Rachel Walls – Abstract Inclusion

Abstraction, as an art movement, represents the largest modernisation of visual arts since the Renaissance, reconfiguring how we perceive information on a global scale (Frankel 2012). In shedding representational form and meaning, abstraction presents an evocative sensuality that transcends language and culture. This sensuality provides a strong foothold in commercial visual communications, which has persisted over time. While modern perceptions of the genre demarcate between ‘artistic’ and ‘commercial’ forms of abstraction, the formative period of the genre saw little distinction between art and consumer cultures. Artists such as Len Lye articulate the commercial versatility of abstract animation. Works such as Colour Flight (1956) and Rainbow Dance (1936) exist simultaneously as advertising and art. Fast-forwarding to our modern media experience, abstract animation has faded from the public eye. It has become both an obscure art form and a commercial cipher. Is it possible to bring this vital art form into a more prominent position? In order to address this question, this paper adopts Inclusive Design as a paradigm in order to develop a case for the modern presentation and creation of abstract animation. It considers the disappearance of abstraction as a design problem – which implies that a solution may be considered.

Inclusive Design

Inclusive Design provides a robust framework promoting considered design for all (Nicolle & Abascal 2001). Derived from earlier trends such as Universal Design, Inclusive Design is common in areas such as industrial design, architecture, and social policy. The main purpose of Inclusive Design is to avoid designed discrimination (Nussbaumer 2012). Following from this, design is expanded to suit more ‘universal’ needs, incorporating the widest possible base of users (Herwig 2008). The core tenet of Inclusive Design is that “through considering the full diversity of users a better product will result” (Johnson, Clarkson & Huppert 2010, p. 275). In traditional application, Inclusive Design seeks to include persons with reduced mobility. This focus is common in industries creating functional objects and environments, such as wheelchair ramps or tactile paving.

Increasingly, Inclusive Design has seen uptake in philosophical applications. Notably, Laura Davy’s article, “Philosophical Inclusive Design: Intellectual Disability and the Limits of Individual Autonomy in Moral and Political Theory” (2015), marks out a striking new use for Inclusive Design as a tool for social advocacy. Davy notes in particular that Inclusive Design is not merely about the objects it creates, but is “inclusive in the process of design and development” (p. 1). Shifting focus to the process itself widens Inclusive Design as an extensible discipline of design, as opposed to a type of design that is limited to certain applications. Design is a process of consideration prior to creation, and Inclusive Design is one of many disciplines. As a philosophy, Inclusive Design can be viewed as empathetic design thinking. In this context, Inclusive Design has a fluidity of application that is extensible and applicable to animation. Can design thinking become synonymous with creative thinking? Is the space of process and design segregated? As William Schaffer suggests, the animator “must physically encounter the fact of each frame and deliberately provide its graphic content” (Schaffer 2007, p. 461). This encounter of graphic authorship, frame after frame, is a meeting of design and intention of the artist. It is equally an opportunity to integrate design philosophy. It is simply a process of conscious creation – an awareness of audience, environment, and context.  The segregation between creative and design thinking is a splitting of hairs based on the commercial model of fabrication to a brief versus the assumed freedom of creation: in the majority of situations, neither of these is untouched by the other. Conscious focus on this overlap facilitates opportunity for creative work to benefit from design thinking.

The process of design is initiated by a brief, question or problem. This process is resolved within a framework of parameters set to meet the needs of that brief, question, or problem. The limitations and user requirements are integral parameters to guide appropriate ideas, research and implementation (Brown 2008). Inclusive Design is human-centered, providing consideration of the user’s needs as well as the environment of interaction. Stephen Carmien and Alberto Martínez  Cantera (2013) identify three main requirements of user modeling systems:

  • Store information about users in a non-redundant manner;
  • Provide support for classification of users as belonging to one or more of these subgroups, and the integration of the typical characteristics of these subgroups into the current individual user model;
  • Support recording of users’ behavior, particularly their past interaction with the system (pp. 62-3).

This system can create a picture of users, their historic experienced barriers to engagement, and can cross-evaluate subgroups and cohorts within the study. This leads to the identification of cohorts with barriers to use, the barriers themselves, and areas of investigation to be followed. This then requires experiment and testing for user compliance, until such a point where compliance is obtained (see Figure 1).

