Restart: Animation

What an idiot I can be – crowing all year about this animated FMP, talkin’ smack about all my animation skills, and I haven’t even touched any animation tool in months.  Here’s an hour’s worth of warm up goofing:

Untitled-1

 

I’ll get back with something less fluffy shortly.

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Film Society Poster Design: ‘La Planète Sauvage’

The third screening in my month of grown-up animation for the Leeds College of Art Students Union Film Society (LCASUFS) was René Laloux’s La Planète Sauvage.  Another fancy trip through strange and unknown plains that (I hoped) would prompt more introspective speculation as well as a little look at the significance of all forms of life, or an opening of sticky cognitive doors.  This screening was much more of a success – 10 audience members!  I think the funky French soundtrack playing loud may have enticed them all the more down to the basement – the poster was more straightforward too.  Just graphite drawings scanned in and coloured in Photoshop:Posto

Posto 1

 

Then my awful type on top of that:

Postyo

Dance again featured as an important (maybe even the ultimate) activity for the Draags – though it is interesting that this ‘strange courtship ritual’ is acted out in other giant beasts on another planet – the Draags, using their transcendental meditation to become the ‘heads’ of the alien headless nudes, control the bodies in an elegant ballroom-style dance.  These hyper intelligent beings, doing their courtship through an outside and non-Draag medium – akin to some of those fancy post- and trans-human ideas.

 

Light Night Volunteering – COP Creative Practitioner

From Light Night:

I was posted at Akeelah Bertram‘s installation piece that was exhibited inside the Art Gallery, entitled Vase: an installation of abstract colour and throbbing noise in an otherwise blank room, where participants were welcome to simply sit, and gradually give themselves up to the immersive qualities of the piece.  The title called to mind a mash of mostly forgotten (to me, you understand) theory on the concept of the vessel, particularly in theories of the significance of sculpture, and even more specifically in ceramics.  Watching the visitors to the Gallery enter the room, it was often disappointing to see so many unchanged expressions after a two-minute drop-in and skulk-around.  Yet, much more heartening were the slightly dazed, softer faces of those who resurfaced after having made the choice to take a space on the cold floor, get comfortable, and give themselves bodily to the Vase for more than a few moments.

The nature of Light Night, though, does lend a sense of urgency to each event/piece, so it was understandable that a number of the visitors that night didn’t stick around for very long.  Nevertheless, it was by no means an unpopular piece, and I felt the fact that so many people did stay served to exemplify the powerful hold a constructed, almost virtual, environment can wield on even a passing audience.  In her bio on DIScrit 89Plus, Bertram explains the purpose of her video installations:

‘to make digital video a physical experience. Not 4-D cinema – and most definitely not a hologram. The creation of an experience in which you feel the material of video, like you can the material of sculpture. Making video transcend the optical experience and turning it into a tactile one.’

Her work addresses something intrinsic to our society of escapism-addicts: in bringing this pulsing, digital video into and around the realm of the body, she gives us the opportunity to relinquish our grasp on the world outside this one room and away from the projection.  It seems crucial then, too, that this is not a solitary experience.  The rooms Bertram exhibits in are chosen for their capacity too, and so in a group of anything under 100 people (this was the number I was given when guarding the door at the Leeds Gallery anyway), we can have a collective experience of something we can imagine as akin to digital transcendence.

I thought it was quite an impressive piece, and seeing it just helped solidify the fact that I could benefit from having projections of some kind in my own creative response for COP.  I think the almost-intrusive quality afforded by projected video is too much opportunity to pass up.

Brooding on Cybersexualities

A fantastic (albeit now slightly dated) collection of essays, Cybersexualities: A Reader on Feminist Theory Cyborgs and Cyberspace, has helped narrow my studies into these fears/fascinations with new forms of corporeality.  In particular, the essays by Claudia Springer and Zoe Sofia have thrown up some interesting points around the connections that can be drawn between technology, and the concept of the mother.  Some quotes:

from Springer’s The Pleasure of the Interface

‘To quote the science fiction author J. G. Ballard again:

I believe that organic sex, body against body, skin area against skin area, is becoming no longer possible…  What we’re getting is a whole new order if sexual fantasies, involving a different order of experiences, like car crashes, like travelling in a jet aircraft, the whole overlay of new technologies, architecture, interior design, communications, transport, merchandising.  These things are beginning to reach into our lives and change the interior design of our sexual fantasies.’ (34)

