Animism

Joachim Koester, To navigate in a genuine way, into the unknown necessitates an attitude of daring, but not one of recklessness (movements generated from the Magical Passes of Carlos Castaneda), 2009, film still. Courtesy of Joachim Koester and Galerie Giti Nourbakhsch, Berlin.

Animism
Date
April 26, 2012

Curated by Anselm Franke

With Marcel Broodthaers, Walt Disney, Jimmie Durham, Harun Farocki, Tom Holert, Luis Jacob, Ken Jacobs, Joachim Koester, Len Lye, Chris Marker, Daria Martin, Angela Melitopoulos & Maurizio Lazzarato, Ana Mendieta, Vincent Monnikendam, Spyros Papapetros, Alain Resnais, Natascha Sadr Haghighian, and others.

The exhibition Animism rethinks the question of animation not by investigating the effect of animation within aesthetics, but by tackling the unquestioned backdrop against which such aesthetic effects are discussed. This backdrop is the discourse of animism: a term defined by nineteenth century anthropologists searching for mankind’s alleged primitive, original religion, which they identified as the erroneous animation of the surrounding world. Outside the field of art and mass media, discussions on animation turn into an ontological battleground at the frontier of colonial modernity.

In this iteration of the exhibition, a constellation of works investigate that which is the exact opposite of animation and subjectification: methods of objectification, mummification, and reification. Looking at the way objects are made and fixed within a particular order of knowledge, the exhibition reflects on the way museological practices partake in such processes. What are the very relations and resulting forms of animation produced through objectification? Works by Chris Marker and Alain Resnais, Jimmie Durham, and Natascha Sadr Haghighian point to what is foreclosed in objectivist knowledge and left to return as symptom, as fictional substitute, or as unstable animated phantasmagoria.

Through historical documents, films, archival displays, and contemporary works by Marcel Broodthaers, Walt Disney, Daria Martin, Luis Jacob, Ken Jacobs, Tom Holert, and Joachim Koester, Animism opens up different perspectives on animation and “enchantment” within the modern imaginary, suggesting the different ways that forms of animation we readily identify as merely imaginary or fictional turn into their opposite.

The exhibition queries the relationship between the colonial frontier and technologies of animation in modern media such as cinema. Vincent Monnikendam’s film Mother Dao, the Turtlelike (1995) attempts to reverse the power relations inscribed in images from hours of found film footage shot between 1912 and 1933 in what was then the Dutch East Indies. Through a portrayal of the emergence—and capitalist animation—of the colonial world, the film arrives at a proposed counter-narrative to the modern epic of science and its disenchantment with the world. Angela Melitopoulos and Maurizio Lazzarato’s visual research project Assemblages (2010) traces radically different conceptions of subjectivity and their role in the critique of the institution of psychiatry by following writer, activist, and therapist Félix Guattari.

Animism at e-flux is the fifth iteration of the exhibition and overall research project presented at Extra City and MuHKA, Antwerp, 2010; Kunsthalle Bern, 2010; Generali Foundation, Vienna, 2011; and the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, 2012.

Special thanks to Galerie Marie-Puck Broodthaers, Brussels, Juliann Brown, Norman Chernick-Zeitlin, Electronic Arts Intermix, New York, Alwin Franke, Johann König, Berlin, Ludlow 38, New York, Hélène Painlevé, Maureen Paley Gallery, London, Galleri Nicolai Wallner, Copenhagen.

For further information please contact mila [​at​] e-flux.com

Reviews

“‘Animism’”, The New York Times • Ken Johnson

Animism, the propensity to attribute consciousness to inanimate objects, once was supposed to be a defining trait of so-called primitive people. But modern ones project supernatural properties onto things like cars, communication devices and artworks; we are all in the grip of magical thinking, at least sometimes. “Animism,” an unapologetically didactic...

Animism, the propensity to attribute consciousness to inanimate objects, once was supposed to be a defining trait of so-called primitive people. But modern ones project supernatural properties onto things like cars, communication devices and artworks; we are all in the grip of magical thinking, at least sometimes. “Animism,” an unapologetically didactic show at e-flux, is a good prompt for a discussion of the implications.

Organized by Anselm Franke, a curator in Brussels and Berlin, it consists of films and videos by a multigenerational roster that includes Chris Marker, Marcel Broodthaers and Ana Mendieta. A central work is “Assemblages” (2010), a 62-minute documentary by Angela Melitopoulos and Maurizio Lazzarato about the psychologist and philosopher Félix Guattari, who argued that taking animism seriously would solve many social problems.

Other works exemplify animation. Walt Disney’s “Skeleton Dance” is a comically macabre short cartoon from 1929. A film by Daria Martin studies two naked dancers interacting with robotic devices in a laboratory. One by Joachim Koester shows a man performing curious movements from a system of exercises that the probably fictional shaman Don Juan taught Carlos Castaneda.

“Capitalism: Slavery” (2006), a short piece by the filmmaker Ken Jacobs, is a flickering, grainy, slow-motion pan of what looks like an old diorama of slaves picking cotton. Mr. Jacobs made it by digitally alternating exposures of both sides of an antique stereoscopic photograph. Strangely three-dimensional and eerily still, it casts an unsettling spell.

