Animating the Humanities

By Tony Whyton on November 18th, 2020

This week, the Humanities in the European Research Area (HERA) celebrated the launch of a new animation by the award-winning artist Annlin Chao that engages with the question of why the humanities matter. The film was launched as part of a panel at the UK’s Being Human Festival, chaired by HERA KE & Impact Fellow, Tony Whyton (BCU).

During the festival event, panellists discussed the development of the film, its relationship to HERA projects, and the core themes emerging from the animation.  Describing his involvement in the development of film, Tony says:

“In commissioning this film, we started with the simple idea of exploring a world without the humanities, and this is where the animation begins. But, through her own sense of discovery, Annlin has created a thought-provoking film that directly captures what it feels like to be engaged in humanities research.”

HERA is currently celebrating 10 years of its Joint Research Programme, and the themes of these programmes – and associated projects – are referenced throughout the film, whether through specific design elements, images of research objects, or narrative themes. Tony continues:

“The animation is joyous and optimistic but it also acknowledges pain, conflict and trauma as an integral part of human existence. The humanities are essential to finding new ways of understanding cultural differences, learning from the past, exploring concepts of memory and identity, dealing with conflict, and accounting for social change.”

During the panel, Professor Daniel Carey (Director of the Moore Institute, NUI Galway) builds on the reference to COVID-19 within the animation to stress the importance of humanities research during the current pandemic. Tony concludes:

“The film serves as a clarion call for participation. Having interacted with the book and progressed through different cultural encounters, the animation closes with the central character moving forward to participate more fully in the world. I think that’s a powerful message that helps to convey the value of the humanities in a dynamic way.”