‘Huyssen contends that historically, technology was not always linked to female sexuality: the two became associated after the beginning of the nineteenth century just as machines came to be perceived as threatening entities capable of vast, uncontrollable destruction.’ (36)

‘The word matrix, in fact, originates in the Latin mater (meaning both mother and womb), and the first of its several definitions in Websters is ‘something within which something else originates or develops.’  Computers in popular culture’s cyborg imagery extend to us the thrill of metaphoric escape into the comforting security of our mother’s womb, which, as Freud explained, represents our earliest Hein (home).  According to Freud, when we have an unheimlich (uncanny) response to something, we are feeling the simultaneous attraction and dread evoked by the womb, where we experienced our earliest living moment at the same time that our insentience resembled death.  It was Freud’s contention that we are constituted by a death wish as well as by the pleasure principle; and popular culture’s cyborg imagery effectively fuses the two desires.’ (37) (a very important segment to me)

‘patriarchy continues to uphold gender difference.’ (41) (summation of a good passage)

‘The emphasis on cerebral sexuality suggests that while pain is a meat thing, sex is not.’ (44)

Baudrillard saying good things:

‘the Other, the sexual or cognitive interlocuter, is never really aimed at  – crossing the screen evokes the crossing of the mirror.  The screen itself is targeted as the point of interface.  The machine (the interactive screen) transforms the process of communication, the relation from one to the other, into a process of communication, i.e. the process of reversibility from the same to the same.  The secret of the interface is that the Other is withing it virtually the Same – otherness being surreptitiously confiscated by the machine.’ (44)

John Perry Barlow is cited for his writing on Virtual Reality, calling it a ‘Disneyland for epistemologists’, and that it will ‘further expose the concept that “reality” is a fact… delivering another major hit to the old fraud of objectivity.’ (45)

‘In a world without human bodies, the films tell us, technological things will be gendered and there will still be a patriarchal hierarchy.  What this reconfiguration of masculinity indicates is that patriarchy is more willing to dispense with human life than with male superiority.’ (49)

Sofia’s Virtual Corporeality: A Feminist View

‘Synecdoche is what allows the disembodied, alienated, objective rationality of a certain gender, class, ethnicity, and historical epoch to be vaunted as universal, while other styles and components of rationality – such as embodiment, situatedness, emotion – are ignored or dismissed as non-rational… a computer exemplifies this narrow but powerful way of knowing.’ (57)

Too much of this essay has been marked out in pink highlighter.  I’ll get round to discussing it here, by myself, at a later date.  In the meantime:

Matermoremater

I sketched out some immediate responses to ‘mother’ – it’s important for me, never having been a biological mother of any kind, to attempt to explore how it feels to have this life growing inside you.  Drawing often helps me get some kind of grasp of emotions I don’t understand – this exercise helped especially in trying to wrap my mind around the physicality of the gestation period.  The bodies felt alien to draw; strange and lovely.  I’ll do some more of these.  Gustav Klimt is an inescapable influence.  I want so much to become this literate with texture, colour, line and figure drawing.

The-Three-Ages-of-Woman

Hideaki Anno and Neon Genesis Evangelion

OK, so here, I will attempt to outline why the anime, Neon Genesis Evangelion, is a heavily influential factor in my Extended Research Project for Context of Practice 3.

Eva027

Omono otaku

Firstly, my serious interest in the show feeds on the topic of my essay for Context of Practice 1, ‘Otaku culture in post-war Japan’.  During the course of my research into the key components of otaku culture, Ikari Shinji (NGE’s teenage protagonist) was a near constant presence.  Shinji is a tragic figure, and knows it.  In this character, Hideaki Anno seems to have created the ultimate otaku stereotype: Shinji is lonely, self-involved, sexually frustrated, distant from his father – a victim of his environment.  He is expected to pilot Eva 01, in order to assist NERV‘s attempts to defend the earth against the Angels‘ attacks, but he is usually unwilling to do this, because it is scary.  He has understandable, relatable emotions in the face of this terrifying proposed task:

