Week 6 Discussion Animation

Group B and Grad Students post thoughts on readings/film here.  All others are welcome to comment on posts.

17 thoughts on “Week 6 Discussion Animation

  1. Joey Burrow

    While reading chapter 13 of Art in Motion, I came across a quote that really expresses my thoughts regarding abstract animation. This quote seems to resonate with other viewers’ outlook of abstract animation as well, regardless of the animation’s length. Furniss states, “In abstract animation, there are no characters with which to identify… when the animation is over, the viewer does not have a complete ‘understanding’ of its’ meaning as he or she would with a closed narrative structure.”
    As a film major and a viewer who enjoys animated pieces, I have to say that I am like the viewers that Furniss mentioned in the book. I watch animation because I enjoy the visual aspects that come with animation. I tend to watch a movie whether animated or not, and think wow, that was a really awesome clip. Or I wonder about the mechanics of how the movie was made. I don’t often ponder a movie’s deeper meaning or contemplate a movie’s message.
    Since I do not often ponder a movie’s deep message, I can relate to Mortz’s article, “Restoring the Aesthetics of Early Abstract Film.” In the article, Mortz told of a critic who was viewing a 30 second Richter animation strip. The story goes that the critic went to clean his glasses and before he could return his glasses to his head the animated clip was over. The few short animated films that I have made, like the one I made for my final for CP454, took several hours to make yet it was over in three second. Literally, you blink and its over!

  2. Jeremy Thurlby

    I have to take issue with Furniss’s writing style or ordering of information, when you are quoting some like Wassily Kandinsky to support abstract imagery. It wasn’t until later in the chapter when she gave more information to who Kandinsky was, this information is needed for context of the argument for those outside the fine or visual art. Kandinsky being one of the early pioneers and more noted of the abstract painters of the early 1900’s would have first hand experience of the viewer’s reaction to this imagery.

    Furniss said the viewer had to be “ intuitive and contemplative” when viewing the material. That works on the assumption that the viewer wants to think. The classic format of animation provides uncomplicated and ease of viewing. Our society for the most part has been and always will be one of instant gratification. So when you say a person will have to view an animation several times and think about it before they can understand it or it becomes a pleasure will be a hard sell. I see quite a few similarities with abstract art and animation and what contemporary conceptual art forms have become. I think it may be important to discuss the premise of the trained or educated viewer when it comes to these works.

    Moritz seems to have a very detailed and chronological order to the writings verse Furniss. I was most interested to see the animators Ruttmann and Eggeling started as abstract painters before moving to animation around 1918. More so for me it was intriguing to see abstraction bridged both animation and painting at the same time frame.

    The Harris reading answers a question that I have been pondering. As far as the class is concerned in my opinion we have seen animation almost as its own separate entity outside of film and art. Harris’s essay talks of elements of an interdisciplinary approach tying in animation, painting and poetry.

    1. Jon Booker

      I agree with your statement that telling the viewer to think and view the film multiple times to get the meaning out of it would be a hard sell. On the other hand I feel like training people to be open minded when looking at abstract art or animated film in general is a hard tendency due to how are society is.
      To me the notion that a lot of painters went into abstract animation isn’t a surprise due to the fact that a lot of early animators were comic book or comic strip artists. To me it just kind of makes sense that painters was also kind of migrate over to the animation side of things.

