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Free Content Hysteria: An autoethnographic reflection on making an animated documentary film from archive material

This paper investigates the process of collection, interpretation and modification in the making of an experimental animated documentary film. In 2001, I made a two-minute film, Hysteria, as a first year project on the master’s animation course at the Royal College of Art. Given as a starting point the word ‘bedlam’, I researched the history of mental healthcare and discovered documentation of medical practices in the late 1800s of clitoridectomy and genital massage as a ‘cure’ for the condition of hysteria. Making the film was a singular, insular journey – a stream-of-consciousness voyage of discovery: uncovering and collating material and then interpreting it through visual experimentation. Key to my process was use of a sketchbook that became a space for montage: juxtaposing material from contemporary sources against archive documents and incorporating research material into my visual experiments. Using autoethnographic writing, I return to the state of mind that produced this film – asking how and why it came to exist - and through audio reflection I re-read the sketchbook to analyse the processes of drawing, annotating and editing which produced it. In doing so, I attempt to understand the intuitive process of interpretation, and to draw out insights which can inform my future practice.

Keywords: animated documentary; animation; archive; autoethnography; documentary; film production; hysteria; sketchbook

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: artist and researcher

Publication date: December 1, 2018

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  • Animation Practice, Process & Production is a journal presenting, analysing and advancing how animation is created and shown. From Pixar to Parn, Aardman to X-Men, Motion Capture to Mobile Phone, GUI to Gallery, all forms of animation will be revealed and assessed. Illustrated contributions are invited from practitioners and scholars of animation. Innovative models of critical presentation and analysis are especially encouraged. All topics engaged with the practice, process and production of animation, from a range of perspectives, will be considered.
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