This essay examines Neil Taylor’s animations, situated between the moving image, performance and sculpture and in the shadows of his recognised wire-based sculptural practice. Taylor’s animations automatically inscribe the surfaces of flipbooks and note pads, (Short Lives 1980-90) cash register rolls (Roll Film 1990) and are enhanced by hand-made ‘machines’ (Copy Copy 1998) designed to shape this idiosyncratic activity. These short films are part of an avant-garde project ‘that continues to explore the physical properties of film and the nature of perceptual transactions which take place between viewer and film.’ (John Hanhardt, 1976: 44). Taylor’s practice is further placed, through Vilem Flusser’s ‘technical image’ in relation to the ascendancy of digital culture, and Pierre Bourdieu’s ‘habitus’ is used to frame both Taylor’s art and teaching practice, in order to examine the discounting of the technical classes that these fields of production consistently perform.

This essay examines Neil Taylor’s animations, situated between the moving image, performance and sculpture and in the shadows of his recognised wire-based sculptural practice. Taylor’s animations automatically inscribe the surfaces of flipbooks and note pads, (Short Lives 1980-90) cash register rolls (Roll Film 1990) and are enhanced by hand-made ‘machines’ (Copy Copy 1998) designed to shape this idiosyncratic activity. These short films are part of an avant-garde project “that continues to explore the physical properties of film and the nature of perceptual transactions which take place between viewer and film.”1

Taylor’s practice is additionally placed, through Vilem Flusser’s “technical image” in relation to the ascendancy of digital culture, and Pierre Bourdieu’s “habitus” is used to frame both Taylor’s art and teaching practice, in order to examine the discounting of the technical classes that these fields of production consistently perform.

When my Dad was projectionist with Hoyts cinemas there were always a few frames of film lying around the house, odd lengths, bits of torn film, so I’ve always understood how film works.2

Sociologist Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of the habitus refers to the deeply ingrained habits, skills, and dispositions accumulated through life experience. For Bourdieu the habitus, in conjuction with capital and in interaction with a specific cultural or professional field, produces its practice. This habitus is created through a social, rather than individual process leading to enduring patterns and transferrable between contexts. Taylor’s creative animation practice was formed, through a habitus shaped by a technical familiarity with the mechanical aspects of cinema. His implicit affinity with motion picture technology was generated through his father’s trade from an early age and re-surfaces after embarking on a fine art career, in the content of his animations.

Neil Taylor Experimental Animation

Taylor’s machine

As Zander Navarro stresses, the habitus “is not fixed or permanent, and can be changed under unexpected situations or over a long historical period”.3 Taylor’s initial familiarity with the technical aspects of cinema was further shaped through his tertiary art education, his subsequent teaching experience and the celebrated sculptural practice that then emerged. An interest in Taylor’s moving image practice, until recently eclipsed by the public profile of his distinctive sculptural work, impels this writing and reads the content of his animations as a ‘technical habitus’.

Before embarking on an in-depth discussion of this work, the following section reviews the critical reception and emergence of his successful sculptural practice, the productive accrual of what Bourdieu would descibe as Taylor’s cultural capital. For this section I rely more on the analysis of others in order to register the level of distinction attained by Taylor in an art field where his animation practice remained invisible and secondary at best. My interest in drawing connections here between Taylor and his teachers, international influences and his position within the Melbourne art scene is more biographical than analytic. The argument for the importance of Taylor’s animation practice unfolds after this summary. This background section sets the stage for the analysis of his moving image works through Bourdieu and Flusser.


In the 1960s Neil Taylor obtained a Painting Diploma, at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), chosen after initially opting for a trade course. At that point RMIT serviced the now redundant secondary technical school system within a dual system of secondary education. There was a discernible gap in prestige and distinction between RMIT and the University of Melbourne, for example, through this technical and industrial accent. Lesley Preston productively argues in her analysis of its demise that this technical school system was unjustly considered “second rate”.4

Taylor’s teachers included James Meldrum, Leonard Crawford and George Baldessin. Viewed from the outside it is possible to extrapolate influences from these teachers to Taylor’s own work. Leonard Crawford’s musical abstract paintings, influenced by Kandinsky’s Synthetic Cubism are evident in Taylor’s abstracted scrolls. George Baldessin’s drawing and printing practice suggests a starting point for Taylor’s repetitive flip book drawings, especially Baldessin’s series Occasional Images from a City Chamber (1975) for the XII São Paulo Bienal, Brazil.

