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Society for Animation Studies conference comes to Concordia

30th anniversary conference showcases the growing popularity of the medium
June 14, 2018
By Felipe G.B.

Still from one of 23 short films produced between 2012 and 2018 by students in the Film Animation BFA program. June 20 SAS will screen the "Best of Concordia Animates"  Still from one of 23 short films produced between 2012 and 2018 by students in the Film Animation BFA program. June 20 SAS will screen the "Best of Concordia Animates"

This year, Concordia University will host the Society for Animation Studies’(SAS) 30th annual conference. The society is the world’s largest organization for animation scholars and practitioners – and, according to its organizers, the field is growing by leaps and bounds.

Co-organizer and Part-time Professor Alison Loader (BFA 92 Film Animation, MA 11 Media Studies, PhD 18 Communication Studies), a longtime member of the SAS, is amazed by how big the organization is today compared to when she first attended their conference in 2001 – the first time Concordia hosted it.

“The association and its conference has gotten very large over the last decade. Animation studies has really exploded in terms of publishing. This year, we had a record number of submissions,” she says.

Animation studies cuts across all media

For Marc Steinberg, director of Mel Hoppenheim’s MA program in film studies and co-organizer of the event, one reason behind animation’s growing scholarly importance might lie in its flexibility to address cultural, theoretical, and practical concerns as a medium.

“Animation is a central node from which we can analyze contemporary visual culture. Post-2000, once special-effects took over filmmaking, live-action became only a small portion of what’s actually onscreen,” he explains.

“Animation really cuts across media. Financially, it ranges from indie productions to very industrial productions,” adds Loader.

Free and open to the public

Established and emerging scholars and practitioners will address a huge variety of topics: experimental animation, animation and disability studies, histories of film and animation, indigenous animation, women in animation, anime, animation and labour, architecture, biology and biopolitics, loops, animation and philosophy, and animation-based games.

Then. Now. Next is the theme of conference and looking at the medium’s many historic transformations really foreground the future importance of studying animation, says Steinberg.

“It’s a specific medium with very broad applications,” he says.  

The legacy of Montreal, the National Film Board (NFB), and Concordia will also come under the lens, Loader explains.

“Concordia has a very rich tradition in research-creation. We really highlight practice, maybe more so than other schools might be able to” noted Loader.

Many current and former students are actively involved with the conference, contributing research, curating screenings, or by screening their own work. PhD candidates Jacqueline Ristola and Philipp Keidl are co-organizing with Steinberg and Loader.

Five events not to miss

The conference is open and free to the public. Here are five events recommended by Steinberg and Loader that would be of interest to anyone with a passing interest in animation, or for someone who lives and breathes it.

1) Wake Up! Reanimating Indigenous Histories

Opening Screening, curated by Concordia-based filmmakers Alisi Telengut and Asinnajaq

Wake Up! is a collection of international animated short films that feature and celebrate indigenous histories and cultures. These animations are from these animations from around the world are made by filmmakers and artists with Indigenous backgrounds. By tracing histories and exploring memories, these films reflect on the world as it is NOW highlighting cultural identity, resilience, and telling stories for the future.

(Related to this is the double panel on Indigenous Animation in Quebec, taking place the following day on June 19, 11am to 3pm)

Time/location:  Monday, June 18, doors open at 7pm H110 Theatre (1455 De Maisonneuve W)

2) Thomas Lamarre’s keynote, Wartime Animation: The Vicissitudes of Liveliness

One of the foremost world experts on Japanese animation and anime in the world, Prof. Lamarre will be lecturing on the wartime history of animation and its very contemporary implications for thinking about emerging technologies of animation and new ways of organizing animation production. This talk also addresses the complicated relationship between animation and animals in the context of wartime imperialism. Not to be missed by anime fans and animation enthusiasts alike.

Time/location: Tuesday, June 19, 9am, De Seve Cinema, (1400 De Maisonneuve W)

3) Best of Concordia Animates!

Concordia proudly presents a selection of 23 short films produced between 2012 and 2018 by students in the Film Animation BFA program. This beautiful compilation includes animated documentary, rotoscoping, stop-motion, traditional 2D animation, under-camera/direct animation techniques, and a variety of experimental/hybrid practices. These films highlight the incredible work done within Concordia’s walls. Curated by Concordia professors Shira Avni and Luc Otter.

Time/location: Wednesday, June 20, 5pm, De Seve Cinema, (1400 De Maisonneuve W)

4) Panels!

We’re going to cheat on this one and shout out to some panels we’re particularly excited about. All of the panels promise to be fantastic, but here are some not-to-be-missed:

  • Animating the Voice (EV1-605)
  • VR: Then Now Next, Loops and Labour (EV1-605)
  • Queer Anime, Architecture and Animation (EV1-615)
  • Radical Cartooning, New Approaches to Women and Animation (EV1-605)

Time/location: Various. EV Building, 6th Floor.

5) Mihaela Mihailova’s keynote lecture, “These Virtual Delights Have Virtual Ends: The Posthuman Female as a Digital Effect”

One of the foremost emerging scholars of animation and digital effects, Prof. Mihailova will examine the media history of the posthuman female body as a site for simultaneously negotiating gender roles and technological progress, offering a close reading of cyborg, non-organic, and biologically enhanced women and/as digital effects. She will be examining some of the most popular SF films and games of the last decade, including Ex Machina (Alex Garland, 2014), Ghost in the Shell (Rupert Sanders, 2017), and Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve, 2017), the science-fiction television show Altered Carbon, and the Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain video game.

Time/location: Thursday, June 21, 3:30pm, De Seve Cinema, (1400 De Maisonneuve W)

Aside from the above recommendations, we’d suggest checking out the other screening in the Hall building (Tuesday and Thursday evenings), and the incredible installation work in the Black Box.

SAS conference details

“Then. Now. Next” will run from June 18th-21st across the G.W. Campus



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