Figure 1
Figure 1 – Typical pathway of Inclusive Design

 

 

 

 

 

Inclusive Design can also be used to resolve issues of graphic communication in the arts. Identification of common barriers among cohorts initiates the design process from an informed perspective. This involves user testing and feedback into the design process. Applying the methods of a focus group or sweatbox screening in a fine art context may be anathema to many creators; and my suggestion is not to alter creativity with these types of commercial tools. It is designed to provide insights into design and development of impacting works, rather than exist as a more rigid industrial application. In considering the philosophy – the doing of design as creative thought – it might simply be a matter of looking at whether a screening in a theatre or on the side of a building, for example, provides a better connection with an audience.

Considerations in Relation & Recognition

It is important to consider the role of representation in motion pictures. Representation, as an element of perception, highlights the role of audience as an element of the cinema as a system. As Inclusive Design is a human-centered practice, investigation into the relationship between screen and viewer is of high importance. Abstract animation, typified by a lack of narrative, representation or causality, opens the door to a world without explanation. It denies the viewer a guided sense of cognition, which further refuses recognition. This is a frustration in terms of what David Bordwell and Kristen Thompson define as “artistic form”:

Artistic form is best thought of in relation to the human being who watches the play, reads the novel, listens to the piece of music, or views the film. Perception in all phases of life is an activity. As you walk down the street, you scan your surroundings for salient aspects – a friend’s face, a familiar landmark, a sign of rain. The mind is never at rest. It is constantly seeking order and significance, testing the world for breaks in the habitual pattern [. …] Artworks rely on this dynamic, unifying quality of the human mind. They provide organized occasions in which we exercise and develop our ability to pay attention, to anticipate upcoming events, to construct a whole out of parts, and to feel an emotional response to that whole. (2010, p. 56)

While Bordwell and Thompson do not explicitly seek to exclude abstract art forms, seeking recognition is not well entertained in abstract animation. Existing in stark contrast to more orthodox animation genres, abstract animation presents the movement-image for its own sake. The absence of convention itself becomes narrative, interrogating both audience and screen. Todd May suggests that “it is the absent object that dominates the discourse of representation” (1994, pp. 82-83). Without the distractions of conventional cinema, representation becomes a matter of the cinema itself. The absence of ‘logical’ agency, space, and time form an interference with empathetic identification (Gratzer 1997). This is an undesirable affect in an Inclusive Design sense. The questioning involved with abstract animation is endless. Representation in itself becomes representative: the moving picture implies itself in the absence of object. It is a mirroring, a feedback loop, and an endless opportunity for interrogation and confusion. Hans Richter identified this reiterative quality of cinema, noting that “the main esthetic problem in the movies, which were invented for reproduction (of movement) is, paradoxically, the overcoming of reproduction” (Richter 1951, p. 157).

The issue of the screen has weight and demands attention. It also detracts from the issue of audience participation in the apparatus of cinema. The cinematic environment as context and concept is meaningless without this human element. The cinema-theater is a space of stories, and the viewer has expectations of their engagement with the screen. Paul Wells (1998) articulates this, noting that “the spectator is intrinsically bound up in a particular relationship to a film, identifying, sympathizing, resisting, endorsing, dismissing, etc. in the course of a film narrative” (p. 225). Abstract animation does not fit into narrative-specific cinematic relations. Having dispensed with this artifice, it disrupts the comfort of expectation. This is somewhat of a design problem – and is one that Richter identified in his 1951 writings on experimental and documentary film forms. He suggested a wide distribution of films that broke with convention, offering up a “‘screen style’ instead of a theater-style” (p. 151), would be required to habituate viewers to experimental film form. Exposure to abstraction, however, is not entirely the issue. It is the exposure to abstraction as cinematic subject and object that has been neglected. This functions under the assumption that the environment of the screen is a constant; and that the cinema-theatre, the domain of the narrative, orthodox, story-machine, is a permanent fixture in the whole of cinema. If we consider relation as a design problem, this is a simplification and limitation of both audience and viewing environment.