Taylor’s sculptures like his Philosopher’s Chair (1985-6) of a wooden chair embedded in barbed-wire re-iterate some of the concerns of Meldrum’s surrealistic paintings of non-functional furniture. Meldrum states: “My recent art expresses organic structure and cosmic flux. My Ziggurat structures are more ‘mind monasteries’ than anything else.”5 Sarah Thomas’s review indicates that Taylor also persued “organic structures” in his practice though un-coupled from Meldrum’s explicit visionary framing:

Like the artist himself, the works speak with a gentle eloquence, prompting thoughts about the relationship between form and space, mass and volume, geometry and nature, line and structure. Not far below the geometry of their structure, however, they reveal (often in their titles) the artist’s broader humanistic concerns such as the future of the natural environment and what it means to be human.6

For Taylor, Crawford’s interest in Arnold Schoenberg’s music was formative, as was Meldrum’s teaching of technique and the gestural mark, rather than Meldrum’s paintings. Importantly, Meldrum showed Taylor a Norman Mclaren film which triggered a whole train of thought about drawing and the moving image, already implicitly understood by Taylor through his father’s technical profession. Taylor views Baldessan as less of an influence, although he notes that he had a close affinity with some of the students Baldessan had taught while teaching at Coburg Secondary College.

Taylor’s own work, moved into more conceptual realms than that of his teachers, particularly influenced by the cube-based structures of Sol LeWitt’s Minimalism and Conceptual Art and Robert Breer’s abstract and diaristic animation practice. As Robert Lindsay notes in his analysis of Taylor’s wire-mesh sculptures: “The grid as a mathematical schema, represented a cool departure from the emtionally charged rhythms of the expressionist works of the previous generations.”7 Taylor’s approach provides a focus on the technical aspects of art production, and an attention to chance events, features picked up by Bellamy and Thomas at one of his bi-annual exhibitions at Richmond’s prestiguous Niagara Galleries. Said Bellamy, “The exhibition also features a handful of objects collected by the artist from the side of the road, which he locks together ‘on the basis of the vagaries of their shape alone’.8 For Thomas, “some of Taylor’s smaller works were produced using soldering, a technique which gives a deliberately handcrafted appearance to some of the cooler geometric designs”.9

Taylor worked for eight years in the 70s as a teacher in Regional Victoria within the Technical School System, having obtained his own Secondary training at Essendon Technical School. He then taught animation for 20 years until 1998 at Rusden College which became part of Deakin University. His wire gathering demonstrated his Do-It-Yourself (DIY) approach.

Teaching art at a Gippsland school ‘where there was no money for anything, let alone art’ that introduced him to wire as a medium for sculpture. Collected from the roadside or acquired free from the newsagent, who used it for binding newspapers, wire, Taylor found, was a great material, and one he’s continued to use for more than three decades.10

Bellamy and Thomas’s reviews attest to the public recognition of Taylor’s sculptural and installation work. His sculptures are held in muliple private and public collections including the National Galleries of Australia and Victoria. The steel sculpture Theoretical Matter, measuring 304 x 390 x 320 centimetres, was installed at Heide Museum of Modern Art in 1999. Until recently his animation has been of only incidental interest. Animation and Sculpture have been considered different fields of practice.

But there has been some movement. The boundaries between these fields of practice have diminshed, partly due to the convergence of digital media. In June-July 2008 there was a retrospective of his art at the Deakin University Art Gallery, where Taylor had taught at its then Rusden Campus. His animation was also on display, to coincide with a publication on his animation work by Dan and Lienors Torre.

During September-November 2009 Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art, Taylor’s sculptures and animations featured in the exhibition Making it New: Focus on Contemporary Australian Art. One wall showcased Taylor’s public sculptures, another his compendiums and another wall was dedicated to his silent animation work. A table in the centre featured machines and tools used in his animation production, including the wooden machine built to create Roll Film.