  3. Fiona Finnigan

    Chapter 13 of Maureen Furniss’s Art in Motion discusses abstract or experimental animation. Many of the ideas being explored in abstract animation parallel the ideas explored in abstract forms of static art, especially painting and sculpture of similar periods. For example, several artist who were interested in abstract animation has a representation of, or aid to, mediation and altered states of consciousness reminds me of similar ideas that were explored at the turn of the century by the Dada artist. Dadaist were equally interested in ideas of altered consciousness, and trying to access the unconscious mind through methods such as sleep deprivation and mind altering drugs. Dadaist also had a similar desire to escape from the idea of ‘meaning”, that art has a logical, understandable, usually direct symbolic meaning that can be read like a book if one knows the proper language.
    Another parallel between Furniss’s discussion of abstract animation and similar discussions of the history of abstract art is the influence of Jungian thought in art. Jungian archetypes were as influential to the Abstract Expressionist movement of the 1940’s and 50’s as Freudian ideas were to the Surrealists of the 1920’ and 30s. Abstract Expressionism sought to explore the universal unconsciousness, those ideas that are found thought our human thought, religion and experience. Their works often focus on the effects of movement and color on human emotion; they often attempt to create an immersive, spiritual experience. There seems to be a clear parallel between the ideas and intents of the Abstract Expressionist painter and such as James Whitney’s Lapis.
    The desire to try and illustrate music can also be seen in the world of Modern art. Rhythmic motion and line was the defining characteristic of a group of artist know as Action Painter, of which Jackson Pollack is the most famous. In many ways, his work was similar to animation. It was not motion in art in the strictest sense, but Pollack’s very much art in motion. His paintings were seen as simply the permanent record of his true art, which was the rhythmic motions and actions of painting. In this way, a Pollack painting is like a single still taken from a longer set of animated images. Music has influenced Modernist artists as well. Several American painters from the 1910’s and 20’s, whose names escape me at the moment, made paintings that were attempts to illustrate song, particularly music.
    I have always disliked the tendency of abstract art, whether static of in motion, to claim that it does not have a meaning. Abstraction may try to distance itself from clear symbolism and clear definitive meaning, but that is not to say that it has no meaning. If pure, nonobjective abstraction had no meaning it would still have a meaning, in that it’s purpose would become simple aesthetic pleasure: it would be pretty. Yet it is my experience that abstract artist will almost universally take offense at the suggestion that their work is “decorative” This is understandable, as describing work as “decorative” is generally a grave insult in the art world. However, to say that a piece is influenced by or is an exploration of, anything, be it Jungian archetypes or harmonic relationships or states of altered consciousness, is to give it a meaning. To then try and claim that it does not have a meaning is an insult to the intelligence of the viewer.

    1. Jon Booker

      I think the thing about abstract art is that no matter how much the artist wants to say there’s no meaning in the work there is always a meeting in the back of their head. So to me it is condescending to tell the viewer they can’t think of anything whenever it is human nature to associate something with similar things you have experience in life. That is why as an artist I am not that interested in abstract art.
      On another note I did enjoy that the section where was talking about the connection with music. I thought the connection between abstract art and music was interesting because I had never felt like music was an abstract art form. The more I read into it the more it makes sense. I am also always excited when they find new pieces of art and try to refurbish them. The finding and restoration of the Opus#1 in the reading this week was very interesting.

      1. Ashley OBrien

        I think artists believe their is no meaning to their work but subconsciously they want to get some point across. They want to bring the viewer of some sort of journey. I view abstract art as more of guided meditation. The artists gives you a scene and you, the viewer, immerse yourself in those scenes and make your own narrative. It is human nature to give a narrative to something that has no narrative. Even the artist most likely subconsciously gives a narrative to abstract pieces without trying to. Adding music to this makes it more apparent that certain things were done intentionally even though the artist says its unintentional. Its hard to break human nature.

        1. Connor Strehl

          I think many artists do have a meaning in their work whether consciously or subconsciously. However, different people find various meanings from the same piece of work because of the varied experiences that they bring with them.

          I do agree that many artists want to take the viewer on a journey and because it is human nature to explain the world around us, the viewer will examine the artwork looking for the hidden meaning whether it coincides with the original point or not. This is what makes abstract art so intriguing.

  4. Garrett Lindgren

    After World War One, Ruttmann became very emotionally traumatized by what he had seen which caused a shift in his painting style to a more simplified notion of what he once painted. He mostly just focused on gathering the general essence of what he was envisioning rather than fussing with the peripherals. His first film, “light-play, Opus No. 1” was created by utilizing oil paints on panes of glass. This allowed for swift animations of abstract imagery due to the ease of erasing and re-painting the images or sections of the image. This was combined with geometric cut outs beneath other layers of glass to form one solid cohesive image. This is similar to Lotte Reiniger who also created a feature length film, which consisted of only cutouts. The piece titled “The Adventures of Prince Achmed” too utilized tinting and toning in really clever and genus ways. Opus No. 1 extends back to Ruttmann’s roots, as Moritz puts it, the film is a painting that moves and is a painting in time and space.

    Maureen Furniss wrote about the notion that the abstract realm of art requires a completely different mode of metal processing. To achieve deeper understanding of an abstract work of art one must engage themselves with meditational, intuitive, and harmonic modes of reasoning. Abstract film and animation is organized in such a way that it is vastly different from narrative in that it is organized through a cyclical manor, paying close attention to thematic stasis. To view an abstract film requires much more of the right hemisphere to engage putting the viewer in a similar headspace as if they were dreaming due to these films existing “outside spatial and temporal laws.”