Abstraction in the Modern Media Space

In our modern media landscape, the most prominent offering of abstract animation is found in the visual ephemera of advertising. Whether demonstrating the existence and efficacy of un-scientific shampoo ingredients, or visualizing how toothpaste conquers oral hygiene atrocities, abstract animation grants sensory and tangible value to things that have no tangible form. Emotion, branding, and pseudo-science are conveyed efficiently through the visual language of abstraction. Abstract animation is effective in advertising because it appeals to our emotions rather than our sense of logic (Stronach 2010). It can provide entertainment without telling a story. It links external and internal sensation, providing a somatic sense of relation between the viewer and the media. The form of abstraction has been appropriated and subverted to create emotional links where they may not easily otherwise exist. The other abstraction – the under-exhibited art form, relegated to film festivals and museum retrospectives, is relatively unknown outside an elect viewership. Without appropriate education and introduction, abstract animation is out of step with modern media culture. Missing security of narrative or rationale, abstract animations offer no context or history. This can thus serve to limit engagement with the genre. Compounding this, limited exhibition of both historic and modern abstract art animations has constructed a narrow definition of the genre. Framed as auteur curiosities, abstract art animation exists in relative isolation from mainstream animation, for an informed audience.

In this fashion, then, abstraction lives a double life of ubiquity and obscurity. Abstract animation is all around us: whether subverted for advertorial use, or visualizing the imaginary, somatic, and supernatural in special effects. When used within the confines of a narrative form, abstraction passes muster. It does so, however, because it is a thing within a thing – it is not the main attraction, just an element of screen language. This is entirely different from viewing abstraction for its own sake. Consuming abstract animation on the same screen employed to watch narrative film forms alters the relation of screen and audience. The context of theatrical exhibition thus makes a demand on animation to explain itself. Having developed a polarized existence as manipulative sensuality and codified high art leaves little room for each other, even if they are ultimately the same thing. Thus the abstract disappears in a commoditized space.

The camouflage of commodity is a stark contrast to the confrontational presence of abstract animation as art form. In the absence of the subject/object, abstract animation provokes a focus on the apparatus that make animation possible. The essence of animation – ‘the illusion of life’ – as Alan Cholodenko (2007) describes it, takes center stage. Cholodenko contemplates this as he begins his writing, ‘Speculations on the Automatic Automaton’:

Animation bedevils definition, even (and especially) ‘its’ ‘own’ – double – definition: endowing with life and endowing with movement. By this doubling, this multiplying and dividing, even of ‘itself’, animation poses the very question of life itself, movement itself, and their relation, a complicated coimplicated relation in which each of the terms can only be thought through the other, in which each of the terms solicits and replies (to) the other. This is always already double trouble doubled. (p. 486)

The troublesome property of cinema that Cholodenko describes becomes more pronounced in abstract animation. As an empathetic design process, the aim of Inclusive Design is to avoid properties presenting as a barrier to potential user engagement. Seeking an inclusive form of abstract animation, however, requires this estrangement to be resolved. Resolution of estrangement does not necessitate a transformation of the genre, so much as consideration of content and context. It is therefore valuable to consider qualities of both content and context in order to seek out a set of empathetic possibilities. Subsequently, these can be examined within an Inclusive Design framework. Matters of content, of the types of movement and image that can bear relation, are particularly difficult in a non-representational environment. This will be discussed through the common metaphor of dance and linked to visual music, a genre within and/or associated with abstract animation that provides causality to guide the viewer. Following this, the environmental context and relation to audience will be considered.