In 2014 Copy Copy was shown in a program at Chicago’s Eyeworks Festival of Experimental Animation and featured in its touring exhibition, whilst a file of his animations played as a loop in the festival’s foyer. The Festival Program notes stated:

Notable in the Eyeworks lineup this year are films by Australian artist Neil Taylor. Though best known for his work as a sculptor, Taylor’s animation experiments from the mid-80’s through the early 90’s are a unique and fascinating body of work. His films utilize basic principles of animation in ingenious ways to explore repetition, automatic writing, human-machine collaboration, and the straying line.11

Short Lives

Neil Taylor Experimental Animation

Short Lives

Taylor’s Short Lives (1980-1990) are a series of flipbook or notepad animations collected on the run, constructed out of small abstracted motifs, dots and doodles. There are also more representational images that morph subtly in and out of abstraction. This included Joseph Bueys’ iconic image, which Ken Shepherd underscored in reviewing Taylor’s animations.12 These doodling gestures were traced and retraced, copied like automatic writing, influenced by the modular aspects of LeWitt’s sculptures. The animation focuses on error and drift inherent in this process. These accumulating approximations of repeated hand movements become the animation’s subject, its content.

Instead of using registration and tracing, I would use just pure memory- just think of a motif, draw it, redraw it and redraw it.13

At one stage I reached a total anti-animation where I was trying to draw something for as long as I could, keeping it absolutely still. I chose a very simple little grid motif. I found that with continuous drawing over a period of weeks, the more intent I was on holding that grid still, the smaller the drawings became. 14

Taylor’s art is embedded in his daily activities. The gleaning and street foraging undertaken for his ‘found’ sculptures is also evident in the chance events shaping his flip-books. These visual diaries are carried around with him in the same way that today we carry our mobile phones or tablets, out of the studio to work with nomadically on holidays and on kitchen tables. Such pre-mobile mobility enabled Taylor to embed his creativity into the rituals of everyday life. Shepherd notes the diaristic nature of this mobile form. As Shepherd summarises, “The medium offers him a means of freely documenting his visual thoughts as they occur. This partly explains the freshness of his work and the variety, and why he speaks of his pads as his diaries.”15

Taylor’s drawing practice can be read in relation to Len Lye’s kinetic animated work. For Lye “doodling” was old brain work, embracing doodling as an activity “involved learning to trust the hand to think for itself.”16 But where Lye’s interest in the kinetic potential of doodling saw him “select a doodle and start drawing and re-drawing it to see where it might lead”17 For Taylor such a process is an end in itself. Speed and repetition are critical.

Taylor’s often transgressed decision of the limiting of each ‘life’ to a single notepad filled at a single sitting is the kind of limitation often addressed by other experimental filmmakers in their work. Canadian John Porter’s super 8 films, for example, are the length of one reel of Super 8 camera film and in British filmmaker Guy Sherwin’s 3 minute long Short Film Series (1975-2014), each film is the length of one camera reel of 16mm film. At times it is such economic or equipment limitations that are imposed on and express the aesthetics of the avant-garde. Taylor’s inexpensive strategy of filling notepads is easily mobilized.

Roll Film

In film we have a case where we can experience both a changing and enduring existence- we can look at the “same” film as an object, before or after projection (and it is not a “score”; it is “the film”) and as a temporal process, while it is being “projected” on the stable support of the screen.18

Neil Taylor Experimental Animation

Roll Film

In Roll film (1989-96) Taylor draws his motifs onto paper cash register rolls, predictive of Taylor’s almost mechanical and repetitive inscriptions. The film’s optical effect is achieved by the discipline of inching the paper roll manually by hand a short prescribed length before the next drawing is registered onto the paper. These rolls are placed under the camera so that you see a number of registered marks simultaneously, not just one at a time as in Short Lives. This then creates the perceptual effect of the scroll’s movement through the frame.