    In order to establish a frame of reference for understanding abstract animation one must first recognize what they wish to get out of the artwork. There is a constant overlapping of “artistic practices and the quest for enlightenment” which brings the notion of meditational practices, or the quest for a deeper understanding of oneself and the meaning of life into contact with artistic expressionism. I feel that the combination of these two entities entitles the artist to a vast quantity of interpolation of abstract animation and the entrancing of the light, rhythm, and hypnotic imagery on the screen.

  5. Alejandra Vargas

    The first example we are presented to in chapter 13 when discussing abstract animation is the short animated film, “The Critic” by Ernest Pintoff (1963). This film played on how some people watch abstract film and read too much into it. They question every movement, color, and shape the image takes, and yet we find that this is something you shouldn’t be doing. As Wassily Kandinsky mentioned in this reading, we are too ready to look for a meaning. Yet, I find this hard not to do, since in our cinema courses, we are trained to analyze every aspect within the film. From trying to interpret what the lighting, color, and camera angles mean, it starts to become a habit even when watching abstract films.
    So the question is how do we watch and enjoy these films. We learn that we must create our own meaning from what we experience and feel when watching them. That goes to say that it’s normal to rewatch it in order to develop these thoughts. In that case, when looking into Jordan Belson’s work, we find his films are structured thematically, and exists as an effort to alter your perceptions about the world as a whole. Looking into his other films, it was interesting to find the mandala being presented as well.
    In the other readings, it mentions how this and other art can play a major inspiration for abstract and avante garde films. Not only this, but the form of meditation helping the artist awaken their ideas. Sleeping is also a form of meditation, which relates to the discussion on how abstract work is like having a dream. This is because abstract animation requires more of the right hemisphere which is active during sleeping and dreaming. It has actually been proven that yogic tools help empower creative expression, and can help creative artist to aid their inspiration. I found this interesting and helpful, especially for those who are struggling with ideas or even interpreting how they feel towards an abstract piece.

  6. Charles Scott

    Visual abstraction is an inherently open topic of discussion, but on the topic of animation specifically, I think that as we have discussed previously, animation is a medium that lends itself to depicting the things that cannot be captured photographically. There is a spectrum of animated abstraction though; it goes from hyper realistic renderings of human features to truly abstract color fields. I believe that abstraction is the purest expression of animation. It is an un-tethering from the constraints of photographic representation.
    Throughout this weeks reading I could not help but think of Manfred Mohr’s work, either by my lack of exposure to vast amounts of abstract animation or my particular affinity for his work. I see Mohr’s work as a perfect example of the kind of animation techniques and contexts discussed in the readings. His work is highly mathematic and visually minimal (example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j4M28FEJFF8 ). In his work we can see the influence of cubism, minimalism, and possibly the work of Donald Judd and Agnes Martin.
    Mohr’s work does not allow the “spectator” (as Kandinsky is quoted) to find meaning easily by any stretch. His work is a response to the technological advancements of his time; it is expression for expressions sake and it is certainly “outside spatial and temporal laws”. In fact it seems to poke fun at this idea because although there is a feel of visual/algorithmic representation, there is no sense of scale whatsoever and in this regard, there in no place for the viewer to enter, try to interpret, or attempt to follow a narrative.
    Much like abstract static imagery, or music, as discussed in the reading, animation can be equally evocative as it uses both visual and aural stimuli. I tend to think that I can be more so in some instances.

  7. Tiffany McLaughlin

    In chapter 13, what I found the most interesting is when the author talks about abstract animation. The way it is created without a structural narrative. It baffles me that most people really don’t want to think about things and reimagine them as they experience an abstract form. They need things to have a plot, a reason, and ultimately lead somewhere in the most logical way. Viewers always have to have some sort of reason to simply understand or relate to whatever they are watching. But then I remember, not everybody thinks like an artist, and that is okay. I find abstract art to be very important to one’s imagination and I wish we saw more of it in mainstream media.

