Hi, my name is Anna Craycroft, I was raised in New York City.
My desire to make an animation during the residency came from research that I’ve been doing onto the relationship between ethics and rights. As I tried to distinguish the two--how ethics and rights shape one another--I came across a legal term that seemed to confront their contradictions as well as their intersection and that term is Personhood. So the classification personhood is a way of identifying someone as a holder of specific legal rights.
Personhood is really important concept when we look at the history of the United States because it demonstrates how discriminations – like those based on race or gender – were ways for some human beings to take rights away from other human beings by claiming they were legally not to “persons.” And this is an upsetting bias to confront, but many of the same issues are still being contested today. Today the plaintiffs for whom personhood is being argued consist primarily of animals, corporations, the environment, artificial intelligence, and fetus. Even though these plaintiffs may seem wildly different from the human-to-human debates around personhood that took place historically, many of the controversies around rights are the same.
The library contains books and binders that Kate Wiener and I have been collecting as the project has developed. We wanted to make them available to audience because this is an open conversation and something I am still learning about as the project grows. The quotes that are interspersed in the animation as intertitles are taken directly from the court cases in which the personhood of different entities has been debated. And these court cases have been printed out and inserted into the binders.
Where I see the connection between personhood and animation centers on the ability of animation to bring the inanimate to life or to give the illusion that what we are seeing has a character or a personality or a drive. By taking a series of still images and creating the illusion of movement, animation can make something as inanimate as an abstract shape appear to be a character or have personality. So what does it mean if we see personality in an inanimate form? To me is at the heart of the personhood debate. Am I assessing their behavior according to their rules of existence or am I projecting my own? When we look at an animated form, particularly one that is abstract, moving or spinning or shimmying across the screen, I wonder if we can identify the point at which we begin to project value onto the life of an other.
Audio guide recorded on the occasion of “Anna Craycroft: Motion into Being.”