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.