Pulses of Abstraction

Episodes from a History of Animation

2020
Author:

Andrew R. Johnston

Pulses of Abstraction

Reshapes the history of abstract animation and its importance to computer imagery and cinema

Andrew R. Johnston presents both a revealing history of abstract animation and an investigation into the relationship between animation and cinema. Examining a rich array of techniques—including etching directly onto the filmstrip, immersive colored-light spectacles, rapid montage sequences, and digital programming—Pulses of Abstraction uncovers important epistemological shifts around film and related media.

Pulses of Abstraction utterly transforms our understanding of the form and history of animation. Diving deep into techno-aesthetic experiments with form in abstract animation—lines, color, photograms, frequencies, and digital codes—it shows that animation is not merely a kind or genre of cinema. Animation is the mode of technical individuation for moving image media, a vital creating that gathers up individual artists, artworks, and audiences in a distinctive movement of thought. Andrew R. Johnston thus overturns film history, too, revealing a non-linear pulse of techno-animist dissensus rumbling beneath our chronological habits.

Thomas Lamarre, University of Chicago

Animation and technology are always changing with one another. From hand-drawn flipbooks to stop-motion and computer-generated imagery (CGI), animation’s identity is in flux. But many of these moving image technologies, like CGI, emerged from the world of animation. Indeed, animation has made essential contributions to not only computer imagery but also cinema, helping shape them into the fields and media forms we know today.

In Pulses of Abstraction, Andrew R. Johnston presents both a revealing history of abstract animation and an investigation into the relationship between animation and cinema. Examining a rich array of techniques—including etching directly onto the filmstrip, immersive colored-light spectacles, rapid montage sequences, and digital programming—Pulses of Abstraction uncovers important epistemological shifts around film and related media. Just as animation’s images pulse in projection, so too does its history of indexing technological and epistemic changes through experiments with form, material, and aesthetics. Focusing on a period of rapid media change from the 1950s to the 1970s, this book combines close readings of experimental animations with in-depth technological studies, revealing how animation helped image culture come to terms with the rise of information technologies.
Pulses of Abstraction

Andrew R. Johnston is associate professor in the Department of English, the Film Studies Program, and the Communication, Rhetoric, and Digital Media Program at North Carolina State University.

Pulses of Abstraction

Pulses of Abstraction utterly transforms our understanding of the form and history of animation. Diving deep into techno-aesthetic experiments with form in abstract animation—lines, color, photograms, frequencies, and digital codes—it shows that animation is not merely a kind or genre of cinema. Animation is the mode of technical individuation for moving image media, a vital creating that gathers up individual artists, artworks, and audiences in a distinctive movement of thought. Andrew R. Johnston thus overturns film history, too, revealing a non-linear pulse of techno-animist dissensus rumbling beneath our chronological habits.

Thomas Lamarre, University of Chicago

Pulses of Abstraction is an erudite book that addresses histories and theories of technology, cinema, philosophy, music, and art through the lens of experimental animation. Without losing sight of the animations under discussion as ‘sensuous works,’ Andrew R. Johnston shifts our focus away from the screen to how these works are made. Drawing on a vast body of archival material and engaging big aesthetic questions, Johnston shows how paying attention to the technological problems that drive experimentation enriches our ability to do aesthetic analysis, and he develops a precise and original vocabulary for describing experimental animation that is sorely needed. This book is a gift to the field.

Karen Redrobe, University of Pennsylvania

Pulses of Abstraction is not only an essential contribution to animation and cinema, media studies, and media archaeology, it demonstrates the necessity of bringing these three fields into relation. Its exemplars—weirdly beautiful and beautifully weird—constitute a canon which, in Andrew R. Johnston’s animate analysis, becomes a new foundation for studies of time-based media materialisms.

Matthew Kirschenbaum, University of Maryland

Pulses of Abstraction

Contents

Introduction: Technical Abstractions

1. Line: Signatures of Motion

2. Color: The Prometheans

3. Interval: Don’t Blink

4. Projection: Algorithms of Light

5. Code: Models of Time

Conclusion: Re-animating the Past

Acknowledgments

Notes

Index