SPARKS May 2022

Experimental and Expanded Animation: Exploring Artistic Possibilities

Moderated by Bonnie Mitchell, Rebecca Xu and Johannes DeYoung

Date/Time: Friday May 27, 2022 / 20:00 GMT
**Session Video**

Vienna, Austria Fri, May 27, 2022 at 10:00 pm CEST
London, United Kingdom Fri, May 27, 2022 at 9:00 pm BST
New York, USA Fri, May 27, 2022 at 4:00 pm EDT
Chicago, USA Fri, May 27, 2022 at 3:00 pm CDT
Denver, USA Fri, May 27, 2022 at 2:00 pm MDT
Los Angeles, USA Fri, May 27, 2022 at 1:00 pm PDT
Sydney, Australia Sat, May 28, 2022 at 6:00 am AEST


The May SPARKS invites presentations on current practices and new perspectives in experimental and expanded animation. Changing technologies such as real-time CGI, virtual reality, AI, data-driven, and interactivity have been reshaping the connotations and forms of experimental animation from a traditionally static experience to a dynamic art form. This session welcomes presentations that showcase conceptual or technological developments in animation and its relationship to the audience. The discussion will focus on the continuity between contemporary work and traditions of experimental animation and expanded cinema.

Presenters (in alphabetical order):
Chanee Choi
Unreal Window

Unreal Window part1 is a real-time virtual animation. Inspired by the experience of confinement and virtual communication during the COVID-19 pandemic. The animation is a recording of a continuously existing AI environment created through machine learning. The video’s narration was produced by a machine learning system using the script of Hitchcock’s Rear Window and a recording of Jimmy Stewart’s voice. Unreal Window addresses the slippery sense of reality in a world of media consumption, zoom meetings, and AI animation.

gold extra / Reinhold Bidner
Storycase -Telling stories with objects and augmented reality

Storycase – an AR-research-project that artistically explores the narrative possibilities of AR with real objects: it tells stories of 5 objects found in the urban realm dealing with themes such as finding, losing, throwing away and reusing. An old typewriter, a shoe, a toy dinosaur, a wallet and a cactus open up multiple perspectives that lead us, starting from personal find stories to larger social or historic contexts and the journey of objects across the globe. Storycase is an XR game project that combines AR with a media room-installation and participatory elements. Based on case studies and research, in the process of creating Storycase we came up with research questions that deal with the following topics: Storytelling in AR by combining objects / Collaboration in AR / Leaving traces for subsequent users / Animation in AR / Analog-digital interplays / Object Tracking – the current state / AR in museums

Dr. Alla Gadassik
Rear-Window Cinema 

This talk introduces a specific arts-based research experiment broadly called Rear-window Cinema, which uses the window as a frame for simultaneous media production and spectatorship. Rear-window Cinema is introduced via a 2020 series of film screenings titled “Letters from Isolation” in Vancouver, Canada. This series was developed and curated by Dr. Alla Gadassik in collaboration with the flavourcel animation collective and VIVO Media Arts Center. Rear-window Cinema transformed independent filmmakers’ private residential windows into temporary screens for indoor rear-window projection that was externally visible to passersby on the street. Filmmakers produced and screened animated works entirely in the confines of their home, whereas audiences encountered the works outdoors on foot or by vehicle. Although Rear-window Cinema began as a crisis-driven intervention into shuttered film exhibition spaces during the covid-19 pandemic, this talk introduces it as a format for post-pandemic urban screen exhibition that is rooted in place.

Miwa Matreyek
Presence and Embodiment

Matreyek will discuss her 15+ years of exploring liveness and presence with her animation by integrating a live performer in shadow, and the emotional impact of embodying perspectives that are beyond human.

Thanut Rujitanont / Graphy Animation
Bumblebee Apocalypse: Calibration between human motion capture and bumblebees

In Bumblebee Apocalypse, Thanut Rujitanont observes the process of calibration between human motion capture and bumblebees. In motion capture, when motion is transferred from a tangible world into a digital format, a deviation of motion occurs. To adjust the captured motion in the digital space, calibration is needed. On the other hand, bumblebees survive because of their calibration skills; reorienting continuously their body and movement, as they fly, to avoid wing damage or crash landing. The Bumblebee Apocalypse looks into the properties and adaptation of a body when interacting with the layout of its surrounding through different animated forms such as mixed painting mediums on glass, on paper, on transparent sheets and on positive film rolls. The project was exhibited in the form of multi-screening in April 2022 at Oodi Library in Helsinki, Finland and was developed during the Research-Based Animation Film Production course (RE: Anima programme) at Aalto University.
Password: Graphyanimation_BA

Federico Solmi
Re-configuring Historical Narratives and Examining Unconscious Human Impulses: The Work of Federico Solmi 

Federico Solmi uses his art as a vehicle to stimulate a visceral conversation with his audience, highlighting the contradictions and fallibility that characterize our time. Through his work, Solmi examines unconscious human impulses and desires in order to critique Western society’s obsession with individual success and display contemporary relationships between nationalism, colonialism, religion, consumerism. By re-configuring historical narratives across eras, he creates social and political commentary works which disrupt the mythologies that define American society. Scanning his paintings into a game engine, Solmi’s videos confront the audience with his own absurd rewriting of past and present, merging dark humor and sense of the grotesque with new technologies. He creates a carnivalesque virtual reality where our leaders become puppets, animated by computer script and motion capture performance rather than string.

