cracking open (the cultural teleology): animation as experimental pedagogy to encounter the life of things

Prof. Timothée Ingen-Housz
cracking open (the cultural teleology): animation as experimental pedagogy to encounter the life of things.

Online block seminar, English/Deutsch, 2 SWS, 2 ECTS
Saturday/Sunday, 6./7.2. and 20./21.2.2021, each 10-17 h,
mixture of video sessions and self-/group-work: please keep the entire time slot free for the seminar.

Drawing back on Walter Benjamin´s enigmatic and exhilarating take on Mickey Mouse, we will approach unexpected aspects of the post-human question from the perspective of early modern cartoons and their child like anarchy. These animations show the world is a place of chaos, and no one can quite tell who´s shaking what into motion. If "everything alive" is arguably moving, not everything moving is arguably alive, - or so it seems.

What kind of life do we see in things, and what do they move in us as we attempt to animate them? Looking back at these early modern animation films and their celebration of "crazy motions", we will attempt to do some thinking-by-doing and create a “philosophical cartoon“ of sorts. If animators tend to "anthropomorphize" the natural world (plants and animals) when they cartoon it, aren´t they also "animalizing" themselves when they get tangled in the process? Looking at children impersonate animals as they draw them on paper, we might take a second look at this case of mimetic cross-species encounter and ask: could animation "crack our natural (and cultural) teleologies open"; - in other words: can cartooning “transform” us?

If Benjamin´s mickey mouse was to squash and stretch today, what kind of revealing mischief would he throw around this networked world of ours, and what would it mean for our relationship to the trees, the buildings, the cows, the dogs, the bears, the bacterias, and all the trillions of other things living in and out our own bodies? In which manner shall we expand Benjamin´s thoughts to, for instance, the digital condition and the many transformative effects it has on human´s relationships to their bodies and their environment? What is the human place in this interactive and interacted universe, and how can the practice of animation provide us with a reflective and exploratory experience to show us where, when and how our being-alive in the world can be understood today?

Ultimately, we will ask ourselves what kind of teaching and learning we can draw from such experiment and reflect it back on Benjamin´s notions of pedagogy. Cartooning a contemporary version of Benjamin´s Mickey Mouse could, in this regard, be understood as an experimental educational method to encounter the living world. In this intensive workshop, the students will animate and deliver a short philosophical cartoon in words, images, sounds or moves. They will reflect their encounter with animation - the resulting efforts may be understood as “denk-bewegungs-figur”. This seminar is taking part in the ongoing UdK/Oxford collaboration and its theme: "animal eyes on the planet”.


  • Dolbear, Sam / Proctor, Hannah: Cracking open the natural teleology’: Walter Benjamin, Charles Fourier and the figure of the child.
    (see as well their podcasts:
  • Leslie, Esther: Hollywood Flatlands: Animation, Critical Theory and the Avant-Garde.
  • Mourenza, Daniel: Walter Benjamin and the Aesthetics of Film, Amsterdam University Press, 2020.

Requirements for the ungraded Studium Generale credits: The output of the seminar will be a bundled animated cartoon character and its interpretive "philosophy", -sided with a short paper outlining its experimental pedagogical benefits.

Timothée Ingen-Housz, Animationskünstler, wurde im Oktober 2015 an die UdK Berlin berufen. Nach seinem Abschluss Ende der 90er Jahre zog er nach Köln und gründete „phosphen“, ein interdisziplinäres Kreativstudio für „Screen, Stage and Page“, das unter anderem Musikvideos, Internetcartoons, wissenschaftliche Animationen, interaktive Installationen, Videospielfiguren, Kinderbücher, narrative Benutzeroberfläche, Lounge-Konzepte und Bühnenvideos für verschiedene Kunden realisierte. Er begann das Lehren als Student und hielt Vorträge und Workshops für: Ensad, Harvard Filmfakultät, Goldsmiths Universität London, Kunsthochschule für Medien Köln und schließlich für die UdK Berlin, wo er jetzt „audiovisuelle Konzeption und Dramaturgie“ im Studiengang „Kommunikation in sozialen und ökonomischen Kontexten“ (GWK) unterrichtet.