    In the Len Lye article, they talk about the abstract film he made called “Trade Tattoo”. Even though there was no set structure in the “story”, there were central themes that were easy to grasp, but still left you to think about what everything meant. I liked the texture animation that filtered over the picture, whether it was uniformed dots, lines, other odd shapes, it was visually pleasing, nonetheless. The rhythm was symbolic. The music and pictures flowed somehow although they were not perfectly synched, but I have a feeling it was meant to not be perfect. They clips showed people working and sending in their letters at the post office. The “script” as they call it in the reading, pop up on the screen and say things having to do with posting before a certain time of the day to keep the rhythm of the work flow in the post office. What I took from watching this was that he is trying to make a rhythmic visual while relating it to something in real life that involves rhythm. All the various pictures, shapes, etc that fill the screen one on top the other, really soothed me for some reason. Partially I think because everything on the screen very scattered like my thoughts. The vast cutting from picture to picture almost seems like a visual train of thought inside a person’s mind, or them trying to remember something. I agree with the author that it can be compared to Eisenstein’s montage so it’s quirky cutting and imagery. For being from the 30s, it seems very unique for it’s time.

    1. Laura Tate

      I really like your description of what it was like to view “Trade Tattoo.” I haven’t seen “Trade Tattoo”, but I have seen Lye’s “A Colour Box” and your description reminded me so much of how I felt watching that film. You really hit home the points made in the readings, such as the rhythm in the film, how it can be very soothing (I loved how soothing “A Colour Box” was!), and how forward thinking it was, as you mention with your last comment. Your statement, “the music and pictures flowed somehow although they were not perfectly synched, but I have a feeling it was meant to not be perfect” made me think a lot about how the imperfections add so much to the film, rather than detract from it. It also reflects the desire of many experimental filmmakers to show off, rather than conceal, the medium out of which the film was made.

  8. Stefan Barnwell

    The way in which Walther Ruttmann used animation is interesting because prior to his animation work he was primarily a painter. Painting obviously remained his passion even after he began his film career. As described in the article, his animations were more like paintings in motion; the prime example being Opus No. 1 that the article focuses on. I viewed this work online and instantly saw the painting influence. The screen is mostly black, like a blank canvas, only black instead of white most likely so that the colors stand out more. The film shows shapes of varying colors moving across the screen. It is very abstract, much like paintings can be.

    Viking Eggeling did a similar interesting thing with his animation, Diagonal Symphony. His film incorporated characteristics of music into the visuals on the screen; one example being increasing the size of figures to represent a loud note or smaller to represent a softer note. I like request Eggeling made to have his films viewed without sound so that the intricately placed visuals did not come off as illustrations for the music. A lot of times with early films that have only music and no diegetic sounds, it does seem as if the action onscreen is a product of the music even though most of the time the reverse is true.

    Len Lye’s films had influence from painting and music as well, but he incorporated a third form of art; poetry. Ironically, he initially despised poetry. However, he became friends with many writers, including Laura Riding, Robert Graves, and Norman Cameron, the three who influenced him the most. His poetic enlightenment manifests in his popular film Trade Tattoo. The poetic structure in this film can be found in the way in which Lye incorporates a relationship between images and texts on the screen.

  9. Dionte Bolling

    In chapter 13 of the Art in Motion book, I agree with the statement about viewing abstract films. I never really get the understanding of abstract films, because mentally I am a type of person who enjoys Narrative films, because Abstract are too random in my opinion. So I have to repeatedly watch them to get the message and or have a discussion with others to see if they noticed.

    The Len Lye article talks about the abstract film “Trade Tattoo”. The film uses art and music with the writing from Lye’s own writing. I enjoyed the movement of the images and the music that follows with it. I watched the film and I saw people working and the “post early” but I wasn’t too sure what message I was supposed to take from it at the end.

    The Moritz article focuses on past artist named Ruttmann and Eggeling. At first both of these men were painters, but shifted their art to animation and based their situations, it influenced them to create the films that they have made. According to the reading Ruttmann’s film was seen as colorful but dull, since he focuses on communicating with exploit movement and color. Eggeling having a musical influence his work was more classical. He even requested that his film was shown in silence, so that the audience could enjoy his music. After reading this article, I noticed that every artist has their own type of style and with abstract films they show their time and effort within each of their work.

    1. Casey

      You mention in your post that Eggeling requested his work be shown without audio. That way the viewer could imagine the sound through the visuals. Likewise, I have heard of other artists — particularly performance artists — who insist on their art being viewed in some particular way. The anecdote I recall involves an artist only allowing theaters whose projectors could manage “true black” to carry his work. On the other side of things, most modern films vary greatly from theater to theater — be it sound, projector, or interior quality. Moreover, many films come to home video (to be played over extremely variable television sets) with botched aspect ratios and down-scaling resolutions. Would you ever specify a particular environment in which your work could only be seen?

