Towards a Taxonomy of Meaning and Narrative in Abstract Animation: A Study of Contemporary Hong Kong and International Artists

Project: Research

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Motion media are dominated by advertising, television, and fiction film rooted in cinematicrealism (Bordwell et al. 1985). A new generation of Hong Kong and international abstractmoving image makers challenge this paradigm. Video works such as vitreous (Robert Seidel2015), Black Moves (Carla Chan 2015) or Kung Fu Motion Visualization (Tobias Gremmler2016) present abstractions which subvert, disrupt and question our everyday perceptions. In aworld increasingly oversaturated by the same media images, abstract animation can offer up aspace removed from realism, which enables perceptions that are qualitatively different fromeveryday experience (Fuxjager 2011) and through which alternate meanings can benegotiated (Hattler & Wardman 2015). The claim of the current research is that abstractionalso creates narrative. The proposed research will explore this apparently contradictoryposition by interviewing practitioners who create narrative-abstraction.While art historians have critically appraised the reason for, and impact of, abstract painting(Greenberg 1995, Mitchell 1989), and film theorists have discussed the breakdown oftraditional narrative editing, for example in structuralist film-making (Russell 1999), verylittle research has been conducted into the impact and role of abstraction as narrative timebasedmedia – for a rare example see Dirk De Bruyn’s (2014) re-reading of avant-garde andmaterialist film as an expression of trauma. To develop an understanding of emergent local and international forms of artistic expressionthat offer respite from, and different readings to, dominant media messages based incinematic realism, a better understanding of both encoding and decoding (Hall 1980) ofnarrative and meaning in abstract animation is necessary.This research will include an ethnographic component (interviews with contemporary artistsworking with the abstract moving image) and a research-creation component (practice-basedresearch into narrative abstract animation). The results of this investigation will manifest in amedium-length abstract film comprised of five chapters that explore different narrativestrategies. This is designed for audience evaluation through grounded theory (Strauss &Glaser 1967), to determine what meanings people make of abstract animation. The findingsof the evaluations will be disseminated via conference presentations and journal articles. Thefinal film will be exhibited in Hong Kong at Videotage, screened in London by onedotzero,and submitted to festivals.


Project number9048114
Grant typeECS
Effective start/end date1/01/18 → …