From Paleolithic cave paintings to the latest wave of 3D motion pictures, animation has captured our imagination by bringing objects to virtual life for thousands of years.

On Sept. 21-22, scholars and animation producers will meet at the University of Pennsylvania for a collaborative conference, “Enchanted Drawing II: Animation Across the Disciplines.”

The conference, presented through the Keith L. and Katherine Sachs Program in Contemporary Art, is free and open to the public.  It will be held at two venues. Discussion sessions will take place at the Institute of Contemporary Art, 118 S. 36th St. on Penn’s campus. Films being discussed by participants will be screened in the Ibrahim Theater of International House, nearby at 37th and Chestnut streets.

“Enchanted Drawing II” picks up where last spring’s “Enchanted Drawing I” left off in Berlin, exploring topics emerging from animation history.

“It is great to have this international collaboration be more than a one-off thing and to have the chance to deepen into a conversation with a whole new set of wonderful interlocutors,” says Karen Beckman, Jaffe Professor of Film Studies in Penn’s history of art department in the School of Arts and Sciences. “I haven’t met many of the participants before, and imagine I’m going to learn an immense amount.”

Beckman organized the conference with Erna Fiorentini of Institut für Kunst-und Bildgeschichte (IKB) der Humboldt-Universit“t zu Berlin and Oliver Gaycken of the University of Maryland.

“Enchanted Drawing II” will feature the work of scholars and practitioners from across disciplines, in the fields of cinema and media studies, art history, the history of science, animation design, science, gaming, engineering, medicine and journalism.  Sessions will include talks on digital and data-driven animation, the science of animation, transmediality, 3D animation, videogames and more.

Beckman, a film and feminist theory scholar, has organized and participated in a number of lectures in recent years. Immediately following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, she coordinated a series of events focused on artistic and literary responses to terrorism in America.

Last fall, she organized “Animate Art!” a series of ICA talks by visiting artist-animators. The series drew large crowds including students from Beckman’s graduate seminar on animation, undergraduates, fine-arts students and the general public.  She says she hopes some of them come back to continue the conversation.

“The emerging conversation makes clear how important it is for contemporary people to be visually literate, to understand how thinking occurs through making and reading all kinds of images, including animated ones,” Beckman says.

Conference attendees touring ICA galleries will see the new exhibition “Jeremy Deller: Joy in People.”

Beckman, who is working on a book, Animation and the Contemporary Art of War, says she couldn’t be happier that the conference will be held in the same space as the Deller show.  She grew up in the United Kingdom during the 1980s dancing “badly” to the Manchester music that Deller celebrates in his work.

The show will include a reconstruction of the Manchester café Valerie’s Snack Bar, where ICA visitors will be able to enjoy “a nice cuppa tea, the answer to everything in England: death, conference stress, etc!” Beckman says.

The full conference program and information on registration, which is encouraged but not required, is at

Chris Arrant

More in biz:

Latest News from Cartoon Brew