Memories of Materiality:
Animation and Nostalgia
Erwin Feyersinger (University of Innsbruck)
Animation has been changing drastically since the 1980s. The direct manipulation of materials is displaced by
computer-aided and computer-generated animation (CGI). This paper will discuss how animation complexly and
nostalgically reflects on these historical changes and the loss of haptic qualities caused by them.
Older animation techniques such as puppet animation or hand-drawn animation are strongly rooted in reality: a real
object (a puppet or paint on an animation cel) is recorded by a real object (a camera) on a real object (the film
stock). The puppet can be physically moved or exchanged. An animation cel features pigments, which have to be
applied and manipulated with a brush. The camera can be physically moved and its lens system is bound to the laws
of optics. The film stock can be chemically and mechanically altered.
Newer, computer-based techniques are not physically rooted in reality: virtual objects are recorded by virtual
cameras as digital information. These techniques simulate a reality that not necessarily complies with the laws of
physics of our actual world. However, computer-based animation often strives for hyperrealism. To make virtual
images look as real as indexical images, CGI even emulates accidental traces of reality
found in material-based animation such as optical flaws (e.g. lens flare) or the
damage of the film stock (e.g. scratches, hair, or dust).
The paper will focus on the emulation of these flaws as they are not only used to
enhance the mimetic illusion of the virtual imagery, but also as a nostalgic and
sometimes ironic reminiscence about the materiality of older animation techniques.