  • the angels are really, really scary creatures (I will expand on the goodness of this shortly)
  • in order to pilot the Eva, Shinji has to effectively relinquish his conception of his own identity, allowing it to merge with that of the Eva (which, by the way, is inhabited by the soul of his dead mother – oedipal much)
  • the responsibility they put on his shoulders is phenomenally weighty

My interest in otaku culture is has been renewed though this research project, especially when viewing it as a national syndrome which has (at least in part) arisen from a society deeply integrated with technologies that encourage escapism and increasing engagement with virtual reality.  This interview with creator Anno is confusing and seems to beg negation of any in-depth analysis into the meaning of his story.  The Ideas Channel produced this interesting video discussing the relevance of Anno’s opinion on his own creation, which is fantastic:

Either way, I have come to accept the fact that I have no way of getting around Evangelion as a pivotal point of interest in getting this project off the ground.  I wanted to pick apart what exactly about the series (television series  and films – as is often the case in many anime franchises, there is a series, followed by a feature-length reinterpretation of the series, and now a new series of films re-imagining the basic story with new characters and shinier special effects) that strikes such fear into my heart, but still keeps me coming back for more.  I acknowledge that the dramatic music and frantic editing (especially evident in Death and Rebirth) will have had something to do with the adrenaline pumping through my veins as I feed on this hyper-stimulant, but the fact that I can’t quite shake the things I have seen, or the almost-disabling sense of fear I have when recalling certain scenes, led me to believe there is something in the ideas presented that directly attacks something essential to my humanity.

I went on to do some research into Monster Theory – in a way continuing on from the studies into cyborgs and the fear of the Uncanny in my Context of Practice 2 project.  By way of the omnipotent Google, I came by this very interesting publication from Jeremy Jerome Cohen.  I particularly enjoyed his presentation of the ‘Monster’ as a culture’s own exploration – and simultaneous distancing from – their fantasies and desires.  This quote:

‘The habitations of the monsters (Africa, Scandinavia, America, Venus, the Delta Quadrant – whatever land is sufficiently distant to be exoticized) are more than dark regions of uncertain danger: they are also realms of happy fantasy, horizons of liberation.’ (18)

The idea that our fictional monsters are a fairly risk-free method of playing out our risky desires has really lodged itself snugly in my mind.  Applying this theory to Evangelion aids in understanding the appeal of the horror the show brings to me.  To wield enormous power, to become something more than myself, to (eventually) transcend the human form I was born with and connect, wholly, with a collective consciousness – these are fantasies explored in Evangelion, and the baffling, disorientating finale to the television series is an animated approximation of how we might experience these fantasies, were they to ever actually happen.  Cohen’s Monster Culture (Seven Theses) again comes in very useful in wording things right:

‘We distrust and loathe the monster at the same time we envy its freedom, and perhaps its sublime despair.’ (17) 

I watch the Eva entering ‘Berserker Mode‘ and am at once in awe at its unrestrained brutality in tearing the Angel apart, and completely horrified – sickened to my stomach, much like the employees at NERV who can’t seem to take their eyes off the scene unfolding on their observation screens.

As well as the powerfully scary giant robots, the underlying themes in Evangelion can often pose an even more sinister threat to the viewer.  This, I think, boils down to the loss of identity, a kind of death.  Not a particularly new fear, but now repackaged in technophilic terms.  This, I am now joyfully realising in a rather late-in-coming revelation, is the very same kind of idea discussed in some of the essays in Cybersexualities, where the concept of the womb is diabolical in its very biological function as it challenges the commonly accepted Cartesian ‘individual’ – and this is perfectly paralleled when the pilots in Evangelion enter into the belly of their assigned unit, where they are submerged in amniotic fluid which sustains their survival inside.  Their ownership of their own consciousness is sacrificed.  This is scary, and important.

I feel as though there is a great deal to examine in the psychology of the sexual tensions between the characters too.  The pilots are a bunch of hormone-driven teenagers when it boils down to it, but this ties into another aspect of the studies in otaku culture that interest me, which explores the idea that Japan as a nation has strong tendencies toward reticence, and ah, this is a different post.  I’ll come back to this.

I would very much like to dedicate large portions of my time to studying this show as an incredibly effective depiction of the modern, Japanese monster.  I’ve got some work to do.