Roberts, Spencer (2016) (In)Animate Semiotics: Virtuality and the Illusion(s) of Life. In: Deleuze Studies Conference 2016, 11th - 13th July 2016, Department of Philosophy, Communication and Visual Arts of University of Roma Tre. (Unpublished)

Stuart Blackton's (1906) Humorous Phases of Funny Faces and Emile Cohl's Fantasmagoria (1908) are each positioned in histories of animation as seminal examples of the animated film. However, despite a number of apparent similarities, Blackton and Cohl's animations would seem to express a radically divergent set of ontological commitments. Cohl offers the audience an experience of chaotic, mutable, relational complexity that revels in its incoherence, whilst Blackton presents a series of more straightforward set pieces, dwelling for the most part upon object-centric representational form - or on what Deleuze and Guattari (1987) term the faciality of a subject.

Whilst it is well known that Deleuze devoted very little space to the discussion of animation, a number of attempts have been made - most noteably by Schaffer (2007) and Lamarre (2009, 2010) - to construct a Deleuzian position in animation theory. Schaffer's account is strongly Bergsonian, developing a form of phenomenal, durational subjectivity, and stressing the temporal disparities between the mode of production and the mode of projection (the way in which the time of drawing never corresponds to the time of projection). In contrast to this, we find a more impersonal approach to the animated image developed in the work of Lamarre, which stresses the importance of the non-Euclidian, differential and affective qualities of the plastic line. This is then extended into a Deleuzo-Guattarian commentary upon the coordination of strata that takes place in animation - begining with consideration of the animation stand as apparatus, going on to explore the relational confluence that coordinates the multilayered composite image, and then spilling back out into the world in an exploration of expanded modes of animation, embracing cosplay and fanfiction.

Despite the differences in their approach, Schaffer and Lamarre are united in their concern with animated affect. Indeed, consideration of the work of Cohl and Blackton serves to facilitate a rich discussion of Deleuze's concept of relation in the context of animation - drawing attention not only to the many axes of animation's relational mutability and affective force, but also to Deleuze's somewhat ambivalent reaction to semiotics. That is to say, in the discussion of the Deleuzo-Guattarian (1987) account of faciality, signs are positioned negatively, as instantiating semiotic regimes, whilst in context of Deleuze's (2008) development of material-semiotics, the sign is venerated as that which most closely approximates the workings of vital matter. With this in mind, the aim of this paper will be to explore the way in which consideration of the vitalistic mode of semiotics that occurs in the context of animation - particulary with reference to the films of Cohl and Blackton - can provide a rich context for contemplating the operation and status of relations, as well as providing a canvas for phenomenal experimentation that might supplement to the mathematico-kinetic examples that Deleuze (1993, 2001) develops in his work on Leibniz's differential calculus - ultimately providing an alternative means of adressing a mode of being that is 'real without being actual and ideal without being abstract.'

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