  10. Evan Swiech

    Miriam Harris’ “Literary Len”, is an intriguing analysis of “Trade Tattoo”. I watched a few moments of the film online and I enjoyed how the title card used to open the film shook in tune with the music. Normally, a shaky title card would be considered a mistake but Mr. Lye appropriated it in his film. The brightly-colored documentary footage of old buildings while South American music plays seems to foreshadow José Carioca’s trip to Baía several years later.
    I also looked online for Maori carvings to see how they inspired Mr. Lye. The carvings have such beguiling patterns; if they could move, they would probably movie in a manner similar to Lye’s shaking shapes. Lye’s lack of punctuation in poetry matches the free flowing feeling of “Trade Tattoo.” Both works of art are fast-paced. They have a design but it changes before the watcher/reader can decipher it. Lye’s short film compares perfectly to his poetry. Poetry evokes transient feelings, which “Trade Tattoo” does so well. Films that use brightly-colored animated segments to manipulate reality, such as The Three Caballeros and Punch-Drunk Love are so effective in the way their colors spill from live-action to animation and back again. Other movies like Who Framed Roger Rabbit? contain a more clear-cut reality, while “Trade Tattoo” is hazy and dream-like. It is like watching car headlights flash briefly through a stained glass window.
    Dr. William Moritz’ “Restoring the Aesthetics of Early Abstract Film” devotes itself to correcting historical errors and mis-information. Although I do not find the article interesting, I respect Dr. Mortiz for taking the time to correct these errors. However, I was fascinated to discover that a film museum accidentally sent hand-colored fragments of Opus No. 1 to a film restorer. Film museums are often underfunded—they may have extremely valuable prints but lack the funds to preserve them. Mortiz discusses films that suggest a reality “outside of the frame”. This sounds somewhat similar to Lye’s films, because they seem to exist pass their frame, but they do not contain reality. I wonder why Moritz would use the word “reality” to describe surrealist films.
    In her article, “Issues of Representation”, Maureen Furniss discusses sexism, racism, and other forms of bigotry in animation. I agree with Furniss that viewers must carefully consider these films in order to evaluate their content. “For whom was the product made, in what year and historical context?” is an extremely important question. People make films for an intended audience. Walt Disney originally intended Cinderella to be a short film for Mary J. Winkler, mentioned in the article. He wanted it to be a comedy because it could make more money if it made people laugh. Years later, he resurrected a couple of his original gags for the feature-length movie. Women in the film, animation, and cartoon industry have had to deal with sexism for years. I had no idea Brenda Starr: Reporter was drawn by a woman. My book always listed the comics as written by “Dale Merrick.” I never knew she was “Dahlia”.

  11. Dennis Hinton

    Abstract animation is so out of the norm. Most of it tend to be unexplainable but created by an artist by pure instinct and natural creative flow. Abstract artist explores new ideas, uses new technology pushing the limit of set norms. Abstraction is non linear, consist of multiple styles presence of the artist. The artist who tends to travel down the road of abstraction doesn’t coexist with the every day artist. As history shows the artist who is abstract tends to have a bigger place in the art history books.

    For example I looked at some Picasso pieces of art. Yes Picasso did have some norm base pieces of work but he left his trade mark with abstraction. Pablo was one of the few who pioneered the artwork of cubism. One of his most famous paintings is the Guernica. A image that represents the Spanish Civil war. Even though the image wasn’t something everyone was use too it still captivated everyone who was in its presence. Sometimes the abstraction itself is the attraction, its like trying to solve a puzzle but being amazed by the art at the same time.

    It has got to the point where abstraction animation can help you achieve great accolades. Ernest Pintoff directed the cartoon which won him an Oscar for Best Animated Short in 1963. This animation really sums up what is abstraction. Abstraction art is really whatever the viewer of the art believe what he/she is actually seeing. Of course the artist knows what is going on but the people viewing can have different perceptions. He starts off the animation saying “what the hell is this” trying to conclude what his eyes is seeing. He is throwing out random ideas of what he is analyzing. How some people can see abstraction as junk or a cockaroach or as art.

    In the Moritz article he talks about Viking Eggelings Symphonies Diagonale. After reading about the artwork and the procedures took to make his artwork possible I thought I would really appreciate it when I finally viewed it. How combining the art with music to create this synchronized action. After watching the video I was greatly disappointed. Stinoff animation on the other hand I liked because it had strong since of comedy to go with animation. But Eggelings was dull because of the black and white plus the music itself wasn’t pleasant on the ears. But see this is the greatness of abstraction, the my view will be completely different from someone elses.

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