Vision On: Pervasive Animation in and around London

By Suzanne Buchan

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With its unlimited potential to visually represent events, scenarios and forms that have little or no relation to our experience of the ‘real’ world, animation is implemented in many ways in many disciplines. Especially since the digital shift, the uses of animation are no longer exclusive to narrative cinema. Artists increasingly incorporate animation in installations and exhibitions, and star architects use computer animation software to visualise interactive architectural ‘walk-throughs’ or to create narratives of space in time. And creative output finds its way into avant-garde high-tech computer sciences too, from nanotechnology and biomedicine to structural engineering. In its myriad forms and applications across a wide band of creative and professional practice and industrial implementation, animation will increasingly influence our understanding of how we see and experience the world through these fields.

In light of this pervasiveness, there is an enormous gap in the dialogues between animation and its critical counterpart. The Animation Research Centre (www.ucreative.ac.uk/arc) at the University College for the Creative Arts is dedicated to developing and fostering new theories and methodologies, radical contemporary practice and creative innovations foregrounding specific disciplines and their interrelations with animation. The recent launch of the peer-reviewed animation: an interdisciplinary journal indicates its flagship role in fostering international dialogue around the changing and pervasive nature of the animated form.

In a collaboration between the ARC and Tate Modern, the forthcoming conference Pervasive Animation across Disciplines: Space – Narrative – Form, at Tate Modern, Starr Auditorium, March 2-4, 2007, will provide a cohesive international platform that unites contributions from a wide range of research agendas and creative practice: speakers include Norman Klein, Vivian Sobchack, Tom Gunning, Anthony McCall, Siegfried Zielinski, Lisa Cartwright, Johnny Hardstaff, George Griffin and Esther Leslie. The conference is significantly based on the journal's scope and aspirations. Pervasive Animation aims to break with clichéd conceptions about animation and facilitate much-needed dialogue centred on the ubiquitous and multidisciplinary nature of animation, its future development and its ethical responsibilities for spatial politics and moving image culture. Two screening programmes will provide a visual complement for this first rigorous, explorative and interdisciplinary conference on animation in the UK to date.

Of course, animators continue to astound us with their humourous, poetical and philosophical narratives of the human condition. Insights into animator's working methods, materials and inspirations are at the heart of the animation exhibition Spacetricks, co-curated by ARC's Suzanne Buchan and Andres Janser for the Zurich Museum of Design. What the 26 contemporary filmmakers featured share is an unusual treatment of film space. The exhibition is simultaneously 26 'making ofs', giving prominence to the actual materials, tools and media animators use to make films. Concurring with the conference, Spacetricks is on tour and will be at the UCCA's James Hockey Gallery, Farnham, January 10-March 19, 2007.

Together, the conference and exhibition should heighten regard for the symbiotic and undisputable relationships between practicing artists and the critics, scholars and curators who contribute significantly to artists' works distribution and sensitize public awareness about the pervasive qualities of animation film today.


Suzanne Buchan is a leading curator of, commentator on, and activist for imaginative animation internationally. Among other publications, she has written a monologue on the Brothers Quay (forthcoming) and is the editor of Animation: an Interdisciplinary Journal (sign up for a free one-year online subscription at sagepub.com).