A rhythm developed according to how far you advanced the film under the camera. I think it worked with an increment of about a centimeter, advancing the paper a centimeter each time. I kept that at the back of my mind while I was drawing.19

One is drawn to the changes between each image as it marches past in step with its preceeding and proceeding repetitive markings. This is similar to moving through a strip of film where we see a number of frames at once. Related effects can occur in public space when a train moves past at high speed, for example. In Roll Film we not only engage with a metamorphosis of the individual image as in Short Lives but with its field of change.

Though silent, Taylor’s films impart musicality. “I’m breaking drawing down into percussive gestures”.20 Materially the paper rolls further suggest a musical score, reminiscent of those player piano rolls or those punctured scrolls that generate music on street organs. The films evoke an architecural space, a combination of field and movement also experienced with pre-cinema optical toys such as the late 19th century praxiniscope and zoetrope.

The short animation The Caketrope of Burton’s Team (Alexandre Dubosc, 2012), constructed as a spinning cake, works similarly to the three-dimensional zoetrope. Here the strobe is replaced by a photographed image of the cake at a slightly advanced rotation or angle for each frame. The abstracted nature of the repetitions are closer aesthetically to the repeating animation strips Taylor constructs in Roll Film. Taylor has spent as much time deliberating and constructing of his machine as Dubosc, but once begun his inscriptions are less deliberate, more reactionary than Dubosc’s digital construction, performed more like a musical instrument.

On watching Roll Film I am always left with an enduring memory of paper rolls wound up and standing upright. This is its integrative impact on my senses and thinking. Though abstract in its presentation and its opticality the film is remembered as a materially ‘real’ sculpture. This describes the perceptual impact of Taylor’s material and physical practice on memory and dissolves the boundaries between his sculptural and animation practices.

Copy Copy

It is this twentieth century concept: the mechanism, the machine coming into the sensibility, animations or films actually being machines that you sit in on. It’s a kind of metaphor. You get processed by this machine called ‘cinema’. In the end you are unconscious of what you’re doing.21

Neil Taylor Experimental Animation

Copy Copy

With Taylor’s machine you remain conscious. It is the process of inscription, of writing itself, laid bare. The concept of the programming ‘apparatus’ is at the core of Copy Copy (1998). For the film Taylor built an inching machine that moves the paper roll forward to allow a further “trace” to be applied instantaneously. Such a programmed “writing of images” takes up Frampton’s suggestion for the “construction of a machine, very much like film, more efficient than language, that might, entering into direct competition with language, transcend its speed, abstraction, compactness”22 Taylor’s machine performs like a rudimentary computer, a calculating machine for processing micro-gesture.

My most recent machine is this paper transport mechanism. It’s a protype. I make a mark on each frame of paper as it pulls through. Once the entire roll has gone through, then I pull it back and start again, and keep repeating.23

Through repeating machine ‘pull-throughs’ the image is layered and built up. A dialogue develops between each strand, each additional layer adding complexity and form. For its construction Taylor imagined drawing on film as it moved through the camera gate, slowing down the claws that grab and move the film through the gate, so that a drawing could register. This prototype was build to meet this imagined need. The inching of Taylor’s prototype is a slowed down articulation of the inching claw in the camera and the projector that normally moves the frame on at 24 frames a second to create the optical illusion of persistence of vision.

Neil Taylor Experimental Animation

Neil Taylor Experimental Animation

Though markedly slower than film moving through a projector or camera gate, Taylor’s machine still requires a quick hand. His prototype automatically inches the roll on at different speeds, disciplining the hand to inscribe through a range of micro-moments. There is little or no time for reflection on what shape this repetition will be. The drawing strategy must arise and surface out of the continual repetitive pre-reflective performance of the hand (software). Any reflective thought and planning has been pre-built into the architecture of the machine itself (hardware). Taylor has noted that in this situation a kind of muscle memory takes hold.

Robert Breer addressed a similar issue to speed up his animation process. Breer built a special register which would hold his animated cards under his rostrum camera in such a way that they could be moved in and out of place in a flash.

