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Special effects and uncanny affect: CGI and the post-cinematic uncanny

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This article introduces, presents and discusses the author’s practice-based artistic research. It situates the work, an investigation into the post-cinematic uncanny and the affective potential of visual effects technologies in art practice, within a theoretical context and moves towards the illumination of aspects of our relationship with certain types of digitally augmented moving imagery. The practice explores the post-cinematic uncanny as an intersection of visual arts, moving image, animation, cinema, television and visual effects linking it to theories of affect and post-cinema. It questions the nature and qualities of moving image in the twenty-first century, especially the pervasive and ubiquitous nature of computer-generated imagery (CGI) that supplements and augments digitally captured footage. In doing so it creates, explores and situates the post-cinematic uncanny within contemporary arts practice. The work employs technologies that were, until relatively recently, the preserve of high-end visual effects productions and aims to engender uncanny affect in its audience. It thus falls under the purview of Steven Shaviro’s speculations on post-cinematic affect. Shaviro’s ‘post-cinematic’ refers to the transformation of moving image practice and culture driven in part by the move to digital acquisition, manipulation, distribution, display and networked consumption. It provides a conceptual framework for this practice in relation to the wider context of cinema and moving image production. In the practice, visual effects technologies are employed site-specifically to create the impression of unknown yet familiar forms within the screen-space, creating new associations, fantastic implied narratives and extra-dimensional implications in otherwise mundane spaces. Still further removed from the profilmic event, these computer-generated images have no connection to the profilmic beyond an urge towards the ‘paradox of perceptual realism’. In this respect, CGI visual effects imagery may be analogous to Freud’s uncanny ‘double’.
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Keywords: affect; animation; computer-generated imagery; post-cinematic; uncanny; visual arts; visual effects

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University Centre Blackburn College

Publication date: 01 June 2016

More about this publication?
  • Ubiquity is an international peer reviewed journal for creative and transdisciplinary practitioners interested in technologies, practices and behaviours that have the potential to radically transform human perspectives on the world. "Ubiquity", the ability to be everywhere at the same time, a potential historically attributed to the occult is now a common feature of the average mobile phone. The title refers explicitly to the advent of ubiquitous computing that has been hastened through the consumption of networked digital devices. The journal anticipates the consequences for design and research in a culture where everyone and everything is connected, and will offer a context for visual artists, designers, scientists and writers to consider how Ubiquity is transforming our relationship with the world.
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