The boundary of the real: one frame at a time

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At the Boundary of the Unreal, One Frame at a Time.

John Halas once said of animation, if live action film is looking at physical reality then animation is examining the meta-physical (Halas, 1949). Animation, and in particular stop-motion, sits on the threshold between reality and the imaginary, a boundary between the physical world and the imaginary, the familiar and unfamiliar. It blurs the realities of the objects within these new worlds that it portrays and invites the observer to place themselves on the boundaries of this ‘other worldliness’ as we watch the fantastical and uncanny spectacle play out. This proposed paper will examine the fantastic with in the genre of animation, the hesitation of the observer on the boundary of the uncanny. Through an analytical review and curated selection of short animations that explore these ideas, it will illustrate pictorial representations of the themes associated with the fantastic and the uncanny. It will put forward the idea that animation, and in particular the proposed films, Apodemy, Echo Some Reflections and First Animation, is at its core on the threshold of the fantastic and the uncanny. It plays, in its nature, with the ambivalence of the audience as to what is ‘real’ by undoing and recompiling our world into its otherworldly normalities. It also carries, embedded within it a strong sense of the uncanny “Whilst its subjects appear imbued with the spark of the kinetic and a semblance of life, stop motion simultaneously embodies the spectre of inertia, lifelessness and death.” (Crawte, 2017). This ‘spectre’ of death that hides within these films brings us to a place of uncertainty, the oscillation of cognitive processes that draw us in and compel us to look deeper into phantasmagoric spectacle. The curated sort reel of animation will bring a sense of this playful infringement, an effacement of our intellectual certainty, a hesitation between the real and the unreal. The proposed films will invite us to wander through their eerie and fantastical spaces and take us through strange and unnerving worlds that appear to lack limit or real physical end, reminiscent of dreamscapes bordering on nightmare. They break the boundaries of reality through technique as we see the interplay between the ‘real’, the human, and the inanimate. They examine the fantastic in a subtle play with the metaphysical as it tentatively approaches the boundary of the uncanny, the familiar and unfamiliar through distortions of time and space.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 12 Mar 2020
EventSpatiality and Temporality International Conference 2020: "Time, Space and Culture" - St. Anne's College, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
Duration: 16 Feb 202017 Feb 2020


ConferenceSpatiality and Temporality International Conference 2020
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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