Kurosh ValaNejad
What if Len Lye had a Computer?

In 1958 New Zealand Artist Len Lye used the direct-to-film technique of cameraless filmmaking to scratch ‘figures in motion’ directly onto 16mm black film leader to make Free Radicals.  I was in awe when I realized his crude marks were rotating in place.   Maintaining volume when drawing by hand is very difficult.  Len Lye did it with various needles and  arrowheads on 16 mm film! I will describe the combination of computer technologies I used to scratch onto 16 mm film the rotating 3D numbers of a bilingual countdown.  This process makes the very difficult task of maintaining volume very easy. I am applying this technique to Simorgh in the 21st Century, my imagined follow up to Conference of the Birds, written in 1177 in Persian by Sufi poet Attar; Using scratched film  implies the story is told from the perspective of birds, who document their adventure, perhaps as a warning to mankind.

Christine Veras, Ph.D.
Re-connecting Materialities: A Showcase of the Experimental Animation Lab

experimenta.l. is a new collaborative animation lab for creative research and critical practices in animation at the University of Texas at Dallas. This talk proposes a showcase of some of the lab’s current creations that connect CGI and AI tools with traditional experimental animation techniques. In the first example, the audience manipulates the work once modeled and animated in Blender, now printed as a cyclical flipbook. In the next one, a short animation combines the traditional paper cutout technique with automated motion paintings generated in Ebsynth. These hybrid creations embrace the imperfections of hands-on animation processes in combination with new technological developments that can help enhance their haptic appeal. In inviting participants to combine digital and concrete forms of animation, the experimental animation lab builds upon a long tradition of experimentation and expanded animation, allowing participants to reflect upon their practices in a hands-on discovery process.

Haoyu (Henry) Wang
Bug square – a work-in-process project using a game engine to simulate the experimental animation

I have very strong feelings about both computer bugs and biological bugs and I applied those feelings to this project. I did not use the animation part of Unity to create a linear storyline, most of the movement was created by programming. I have an artificial intelligence behavior tree system inside Unity to keep the animation running and to switch the cameras of the virtual world. The insects inside the program will maintain the same range from the time they are born to when they disappear. If you have some knowledge of the game engine, you will notice that some textures of the objects are missing, and that’s the point of this project. Something is wrong with this digital system. As an ongoing simulation, there is no beginning and end for it. Just like “bugs,” they will keep processing.

Bonnie Mitchell

Bonnie Mitchell is an artist, animator and Professor at Bowling Green State University in Digital Arts, in Ohio, USA.  Mitchell’s artworks explore spatial and experiential relationships to our physical, social, cultural and psychological environment through interaction. Her creative work includes experimental visual music animation, animated interactive installation art, environmental data visualization art, net-art, and new media art archive development. Mitchell’s works have been screened or shown at numerous festivals, conferences and exhibitions around the world including Ars Electronica, ISEA, SIGGRAPH, Computer Music Association, Visual Music Marathon, Melbourne and London International Animation Festivals, Society for Electro-acoustic Music, Cinémathèque Québécoise and many more.  She is also the co-director of the SIGGRAPH History and ISEA Symposium Archives.

Rebecca Ruige Xu

Rebecca Ruige Xu’s artwork and research interests include experimental animation, visual music, artistic data visualization, interactive installations, digital performance, and virtual reality. Her recent work has been exhibited internationally at: SIGGRAPH & SIGGRAPH Asia Art Gallery; ISEA; Ars Electronica; IEEE VIS Arts Program; Museum of Contemporary Art, Italy; Los Angeles Center for Digital Art, USA; CYNETart, Germany; International Digital Art Exhibition, China and Boston Cyberarts Festival, USA. Her animation has been screened in Punto Y Raya Festival; Aesthetica Short Film Festival, UK; Athens Animfest, Greece; Magmart International Videoart Festival, Italy; Kansas International Film Festival and New York Animation Film Awards. Xu is the co-founder of the China VIS Arts Program (China VISAP) and is currently a professor in Computer Art and Animation at Syracuse University.

Johannes DeYoung

Johannes DeYoung is a multidisciplinary artist who works at the intersection of computational and material processes. His moving-image works have been exhibited internationally in galleries and museums in countries such as Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Spain, Taiwan, and the USA, as well as being featured in The New York Times, The New York Post, The Huffington Post, and Dossier Journal. He is Assistant Professor of Electronic and Time-Based Media at Carnegie Mellon University. He previously taught at Yale University School of Art (2008–2018), where he was appointed Senior Critic and Director of the Center for Collaborative Arts and Media, and at the Yale School of Drama, where he was appointed Lecturer in Design.