Fantastical empathy: encountering abstraction in Bret Battey’s Sinus Aestum (2009)

Husbands, Lilly ORCID logoORCID: (2018) Fantastical empathy: encountering abstraction in Bret Battey’s Sinus Aestum (2009). In: Fantasy/Animation: Connections Between Media, Mediums and Genres. Holliday, Christopher and Sergeant, Alexander, eds. AFI Film Readers . Routledge, London, pp. 73-90. ISBN 9781138054370, e-ISBN 9781315166919, pbk-ISBN 9780367590741. [Book Section] (doi:10.4324/9781315166919-5)


Many phenomenological approaches to cinema have described the embodied relationship between spectator and film in predominantly representational terms. These approaches are more or less predicated upon engagements with ‘enworlded’ spaces whose intelligibility is principally based upon the recognition of similar modes of being-in-the-world. This kind of recognition is automatic and for the most part subconscious, and spectators usually only become conscious of recognition as an active cognitive effort when an image is confusing, unfamiliar or unclear. However, abstract animation is an art form whose non-representational nature inherently forbids the normal taking-for-grantedness of our ‘natural attitude,’ frustrating our summary expectations or precipitate conclusions and instead engaging our faculties of fantasy and imagination in an effort to make sense of such unusual stimuli. By focusing closely on experimental animator and musician Bret Battey’s non-figurative digital animation Sinus Aestum, this chapter sets out to investigate these new relationships to abstraction brought about by digital media’s propensity for pristine illusionism. In Sinus Aestum, Battey invites viewers into unworldly encounters with unidentifiable forms and textures by manipulating the capacity of contemporary video effects and animation software to render complex optical illusions of three-dimensional space and by precisely orchestrating the metamorphosing behaviours of tens of thousands of coloured lights. The chapter examines Sinus Aestum’s elicitation of responses at the fantastical edges of the imagination, exploring the subtle somatic and cognitive disruptions that arise from encounters with unidentifiable computer-animated imagery. Drawing on Laura U. Marks’s explication of haptic visuality and Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology of perception, this chapter articulates a theory of abstract computer animation spectatorship. I suggest that, in their depiction of otherworldly consistencies and substances, computer-animated works like Sinus Aestum compel our imaginations, intellects, and sensory perceptions to continue to find new ways of grasping and feeling into abstract moving images.

Item Type: Book Section
Additional Information: Hardback published April 23, 2018
Paperback published August 13, 2020
Research Areas: A. > School of Art and Design > Visual Arts
Item ID: 25285
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Depositing User: Lilly Husbands
Date Deposited: 15 Oct 2018 10:05
Last Modified: 27 Oct 2020 16:12

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