E4.5: Emergent effects

“There should be some uncontrollable aspects of the work.”

Silvia Kolbowski, A conversation with Sylvia Kolbowski (2014)

“If you have two or three things moving in relationship to each other, lets say by chance, and they are cycling around, you can tell there’s going to be emergent effects that are going to happen.”

Bruce Jenkins on Paul Sharits, Out of the Dark (2009)

“Traditional computer animation is non-linear. The animator tweaks and adjusts everything by going back and forth between different states of the animation. Thus, he (sic) is in control of the outcome. When simulating, however, the animator gives up control by outsourcing several tasks to the computer. The computer executes these tasks based on calculations and outputs a linear simulation result. The animator interacts with the computer and is in control only to a certain degree. Animating like this feels like real-life filmmaking: Like a real actor, the computer follows the action set by the animator and produces results that are unexpected, realistic, broken and personal. Accordingly, the focus shifts from outcome to process. The animator is left with the challenge to find the right balance between staying in control and leaving room for randomness.

Animation in Ugly is a combination of puppeteering and dynamic computer simulation and varies between physically accurate and broken. The Ugly characters are ragdolls built from interconnected dynamic body parts. To enable the characters to interact with the environment, the body parts are fixed to animated controllers via simulated strings.”

Nikita Diakur on Ugly (2017) European Film Academy

TASK: As a starting point, research the work of Nikita Diakur, Silvia Kolbowski or Paul Sharits. Reflect on their creative approach, working process, tools and motivation.
Extend this research by developing your own generative system to create your own test animations. For example, by testing out these artists’ approach within your own work. Take the opportunity to explore and challenge what is creatively possible with your choice of animation software or identify and test ‘uncontrollable’ elements in your work.

Fair Use, Copyright, Creative Commons and Public Domain

This project will require you to do research and to build your own catalogue of
source material that you can use to construct animated video essays. Increasing
numbers of artists work with found material, predominantly from the internet
but from other sources too (scans of books, photographs and film). When using
found imagery in your own work there are moral and legal issues to consider.
The two most important rules are:

  1. Credit your sources and never pass off someone’s work as if it is your own.
  2. Ask permission to use content where possible.
    It is essential to credit any sources that you use. This can be done in the end
    credits of your piece, but is preferably done as an overlay of text on the screen as
    the quoted video appears.

Allan Warburton’s two video lectures are a good example of this. They are also a
useful introduction to the context in which animation artists are working today:
● Alan Warburton, Spectacle, Speculation, Spam (2016) :
● Alan Warburton, Goodbye Uncanny Valley (2017):
Another option is to use material freely but to restrict the viewership of your
work. As your purpose in this unit is purely educational you can make works
available online with password protection. Whenever in doubt, use a password
to restrict access to your work that includes sourced content so that only your
tutor and fellow students can view it. Vimeo has a guide on how to do this:
If you think about copyright as a series of restrictions, fair use is a set of
exceptions. Fair use is a fundamental part of the copyright bargain. Copyright
does not give owners unlimited control over their content. Fair use is a set of
factors and considerations that determine which things can be done without the
permission of the copyright holder. A search engine such as Google allows you to
search for images particularly labelled for non-commercial reuse with
modification. Remember to double-check the usage rights on any image or series
of images that you use.