March 28, 2016, 3:00 p.m.–5:00 p.m.

Scott Curtis: Rough and Smooth: Animation, Abstraction and the Production of Knowledge

IU Cinema


In this videotaped lecture, part of the inaugural lecture series, Scott Curtis discussed the relationship between animation and live action in scientific, documentary, and educational films. He acknowledged that animation, like an illustration in a textbook, is necessary to depict what cannot be photographed. But he argued that abstract animations function rhetorically when paired with photographic images that appear to be evidentiary in nature. This dialectic between the animated and the authentic, he argued, creates a full-bodied argument that carries over into animated films that depict scientific subjects, such as molecular biology or nanotechnology. This use of animation in scientific film provides a rehearsal of the process of knowledge production in pictorialform. The back and forth
between live action and animation figures the epistemological exchange between the concrete and the abstract that is necessary to our understanding of the natural world. Curtis is director of the Communication Program at Northwestern University in Qatar; president of Domitor, an international society that studies early cinema; and author of The Shape of Spectatorship: Art, Science and Early Cinema in Germany.

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