Abstract Animation

Abstract animation is much like the games I have played that lack narrative and instead present ideas.

“In abstract animation there are no characters with which to identify, there is no dieresis to transport the viewer to a different time and place and, when the animation is over, the viewer does not have a complete understanding of its meaning as he or she would with a close narrative structure.”

“It seems that abstract motion pictures are often about the need to expand our ability to see, experience and comprehend things in day to day life. For that reason, they challenge the viewer to participate in the process of creating meaning.”

Maureen Furness, author of Animation Aesthetics suggests that abstract animation creates a personal relationship with the viewer, suggesting that games would actually be a better medium in which to experience abstract animation than film is.

“The kinds of work relies heavily on person interactions (or the process or viewing)”


The aesthetics should then reflect this abstract, idea focused meaning.

“works of this sort tend to be developed around an aesthetic of thematic stasis or cycles.”

Furness states that Jordan Belson’s work exemplifies this, however, his work is incrdibly hard to find due to his protest at it being diplayed online, and the unavaility of DVDs. I have managed to find an exerpt from one of his films.

She also talks about how focusing on abstract images activates the right side of the brain, which can promote feelings of ephoria and timelessness, much like Soundself tried to do. In this she explains the feelings of anxiousness one can get when this happens, because “losing” the control of the logical, left side of the brain makes people feel “untethered”. This is something I experienced whist playing Soundself, and most defiantly something I would want to avoid players feeling in my own game.


Metitation, an act which activates the right side of the brain, has been an influence on many abstract practitioner’s work. Mandalas are commonly seen symbols, which are symmetrical images that has significance within Hindu and Buddhist religious practices. They are often circular, square or lotus shaped and represent the cosmos, deities, knowledge or magic. Mandalas are used to aid concentration and meditation, as fixing the eyes on one stablies it in the retina, sometimes making it disappear and be replaced with colours and forms that result from a physiological reaction to the lack to sensory stimuli. The mandala in an animated state is slightly different.

“When viewing a meditational film, an individual does not experience visual deprivation and the resultant stabilized retinal image because the mandala is constantly in motion. Nonetheless, he or she can become entranced by the light in combination with the rhythmic, hypnotic imagery projected on the screen.”


William Moritz said that these works were ” meant to be looked at with a centered gaze, where you are actually looking at the center of the screen…They are designed for concentration, which is different from a lot of ordinary cinema, where the eye is meant to wander around and pick our details and have its own discourse with the film.”

Oskar Fischinger created these sorts of works, but his work is also very hard to find. Furniss suggests looking at Radio Dynamics, however as that can’t be found I have An Optical Poem. This exemplifies the poetry like narrative structure found in Flower or PixelJunk Eden. I love this piece, and can draw quite a few comparisons between it and a light in chorus.

James Whitney uses visual stragties to enourage the viewer to fixer their vision on his images in his animation, Lapis. The images getting smaller “[pulls] the spectator’s vision in with them”, much like in Soundself where the player goes further into the centre of the shapes.

“This design technique is used at other points in the film, along with a widening of a black circle within a circles, which also tends to pull in the viewer’s focus”

This technique could be used in a game, making the player venture though centered, receding circles. It reminds me slightly of the level switch in Proteus, where a circle forms around you and you become part of it as you move to the next level.


Whitney also uses light and colour, to entrance the viewer, as images “transform fludity from dark to light, or strobe effects send out a shock pulse of white light”. Brightness creates a natural attraction to the eye, as used in A Light In Chorus, and increases the ability to absorb sensory information.

“if one becomes engaged by the optical illusion, the result is relaxing and mildly entrancing”


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