Displacement of self-continuity

An heuristic inquiry into identity transition in a 3D motion capture-based animated narrative short film

This practice-led artistic research considers how a fictional allegory might be employed to examine issues of acculturation, displacement, and identity transition. The animated short film Stella is designed to serve as a provocative vehicle for considering the social implications of identity loss and transition

Methodologically, the project is shaped by a heuristic inquiry. Inside this journey, the researcher generates a narrative that draws upon experience and theory. The artist creates an experimental animation in which the self of the artist is investigated through iterations of creative explorations. These experimental explorations not only span the conceptual and storytelling side of the creative process but also touch upon technological achievements.

In this process a relationship results that elevates both the self (the writer/director/animator) and the body of knowledge, through the process of making and reflection. Beyond its contribution to understanding processes and implications of acculturation, displacement and identity transition, the project’s technological significance lies in its propensity to extend the application and demonstrate the potential of performance capture, using motion capture technology, 3D laser scanning and photogrammetry.

This heuristic research utilises technology to convey multifaceted concepts, and eventually takes the form, through artistic practice, of an animated short film called Stella. The film considers issues related to identity transition and liminality. The inquiry considers what happens if a constantly changing environment severs an individual’s thread to the past and proposes another future. Thus, in the film we encounter characters who must navigate individual and interfacing journeys during which they attempt to sustain their temporally persistent sense of self-continuity, in order to perceive themselves as the same person. As a former computer graphics and visual effects artist, Hossein Najafi incorporates recent technical advancements like motion capture and photogrammetry into the process of creating Stella.

This is a practice-led research, where the researcher employs practice as both an agent of questioning and discovery. A dynamic exists between theory and practice, such that while engaged in practice, the researcher both shapes work and is shaped by unexpected questioning and discoveries. The research calls theory to itself and theory is questioned and shaped within one’s practice. Najafi argues that, as a consequence, theory merges with the self through an embodiment that invigorates and revitalizes the inner voice.

The animated short film Stella considers issues related to identity transition and liminality. The inquiry asks what happens if a constantly changing environment severs an individual’s thread with the past and proposes another future. It traces Stella and her mother’s journey through a dynamic environment where they are expected to paint themselves again and again so they can progress into increasingly rewarded ‘lives’. Stella’s ‘collective self’ becomes incrementally less able to function by simply using values established in previous networks.

In this state, we see her navigating the ‘transition phase’ where she feels lost and disconnected. Her behaviour may be likened to a reformatting of previous networks of social identities where the individual constantly updates a constant referential identification.


Editor Text goes here

Centre for Design Research
Te Kura Toi a Hoahoa
School of Art and Design

Te Wānanga Aronui o Tāmaki Makau Rau,
Auckland University of Technology


Susan Hedges susan.hedges@aut.ac.nz
Mandy Smith mandy.smith@aut.ac.nz

Authors are responsible for obtaining permission to publish images or illustrations with their papers in CDR; neither editors nor publishers of CDR accept responsibility for any author’s/authors’ failure to do so.

© Centre for Design Research, AUT University 2021