known as Kinetoscope parlours. Kinetoscope Parlours became known as
‘ Penny Arcades’ because, for a penny one could view a film lasting about a minute.
Patrons were primarily men and boys, who came to peep through the
kinetoscope, often at sexually suggestive films.
Artists have continued to create animation without using screens or projection.
Examples of Juan Fontanieve’s mechanical flipbooks and wall based optical
devices are pictured below. Other artists have taken the logic of optical devices
further, integrating electronics and computer programming into the generation
and installation of their animations, often using open source microcontrollers
such as Arduino or Raspberry Pi. A microcontroller is a small computer on a
single integrated chip that can be programmed to move mechanical, digital or
electrical parts. The work of Juan Fontanive and Ian Gouldstone are just a few of
the many applications of this.
Showing animation on screen
We are used to seeing animation in the cinema, on television, and increasingly
through the diversity of digital screens from tablets, mobile phones, to larger
digital billboards or projections. With each of these formats, the experience and
expectation of the audience changes. Watching an animation on a phone in the
street, paying to sit in a plush cinema, or sat in your own living room are very
different viewing experiences, even though the animation might be the same
one. One key difference being the scale of the work is viewed. Another, is the
duration, based on the audience’s ability to watch something from start to finish,
pause the animation, or dip in and out of it.
Animations in contemporary galleries
With the development of modern and contemporary art, what we expect to see
in a gallery has broadened. This means animations might be viewed on the wall
alongside paintings, on showreels with other moving image, and also as part of
contemporary art installations which explore sculptural and architectural ideas
of space, sound and movement. Each of these approaches presents animations
to an audience in different ways.
Installations outside of galleries
While contemporary art has broadened our expectations of visual culture, it has
also questioned what constitutes a gallery. Animation installations can take place
online, on mobile platforms or outside the gallery in everyday spaces. The
relationship between animations and audiences also changes as we encounter
the work unexpectedly or are invited to participate in viewing it.
Broomberg and Chanarin chose to have their animated video about migrants
and refugees, Bureaucracy of Angels, installed close to the exit of the Eurostar, a
passageway between the UK and greater Europe; embedding the work within the
station and enabling it to be shown to a transient audience.
Possessions-inc. is a video project by Richard Grayson for Matt’s Gallery. A new
episode in the series was posted online once a month over 2016 and 2017.
Members of the gallery’s mailing list were emailed each episode.
Performance: Expanded Cinema and animation
Interest in performance art started in the 1970s and has been experiencing
resurgence in all art forms in recent years. Theories of performance were
adapted from anthropology, ethnography and sociology to observe how most
cultures use performances to organise society and everyday life, whether they
are formal shows such as ceremonies and rituals, or informal ones, such as
chanting, dancing and playing. A relatively recent shift in contemporary art
toward staging events can be seen – a renewed engagement with components of
live events, performance and sound. This interest in performance influenced a
new thinking about how films, animations and visual media should be shown.
The term ‘ Expanded Cinema ’ was coined by the American filmmaker Stan
Vanderbeek to describe work both inside and outside the gallery including live
performance, projector pieces, video and a range of media environments.
Expanded cinema is used to describe a video, animation, multi-media
performance or an immersive environment that pushes the boundaries of
cinema and rejects the traditional one-way relationship between the audience
and the screen. And there is a particular connection between animation and
performance. In Part 3 of this unit you encountered the argument that animation
can be considered as documentation of a performance or a kind of performance
in its own right.
While many aspects of performance and expanded cinema takes place within the
context of contemporary art, these boundaries are also being challenged
through popular culture. For example, through the development of dance music,
VJs (Video Jockeys) have started to use projected animation and moving image to
complement DJ’s music. These visuals provide ambience to club environments,
often synching animations to musical rhythms and motifs. Through software
developments that allows real time animation to take place and greater links
between sounds and images, VJs are often performing live, rather than
presenting premade content.
One of the main ways that animators get their work seen is through applying to
festivals and submitting their films for competition. The scope and number of
international animation festivals mean that the application process could easily
become a full time pursuit so it is important to target which festivals that would
be suitable for the kind of work you make. The majority of animation festivals are
focused on commercial animation, however many have an ‘experimental’ and
‘student’ category. Most film festivals will include animation as a category as well
as an experimental category.