—May 17, 2012

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“Kiddy Fodder and Spooky Stories at e-flux” • Reid Singer

The title of this group show, “Animism,” refers to the practice of attributing spiritual life to non-human entities. It’s pertinent stuff; something that’s as important to child psychologists as it is to students of religion is probably also going to be important to art. Fittingly, the exhibition draws as much from the work of Walt Disney as it does from...

The title of this group show, “Animism,” refers to the practice of attributing spiritual life to non-human entities. It’s pertinent stuff; something that’s as important to child psychologists as it is to students of religion is probably also going to be important to art. Fittingly, the exhibition draws as much from the work of Walt Disney as it does from artists like Ana Mendieta and the headiest-of-the-heady Marcel Broodthaers; artists who, for all their merits, were probably not thinking of children as their primary audience.

What the work in “Animism” is likely to betray is a preoccupation with the cryptic, the mysterious, and the ephemeral, and how artists and curators have tried to pin these items down over the years. A compact, eclectic survey includes work by Daria Martin, Luis Jacob, Ken Jacobs, Tom Holert, and Joachim Koester. A critical look at the discretely industrial animation of the West is examined in the work of Vincent Monnikendam, Angela Melitopoulos and Maurizio Lazzarato — artists who explore animation as a phenomena of the “colonial frontier” at the dawn of modern anthropology and contemporary entertainment.

blogs.artinfo.com/ontheground/2012/04/24/kiddy-fodder-and-spooky-stories-at-e-flux/

—April 24, 2012

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Category
Film
Subject
Animation & Cartoons, Libraries & Archives

Harun Farocki (1944–2014) was born in German-annexed Czechoslovakia. From 1966 to 1968, he attended the Deutsche Film-und Fernsehakademie Berlin (DFFB). In addition to teaching posts in Berlin, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Manila, Munich, and Stuttgart, he was a visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley. Farocki made close to 120 short and feature-length films for television and cinema, mostly documentaries and essay films that analyzed social realities, with a precise use of moving images and focus on the political and sociological context involved in the creation of imagery. He also worked in collaboration with other filmmakers as a scriptwriter, actor, and producer. In 1976, he staged Heiner Müller's plays The Battle and Tractor together with Hanns Zischler in Basel, Switzerland. Between 1974 to 1984, he was editor and contributing author of the magazine Filmkritik (München). His work has been shown in many exhibitions in galleries and museums worldwide. From 2000 to 2004 Farocki taught in Berlin at his former school DFFB and at the University of the Arts. In 2004 Farocki first became a visiting professor and then in 2006 a full professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. As a teacher Harun Farocki had a significant cinematic and intellectual influence on the development of the acclaimed Berlin School film movement.

Tom Holert is a researcher, writer, and curator. He is the co-founder of the Harun Farocki Institut in Berlin. He’s currently organising the research and exhibition project Education Shock. Learning, Politics, and Architecture in the 1960s and 1970s, at Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin (forthcoming September 2020).

Tom Holert is an art historian, curator, and cultural critic based in Berlin who works on learning curves and knowledge vessels at the crossroads of politics, economy, contemporary art, design, and architecture. He is also a cofounder of the Harun Farocki Institut, Berlin.

Ken Jacobs is a key figure in the history of American avant-garde cinema. In the mid-1950s, Jacobs studied painting under Hans Hofmann, one of the founders of Abstract Expressionism, and, at the same time, he began making films, eventually becoming a major voice of American Underground Film and a member of the New American Cinema. Jacobs' films explore the mechanics of the moving image and the act of viewing itself. He investigates the cinematic experience in its entirety, from production to projection. Whether undertaking archaeological journeys to the dawn of cinema, scrutinizing the interstices of new digital technologies, or exploring new opportunities for film performance with his Nervous Magic Lantern, Jacobs' work continues drawing power from the mysteries of human vision to reveal the mechanics of illusion of screen images and their spectral implications and socio-political connotations. Along with over fifty film and video works, he has created an array of shadow plays, three-dimensional films, installations, and magic lantern and film performances that have transformed how we look at and think about moving-image art. The Museum of The Moving Image hosted a full retrospective of Jacobs’ work in 1989, The New York Museum Of Modern Art held a partial retrospective in 1996, as did The American House in Paris in 1994 and the Arsenal Theater in Berlin in 1986. He has also performed in Japan, at the Louvre in Paris, the Getty Center in Los Angeles, among many other institutions. Jacobs’ honors include the Maya Deren Award of The American Film Institute, the Guggenheim Award, and a special Rockefeller Foundation grant. His works are part of the permanent collections at MoMA and the Whitney, and have been celebrated in Europe and the US.

Spyros Papapetros is Associate Professor of History and Theory in the School of Architecture and the Program in Media and Modernity at Princeton University.

Spyros Papapetros is Associate Professor of History and Theory in the School of Architecture and the Program in Media and Modernity at Princeton University. He is author of On the Animation of the Inorganic: Art, Architecture, and the Extension of Life (Chicago University Press, 2012).

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