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The animated paradigm

The Animatic Apparatus
Forfatter: Deborah Levitt
Forlag: ZERO Books (UK/USA)
TECHNOLOGY / What can we say about the ever-increasing technological and state-of-the-art sphere we live in? Animations and simulations appear more and more as "living organisms", while biological life has increasingly become "artificial".


The philosopher Walter Benjamin writes about Mickey Mouse's cartoon universe in the essay Poverty and experience: "Nature and technology, primitiveness and comfort have completely merged." In this animated universe "a car weighs no more than a straw hat, and the fruit on the tree rounds out as fast as (…) a hot air balloon".

Culture and media scientist Deborah Levitt's book The Animatic Apparatus (2018) can be read as an extension of Benjamin's portrayal of the cartoons' ontological confusion, caused by the dissolution of previously established hierarchies of liv og bilde in our time. In the book, Levitt examines the relationship between ubiquitous "artificial" images in the form of animation, CGI effects, Artificial Intelligence, multimedia avatars and simulations and dizzying developments in the «life sciences» biology, medicine and genetics – where cloning, DNA modification and CRISPR technology make it possible to construct, change and optimize, yes, create organic life.

When computer-generated "images" begin to behave more and more like "living organisms", and modern genetic technology is able to produce "life" according to predetermined parameters and notions, Levitt emphasizes, being "alive" no longer becomes something one er, something given, but a field for intervention, production and poiesis. Instead of producing images of living beings exclusively, "living beings" can now be produced from "images."

"Artificial" and "authentic", "original" and "copy", or "living" and "lifeless" are turned upside down.

But how is one to approach the fact that animations and simulations appear more and more as "living organisms", while biological life has increasingly become "artificial" ?. Conceptual hierarchies such as "artificial" and "authentic", "original" and "copy" or "living" and "lifeless" have been turned upside down: Our time is, according to Levitt, in the middle of a paradigm shift which she calls "the animatic apparatus" , whose origin (genealogy) she tries to deduce in her book. Interesting in this context is the etymological meaning of the word «animation»: The original Latin word «animatus» means something like "living" or "bringing to life." It is along the underlying aporias and tensions of this synonymy that Levitt's investigation moves.

Biopolitical control

Based on the invention of the cinematograph around 1895, Levitt deduces how the film's emergence is accompanied by a new relationship with the body – when it comes to its gestural expression as well. . .

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Lukas Lehner
Freelance writer.

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