Occulting The Screen: Manifesting Agency Through Performative Animation, October 2017

PhD Thesis Submission, Plimsoll Gallery, Hobart, Tasmania
Thesis Abstract:
This thesis connects animation to arcane or shamanistic practice, as a
speculation upon the effectiveness of moving images as sigils – symbolic
representations of desired outcomes. The series of videos are handpainted
rotoscope-style animations applied over photographic video,
presented as short loops in the gallery context.

The project builds upon dual traditions, first combined in Surrealism, of
politicised esotericism and psychoanalytic theorising of the unconscious.

Building on the Surrealist tradition, the thesis incorporates current neuroscientific
knowledge of brain plasticity and references occult imagery to
communicate the esoteric and intangible nature of cognition.

The works manifest ‘porosity’ in their layered and fluid form and position
the screen as an agent site; a place of mediation between what is, and what
is willed.

Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age (2007) defines contemporary,
secularised society as a zone of ‘buffered’ identity as distinct from the
more ‘porous’, enchanted existence of our forebears. This project sought to
produce a contemporary porosity, and drew on the films of Stan Brakhage
and the early short films of David Lynch, both of whom use the mark of
‘the artists hand’ as a means to make manifest upon film, what the camera
cannot capture. In the manner of Canadian witch artist duo Fastwürms,
and the radical, second wave feminist group W.I.T.C.H. (Women’s
International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell), this project employed the
promise of occult forces to remediate orthodox social forms.

Themes of disenchantment, disengagement, the Freudian concept of wishfulfilment
and agency were developed in a studio process that harnessed
performative and painterly gestures. Unfolding no narrative, the works are
neither pictorial nor cinematic. They are both solid (held within a screen)
and gossamer (projected light).

The imagery was developed from improvised actions before the camera.
The video footage was then transformed through automatist, ritualised
overpainting of each frame, which was re-animated to produce a looping,
rhythmic effect that operates like a repeating chorus or a mantra. The
rhythmic aspect of the works equates to an active hoodoo mechanism:
their occulted cycle is completed by an audience invited to enter an
uncensored or ‘gnostic’ state.

The project is invested in experiential, liminal and gnostic states and the
pursuit of porosity, those of both maker and viewer. It is performed as a
counteractive approach to rationalism and with acknowledgement of
female potential and the power of intuitive states to human selfactualisation
and consciousness.

The artworks slip between the concrete actualisation of the still image and
the temporal state of the moving image. Exhibited according to a spatial
logic that lies between ‘white cube’ and ‘black box’, the works are
activated through concentrated focus, and thus operate according to the
logic of sigils: manifestations of wish or intent, strengthened through
ritualised acts of will.

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