Abstraction Humanized: Screendance

Within the genre of abstract animation, visual music is perhaps the most easily related to. Musical syncopation in abstract animation provides context and causality for sound and the moving image. This alleviates questions as to why the inhuman moves without agency, subject, or object. Facilitated by musical causality, associations between abstract movement and dance emerge. This process creates an anthropomorphisation of screen space-time. Screendance is born out of syncopation, rhythm and our need to reconcile what we see. Dance resolves the need to find a pattern of humanity and agency. In turn, screendance crafts a valuable property of relatable, inclusive animation. This is evidenced throughout the works of Norman McLaren, who considered his works – and the whole of cinema – as “a kind of dance” (McLaren in Chan, 2014). Begone Dull Care (1949), which McLaren crafted in collaboration with Evelyn Lambart, perfectly expresses in a finished work the emotional jubilance of “inward dance” (Husbands 2014, n.p.). Music here is visualized and there is a sense of improvisation. The graphic becomes autotelic; the rapidly shifting screen-space itself seems to dance. The dance, seemingly spontaneous, has a sense of emotional freedom. The outcome is a mitigating bridge between the abstract and human relation. Body movement, musicality, form and choreography all highlight the creative process and presence of the artist. An externalization of internal impulse, dance is an expression of the human condition, permitting departures from logic and reason. According to Irene Chien, dance “is media and message condensed into the body” (2006, p. 23). Where a likeness to dance can be seen in abstract animation, a trace of the human as messenger facilitates engagement. The determination to resolve the inarticulate through relation to the self as human is innate to the human condition.

Dance, then, provides a metaphor linking animation’s animism and mechanism to life through movement. The human act of dance is also a form of mirroring of one art to another; of performance, discipline, training, and exertion. The power of the dancer is superhuman, as is the ability of the animator to create the illusion of life. It links the artist to the performer, and gives a more direct sense of exhibition. It is for this reason that screendance and visual music forms present inclusive opportunities for intersections with abstract animation.

Considering abstract works provides insight into the qualities of dance presented through animation. Begone Dull Care (1949) demonstrates a spontaneity; suggesting the improvisation of creativity, and the creativity of improvisation. Like a glorious accident, it is possible to believe that the film has simply slipped into joyous being. The graphic potential of film as a medium is explored through a range of forms and movements. There is a freedom expressed in Begone Dull Care that is very much a visualized jazz solo. The film itself dances, rather than elements within it. In other films, abstract objects relate to one another through formations, creating a sense of choreography. Oskar Fischinger’s Allegretto (1936) similarly serves as a strong example of screendance in this modality. Objects repeatedly move together, change together, and are more like an arrangement of components to create a whole – much in the sense of formation dance choreography. The forms in Allegretto are not very meaningful individually – what is a diamond, a circle? It is their presentation, arrangement, the solidarity between multiple geometric forms that brings a power to the work.

These two films share the reduction of screen language to cause and effect, sound, color and movement. Where Begone Dull Care shows a cacophonous freedom, Allegretto displays a rigid, repetitive choreography of the abstract. There is no allusion to form or figure demanding attention in either work. Sound is presented graphically in both films, and the use of jazz – a musical form that has become closely identified with freedom in many contexts (Kodat 2003) allows a joyous visualization of sound on screen. Jazz undergoes transference to the domain of dance as freedom of expression, and to the viewer as freedom of sensual experience. Allegretto and Begone Dull Care demonstrate the freedom of animation possible in abstraction, and our ability to both craft and experience it. The openness of the genre is a double-edged sword – freedom in cognition implies all meanings are equally valid or invalid – however the causality of choreography and syncopation avert cognitive challenge in these films. This very simple link allows for greater inclusion while conforming and playing to the strengths of the medium.

What drives the ‘dance’ of films such as Begone Dull Care and Allegretto is the modality of visual music employed. Namely, the material transference of sound to the visual field (Hyde 2012). Transference is an action that has few boundaries in art. Where a property can find a new domain, this can readily become interchangeable. According to Rebecca Coyle,

Sound – including music – operates with motion, storytelling and space. Even at its most functional, sound enables animation film to leap out of the screen and take hold in the viewer’s imagination. (2009, p. 158)

Sound and music combine with visual cues and movement to create a context for the screen space. Lilly Husbands suggests that “the musical soundtrack acts phenomenologically as a bridge between artist and spectator” (2014, n.p.). The synchronization of movement to music by one and received by another, allows both creator and viewer to participate in an internal dance. A shared somatic experience, the soundtrack acts on vision, linking creator and audience to the work, and the haptic to the optic (Ota 2013). The implementation of somatic transference reflects outwardly as anthropomorphic performance. This provides an added understanding for the viewer of the media on screen – it creates a context for viewing based on sensory information. It also creates space for connections of movement, ideas and emotional content. This is a core understanding of somatic paradigms (Edinborough 2012).

