The 22nd Annual Society for Animation Studies Conference

Dan North

Bunraku’s Exploded View of Performance

The pu
ppet represents a site of paradoxes that invite reflection upon the nature of performance and embodiment; puppets occupy a liminal space between life and death, motion and stasis, an interface between actor and character, between text and audience. With bunraku as its case study I will argue that puppets offer an “exploded view” diagram of performance, separating out the constituent parts of voice, body, actor and mechanism to allow a clearer view of how formal components are used to construct complete performances and, by allegorical extension, human subjects.

Biographical statement: My research has previously examined the history and aesthetics of special effects in cinema, most extensively in my recent monograph, Performing Illusions: Cinema, Special Effects and the Virtual Actor (Wallflower Press, 2008). I am currently undertaking a study of puppetry and film, exploring the uses and representation of puppets onscreen. This will incorporate theories of performance borrowed from studies of theatrical puppetry, and a historical and formal account of marionettes, animatronics, motion-capture and other modes of “artificial performance”, with the aim of producing a model for the analysis of puppetry as a key component of film aesthetics within and beyond the field of animation.