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Special effects, CGI and uncanny affect: envisioning the post-cinematic uncanny

Card, William Edward (2016) Special effects, CGI and uncanny affect: envisioning the post-cinematic uncanny. Masters thesis (MA), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

This thesis presents and discusses the author’s practice-based artistic research. It situates the work, an investigation into the post-cinematic uncanny and the affective potential of visual effects technologies in art practice, within a theoretical context and aims to illuminate aspects of our relationship to certain types of digitally augmented contemporary moving imagery. The practice explores the post-cinematic uncanny as an intersection of visual arts, moving image, animation, cinema, television and visual effects, linking it to theories of psychoanalysis, affect and post-cinema. It questions the nature and qualities of moving image in the 21st century, especially the pervasive and ubiquitous nature of computer-generated imagery (CGI) that supplements and augments digitally captured footage. In doing so it creates, explores and situates the post-cinematic uncanny within contemporary arts practice. The work employs technologies that were, until relatively recently, the preserve of high-end visual effects productions and aims to engender uncanny affect in its audience. It thus falls under the purview of Steven Shaviro’s speculations on post-cinematic affect (2010). This ‘post-cinematic’ refers to the transformation of moving image practice and culture, driven in part by the move to digital acquisition, manipulation, distribution, display and networked consumption. It provides a conceptual framework for this practice in relation to the wider context of cinema and moving image production. In the practice, visual effects technologies have been employed site-specifically to create the impression of things unknown yet familiar, occupying a liminal zone between biomorphic and mechanical form and patterned on human-designed objects and environments. These reside in the screen-space, creating new associations, fantastic implied narratives and extra-dimensional mplications in otherwise mundane spaces. Disconnected from the profilmic event, these computer-generated images may be 'perceptually realistic but referentially unreal’ (Prince, 2002:124) and yet have no connection to the profilmic beyond an urge towards the ‘paradox of perceptual realism’ (Rodowick, 2007:101). In this respect, CGI visual effects imagery may analogous to Freud's uncanny double (1919).

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