The functioning of somatic transference relies on disregarding narrative, character, and other orthodoxies. Discarding these artifices reduces barriers of cognition and culture. McLaren often displayed a desire to bridge the cultural divide in his works (Collins 1976). In the example of Rhythmetic (1956) this is achieved through choreography. The mathematical operations performed in the film are less important than the choreographic nature in which they are performed. The haptic configuration of these numbers, in repetition and variation, show a struggle between “calculative order and dancing disorder” (Kurihara 2011, p. 122). Rhythmetic demonstrates musical cause and anthropomorphic effect; the ability of sound to inspire movement – inward dance is here externalized. McLaren positions dance as defiance; marking out an expressive freedom. Maynard Collins quotes McLaren on the task of the filmmaker:

I always have the audience in the back of my mind. Very often an ill-defined audience. (Sometimes) as a more clearly defined audience. When making Rhythmetic I thought about children and hoped it would help children be interested in numbers. But even in any film, no matter how abstract it is, or concrete, I have an audience in mind. (1983, p. 198)

Consciousness of the audience here is a reflection of consideration in designed communication. Rhythmetic (1956), like so many of McLaren’s works, functions with an intention of shedding culture in order to share meanings (Stock 2012). This fosters inclusion. Language is not a feature here, reducing a strong cultural barrier to communication. Indeed, where McLaren uses language, it is offered in multiplicity – a deliberate act of cultural and linguistic inclusion. Conversely, his collaboration with Mary Ellen Bute and Ted Nemeth on Spook Sport (1939), makes extensive use of English language text to introduce the work. The positioning of Spook Sport as a film-ballet hybrid brings formal justification to the introduction of the symbol-cast, albeit limiting in terms of textual communication. Here dance is presented as an orthodox, externalized performance. The positioning of the icons as cast suggests that recall is anticipated as preface to proper engagement with the work. This presents as a barrier to engagement. In the realm of the narrative work, didactic screendance has more potency. This is affirmed in Narcissus (1983), one of McLaren’s most powerful films. Narcissus presents an opposition of absolute film and narrative work, containing the best of both genres. The power of all McLaren’s dance films is in their emotional sensitivity. The works invite the viewer to embrace different framings of how the human, placed in an inhuman world, renders and surrenders humanity.

Inclusive Design seeks creative outcomes that perfectly fit into a user’s life, meeting a particular need so seamlessly that the designed object performs its function without difficulty, to the point that it can become part of the user, or an extension of the user. It fulfills a need or desire, and in this sense, it is empathetic to its user. Designing empathy into a world of things has become an accepted principle of practice in industrial application of Inclusive Design. McLaren, keeping audience in mind, brought empathetic design to all of his works. His use of choreography and dance to bring the audience into his film worlds is a constant in a body of work that is otherwise varied in style, material, and execution. Humanizing what began as ‘absolute film’ is achieved through anthropomorphizing the primacy of the moving image – dots, blobs, and lines dance – they jump and react to one another. Dance reconfigures the screen as much as the screen reconfigures dance. Ann Dils observes this transformation, considering the frame, space, time and the body as parts of a mutable whole:

While screen dance is an art experience created for a particular space, it is also a means of restructuring our experience of screens and our perceptions of dancing…The absence of the real filters out or at least shifts over, as virtual space—as created by artists; as recreated through perception—filters in and becomes more present. (Dils 2012, p. 25)

