The abstract animation substantially contributes to the history and contemporary climate of experimental film. The imagery present within this marginalized art form, however, also permeates many aspects of everyday environments and experiences. The general public rarely interacts with the long tradition of purely formal, abstract animations (i.e. Viking Eggeling, Oskar Fischinger, Harry Smith, Len Lye). But, sensational abstract animation surely sneaks into mainstream media (advertising, firework displays, screensavers).
This lecture will examine disconnections between mass consumption and abstract animation, focusing on the challenges this presents for the medium in a postpsychedelic climate. To unpack the relationship between the tradition of abstraction in experimental animation and everyday life, the talk will recall mainstream occurrences of visual spectacle. Concentrating on pre-cinematic experiments in visual music and the concert/planetarium light show, the presentation will trace the history of light projection in abstract animation: from early experiments by Thomas Wilfred, Louis Bertrand Castel, and Mary Hallock Greenwalt to the light projections of Mike Leonard, the Boyle Family, Jordan Belson, and Elias Romero. Surveying abstract animation’s potential for both sensation and narration, we will address the function of non-objective film in contemporary culture.