Animated realities: from animated documentaries to documentary animation
Ehrlich, Nea E.
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My thesis on contemporary animated documentaries links new media aesthetics with the documentary turn in contemporary visual culture. Drawing from the fields of Contemporary Art, Animation, Film Studies and Gaming Theory, my aim has been to explore the development of animated documentaries in the context of animation's intersection with other visual fields in a very specific technological moment of the past two decades in order to broaden the scope within which animation is analysed and understood. The starting point of my research was the widely accepted divide assumed to exist between animation and documentary. I, however, claim that the supposedly contradictory nature of animated documentaries can no longer be considered a given. Despite the potentially challenging reception of animated documentaries, it is important to identify what it is that the animated image contributes to documentary, which is the visualisation of what is otherwise un-representable. My thesis investigates a new area of the intangible, focusing on the virtualisation of culture rather than on subjective or imaginary aspects of documentary works and visual interpretations. This cultural shift consequently requires new aesthetics of documentation that exceed the capacities of the photographic. My main argument is that due to contemporary technological changes, animation has permeated real contexts of daily life to the extent that it has become disassociated from the realm of fiction. Rather, in altering the way viewers are becoming accustomed to observing, learning about and connecting with reality, animation has brought about a constitutive change in ways of seeing one's world. This change can be described as animation’s impact on the relation between visual signification and believability. It is this which necessitates a reconsideration of what shapes a sense of realism in documentaries today. My research therefore culminates with new conceptualisations concerning the cultural role of animation, introducing what I argue is the formation of the "animated document" and "documentary animation". In these contexts, animation is no longer an interpretive visualisation substituting for photography but a direct capturing of animated realities. Animation thus expands what is considered to constitute reality and, as a result, also destabilises assumptions about the perceived conflict between animation and documentary, widening the sphere of documentary aesthetics.