Synaesthetic Syntax – Expanded Critical Animersion: A Locked-Down Experience of Collaborative, Oulipian Animation and Textuality

This paper will examine how virtual spaces became the focus for a collaborative animation project, conducted online under conditions of Pandemic lockdown. In the absence of intimate proximity the authors remediated their physcialised research methods, deploying VR, Ping Pong in the Unity Game engine, and an Artificially Intelligent third collaborator (or ‘coagulent’) to evoke their practice of walking and writing, and researching while in the world of parks, food, play and sensory engagement, which they lacked under lockdown. This also involved inventing and animating fictional collaborative islands where the authors could meet weekly to research and write and to share their drawings and animated works.

These methods were not a nostalgic practice but a means to examine how new forms of visual, sonic, animated, and embodied storytelling might become possible across distances and circumstances. The authors reassembled their pre-covid sounds and senses, memories and collaborative methods within virtual spaces, while being acutely aware of the surveillant nature of those spaces and fatigued from being online, mediated for most of the day.

To avoid a neoliberal framing of technology as idealised or utopian, the authors deployed Brecht’s (Brecht, 1964) ‘Alienation Effect’ or A-effect to their animation, which they call Animersion, this occurs when people are encouraged to question their preconceptions and look at the familiar in a new and different way– that is, to make it strange. The authors maintained a practice of what they call ‘immerticality’ (critical immersion) to remain mindful of the platitudes and hype so often associated with virtual and digital technologies.
While locked down the authors also deployed an Oulipian (1974) animation approach, returning to the algorithmic process of their earlier work, The Phi Books (Dare, Antonopoulou, 2008 – 2021). To re-energise their collaboration under conditions of anxiety and isolation, the authors developed and used a Chatbot to represent a place. This is positioned as an Oulipian method, taking language and according to it a new set of agencies and imperatives, somewhere between chaos and order, defamiliarizing familiar patterns of writing and deploying it in AR animated works which will be discussed and evaluated. The authors remediated ways and methods of material thinking in the same ways that Carter (2005) uses the embodied nature of material to produce new understandings about ourselves, our histories and the culture we inhabit. For example, thinking through drawing, animation, model making and sound.

The authors will analyse how they deployed technologies as heuristics for collaboration and how they position virtual spaces as non-predetermining structures. They will also convey an ‘immerticritical’ – immersive and critical – approach to technology, language, and animated image-making.