Hyperanimation – Robert Russett

Artistic animation made with digital means is no longer confined to movies and television but is now found in a wide range of other media, from interactive installations and virtual environments to digital theatre. In his new book, Robert Russett describes the rich diversity of this creative work and sets out to document “concepts that were once realised but, because electronic and digital technology become quickly obsolete, can no longer be made manifest in their original form”.

Russett interviews an impressive array of artists about the variety of concepts to be found in this field, which he dubs ‘hyperanimation’. He keeps the jargon to a minimum, so the book is highly readable. Paul Kaiser, Karl Sims, Char Davies, Dan Sandin, Jeffrey Shaw, Rebecca Allen, Miroslaw Rogala, Roy Ascott and Paul Glabicki are among those describing their sources of inspiration, their shift from analogue to digital and the context of their work. Breaking his subject down into different themes, Russett maps the most important aspects of hyperanimation, including its organic character and a shift towards open-ended works, which is currently preoccupying many of the artists working in this field.

It’s an interesting approach among the many available books about digital media. What marks out Russett’s work is his apparent ambition to connect current developments with the sixties. Several of the featured artists mention as sources of inspiration film-makers like Maya Deren, Oscar Fischinger, Larry Cuba and John Whitney. His thesis is a logical next step from his last book, Experimental Animation, co-written Cecile Star, which features all the heroes of visual music.

It is important for each generation of artists to understand the work of their predecessors, but when you flip through the book it is striking how outdated pictures even from the nineties already look. Given its title, you might expect an exclusive focus on the latest developments, but Russett does arguably overdo that sixties perspective. The interview format certainly brings the reader close to his subjects, but the author’s preoccupation with a bygone era and perhaps also Russett’s selection of subjects do stop the book falling short of greatness. For the new generation of artists the subjects might already be too far away from their own practice and experience.

John Libbey Publishing
256 p.
ISBN: 0 86196 654 6