Transcending the surface: The animated line between Benjamin, Eisenstein and early animation | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 3, Issue 1-2
  • ISSN: 2042-7875
  • E-ISSN: 2042-7883



Relating two essays by Benjamin (‘Painting and the graphic arts’ and ‘On painting, or sign and mark’, both from 1917) with Eisenstein’s ‘The dynamic square’ (1930), this article proposes that the drawn line of early animation transcended the surface to challenge established modes of perception at a time of important social and cultural changes.

Benjamin addressed the ‘sphere of the sign’, specifically the meaning of the line within it, and established the difference between horizontal and vertical display (graphic and art work), highlighting the accomplishment of the work of art’s ‘inner meaning’. Eisenstein’s text, presented when the cinema industry was debating the introduction of the wide-screen, questioned the screen and frame proportions.

Relating Benjamin’s ‘magical properties of the line’, Eisenstein’s questioning of the frame and animated film references, this article will trace an approach to the essence of the line as a metaphysical element of transcendence and ‘deterritorialization’ (Klein 1993), suggesting that, in the process that takes the drawing from paper to screen, the lines accomplish their ‘meaning’; and become a projection of an ideal of liberation of body and frame, challenging its limits.


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