The most basic recognition subjects are directly related to our own existence at a primal level. Dance is a reflection of the human body; it is movement as life metaphor. It is movement through time, defined by time, in time – metaphors of life in dance become easily blurred with those of the physical nature of the cinematic apparatus. Indeed, as Adam de Beer has observed in consideration of communicative human motion, “movement slips between and into these other concepts and becomes part of them and as such, becomes a difficult element to analyze” (2009, p. 44). That movement itself is the most primal quality of animation from technical and perceptual perspectives, before any form of language or meaning is imbued, anticipates opportunities for cinematic language to engage. The dance occurs with or without the human form – anthropomorphism is enacted in the moving image itself. While movement can be a difficult element to analyze, it is a particularly easy element to recognize. Eroding the direct linkage of the metaphor increases its efficacy. This idea is contemplated in Radical Alterity, in which Marc Guillaume suggests that the “elision of identity, like removing a letter at the end of a word, makes connections easier” (Guillaume & Baudrillard 2008, p. 36). This is evidenced across the graphic arts, where reduction to an iconographic form creates a strong, relatable language (McCloud, 2000). As much as graphics have slid off the page and into new spaces and places, the placement of modern time-based art requires contemplation.

The Importance of Environment

Where is a film seen, how and why? Placement can set a precedent for experience. The associations between film, screen, theatre and narrative are culturally embedded in modern viewership. Alternate screen spaces offer the possibility of taking an abstract animation out of the cinema. Vivid Sydney (2010-2015) is an annual public festival that provides an interesting case study. Vivid has evolved around the environmental installation of animated mapped projections, light sculptures, and artworks, transforming some of Sydney’s tourist spots into a luminescent nighttime exhibition. Many of the works are interactive and playful; others stand out as premiere examples of visual music. In previous years, many of the animated works projected were abstract; however with popularity this has been changing. Last year, over 1.4 million visitors came to Sydney to view the event (Destination New South Wales, 2014). Despite its high dependency on animated projection, Vivid Sydney does not refer to any exhibited works as animation. The positioning of these works as environmental projection has granted a new context: Vivid is a happening, a light show. While this is, in a semantic sense, an erasure of the abstract; Vivid is also a testament to the power of placing animation in public spaces. Rather than erasing the object of film, environmental projection substitutes the screen as construct with a new screen and a new context. This defuses the confrontational nature of abstract animation’s inward gaze, regardless of how it is labeled. In Figures 2 and 3, visuals from projection on the Sydney Opera house are shown; not apparent in the images are the speakers along the foreshore that provided musical accompaniment to what was a visual music work.

Figure 2 - Sydney Opera House as screen at Vivid 2014. Video Design by 59 productions. Image courtesy of 59 productions, used with permission.
Figure 2 – Sydney Opera House as screen at Vivid 2014. Video Design by 59 productions. Image courtesy of 59 productions, used with permission.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 3 - Sydney Opera House as screen at Vivid 2014. Video Design by 59 productions. Image courtesy of 59 productions, used with permission.
Figure 3 – Sydney Opera House as screen at Vivid 2014. Video Design by 59 productions. Image courtesy of 59 productions, used with permission.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My own experience in the domain of public projection as alternate screen has culminated in a series of works with art collective tranSTURM. The works, commissioned by Sydney Olympic Park Authority (SOPA) embody sport, the human, and the landscape of the park surrounds. Led by Creative Director Chris Bowman, I worked with a team of international artists to create environmentally projected animated works. One of the works, Light_Space (2014), transfigures Olympic sport; creating abstractions of human movement. In order to connect to the concept, the films drift in and out of forms that allow for a glimpse of the human in motion, but always revert to abstraction.

Figure 4 - Tension builds inside the shoulder. Still from 'Archery' sequence, animated by Rachel Walls for Light_Space. Image courtesy of tranSTURM, used with permission.
Figure 4 – Tension builds inside the shoulder. Still from ‘Archery’ sequence. Animated by Rachel Walls for Light_Space. Image courtesy of tranSTURM, used with permission.

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

Figure 5 - From abstract form to target. Still from 'Archery' sequence. Animated by Rachel Walls for Light_Space. Image courtesy of tranSTURM, used with permission.
Figure 5 – From abstract form to target. Still from ‘Archery’ sequence. Animated by Rachel Walls for Light_Space. Image courtesy of tranSTURM, used with permission.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 6 - From abstract form to target. Still from 'Archery' sequence. Animated by Rachel Walls for Light_Space. Image courtesy of tranSTURM, used with permission.
Figure 6 – From abstract form to target. Still from ‘Archery’ sequence. Animated by Rachel Walls for Light_Space. Image courtesy of tranSTURM, used with permission.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sequences of Light_Space were divided among the artists for preliminary work, and then we collaborated to improve and integrate the sequences. Jason Benedek and I were responsible for the final integration and online of the animated sequences, creating a 15-minute film from 5 sequences on Olympic sport. Figure 4 above, from the ‘Archery’ sequence of Light_Space, is my interpretation of the power that builds up inside the body before releasing the bow. In the upper right corner, the bow is revealed as a kinetic object in slow motion, releasing in time with the visualisations of human strength. The bow itself was digitally drawn on 2s in Photoshop. The visualisations of the shoulder were undertaken in AfterEffects.

Figure 7 - The arrow leaves the body, 'Archery' segment. Animated by Rachel Walls for Light_Space. Image courtesy of tranSTURM, used with permission
Figure 7 – The arrow leaves the body, ‘Archery’ segment. Animated by Rachel Walls for Light_Space. Image courtesy of tranSTURM, used with permission

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By animating the movement and performance of sport, it became evident to me that doing so was very much like screendance. Dance is most certainly a sport, requiring discipline and rigorous training. Sport is just another way to explore the human in abstract terms. Human as super-human, performative, sublime. In Figure 7, the energy of releasing the arrow is animated as both a structured geometric form, and an organic particle system. Both explode into disappearance, as the arrow leaves the body. Having left the human, the energy falls away. The object has causation, however abstract it becomes. It is allowed to shed notable meaning completely, and is then returned. In creating Light_Space, tranSTURM has attempted to consider approachability in terms of both content and context – the film does return to the human form, is displayed in a public space that receives ample traffic, and has a space for sitting and watching the animated projections.  Consideration to causation, return to iconographic forms, and crafting of the screening environment are ways in which Inclusive Design is applied empathetically to the work for the benefit of the audience.

Conclusion

Hans Richter, one of the early pioneers in the abstract genre, has suggested that the camera presents a native iconography of cinema (Frankel 2012). I would, however, postulate that screen and audience are of equal importance to the camera. What screen, for whom, and where? What audience, how, and why? The process of Inclusive Design, requiring development and testing of elements for compliance, suggests a range of media be created, situated and tested in terms of engagement and inclusion. Issues typically associated with inclusion need to also be explored; as the nature of animation as a sighted sensory entertainment is a limitation that demands examination. Elements such as causality through syncopation, recognition of human movement or form, and placement in urban spaces are all qualities that need to be considered and tested. Abstract animation needs to be exhibited in places where high art is rarely seen. It needs to be exhibited in places where people congregate naturally. It needs to become part of our lives and environments in a way that is visible and engaging. It needs to mirror and reflect a human element in an inorganic environment. There are ways to incorporate beauty and animation into functional areas of our urban lives. Inclusive Design provides the means for analysis, creation and placement. It is an intention of my ongoing research to focus on these possibilities for reconstruction and reconfiguration of this vibrant and interesting genre.

 

Rachel Walls has a background in film and television production. Her postgraduate studies in animation have been supplemented by creative work, with her final project, Apple of Iron (2008), gaining strong exposure internationally. Since completion of her Masters in Animation (UTS, 2009), Rachel has been lecturing on a sessional basis in balance with her creative work. In the last few years, she has been working with art collective tranSTURM on abstract animations for urban screen, gallery, and other site-specific work. In 2015 Rachel initiated her PhD studies on a part-time basis. Her current activities with tranSTURM include contributing to this year’s Vivid Light festival, which attracts well over a million people into Sydney’s streets every June. While she embraces the technological tools of her trade, Rachel prefers direct film and paint-on-glass animation styles in her personal work.

Rachel has been a member of the Society for Animation Studies since 2007, and has contributed to the Awards and Outreach committee for many of those years.

 

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de Beer, A. (2009). “Kinesic constructions: An aesthetic analysis of movement and performance in 3D animation.” Animation Studies Online Journal 4: pp. 44-52.

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<http://images.vividsydney.com/api/sites/default/files/140616 med rel – AS – Vivid Sydney 2014 attendance figures.pdf%3E.>

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© Rachel Walls

Edited by Amy Ratelle

 

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