The idea that Taylor’s films’ designs have been hard-wired into his machine’s architecture bring to mind LeWitt’s definition of conceptual art:

When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art. This kind of art is not theoretical or illustrative of theories; it is intuitive, it is involved with all types of mental processes and it is purposeless.24

Taylor’s insciptions are indeed intuitive and critically source the Situational Memory System25 But is it purposeless? Certainly transitions from analog to digital technologies and changes in the education system can be critically read through it. In the following sections I mobilise Vilem Flusser’s critique of digital technology and Pierre Bourdieu’s analysis of western education and art practices to make inroads into such a reading.

The Technical Image

Given the positioning of Taylor’s machine somewhere between the production line and computer processing, his analogue practice is strategically situated in relation to the contemporary proliferation of digital media. His grid sculptures are material equivalents to the kind of grid structures produced in 3-D animation software like Maya and 3D Studio Max. The forms explored in some of Taylor’s early grid experiments or animation tests constructed on the Amiga computer, and also available in Short Lives, relate back to such grid sculptures, LeWitt’s cubes and reference computer designed ‘technical images’ created through programs such as Flash, Illustrator, Photoshop and TVPaint.

Taylor’s drawings and a computer’s generated images both fulfill Vilem Flusser’s conception of the technical image. For Flusser “technical images are meaningful surfaces. Created by programs, they are dependent on the laws of technology and the natural sciences.”26 Through the conditions and restrictions he programs into his ‘apparatus’, Taylor enables the technologies enlisted to leave their trace through stuttering micro body gestures. Pre-digital technical images, that never-the-less retain some digital ‘trace’ are harvested through this process. Flusser states, “ontologically traditional images mean phenomena, while technical images mean concepts.”27 Like all technical images, Taylor’s communicate a “concept”: “the subject of the films was drawing, itself, and how animating over extended periods affects us.”28

There is a critical difference between the analog copy and the digital clone that Taylor materialises. Where the computer clones its copies ‘perfectly’ at the speed of light, the focus of Taylor’s work becomes the copy’s imperfections, imparted through the body’s attitude and mood, which shifts over time through exhaustion, anebreation and hypervigilance. The drift that Taylor’s machine and his pre-reflective automatic writing performs is not available in computer reproduction in the same way. Yet the speed of his machine somehow responds to, or comments on the ever increasing speed of digital information flow, and invites us to acknowledge the difference between information and a body-centred knowledge. Taylor can never inscribe at the speed of light, no matter how hard he physically tries.

In Mike Hoolboom’s film Modern Times (1991), Hoolboom steals an image from Charles Chaplin’s film of the same name, where Chaplin is caught in the machinery of industry. The way Hoolboom uses this transforms Chaplin’s body into a strip of film moving through the camera and its gate. I imagine Taylor’s body similarly, but inside a computer chip with a frenetic stuttering hand, increasingly turning his body into a catatonic blur.

For Flusser the proliferation of technical images has become an uncritical a-historical immersive plague: ‘The universe of technical images, as it is about to establish itself around us, poses itself as the plenitude of our times, in which all actions and passions turn in eternal repetition.’29

Lev Manovich has observed how the avant-garde techniques to which Taylor subscribes have been domesticated behind the computer screen. The “avant-garde became materialised in a computer”.30 Computer editing post production software offers an array of filter and style buttons than can be applied to any moving image sequence. The digital ‘technical image’ has become endlessly hypermalleable with its critical capacity consequently emasculated. The game has changed. Probing Taylor’s practice allows us to critically and historically analyse these shifts.


Is Taylor’s habitus, formed through his father’s profession, his own education and teaching, made physically evident through his animation practice’s perceptual performance? His practice foregrounds an immediate pre-conscious drawing process that normally remains hidden in industrial animation. For Tatlor, “the industrial process does not fit the personalised artisan concept.”31 Taylor’s machine is like an ouija board, not to be used in a game to conjure up the spirits of the dead, but to lay bare the artist’s habitus, that unconscious cluster of habits and dispositions formed and tended through his art-making and teaching practice to generate cultural capital.

The social impact of his consequent DIY teaching also impacted Taylor’s animation practice. Entering secondary teaching after his tertiary training and its “involvement with idealistic concepts was quite a shock. You needed to have an enormous variety of media. That’s when I started using wire…. When we obtained a Super-8 camera I started working with them on animation.”32 When Taylor began teaching at Rusden he built up a dialectic between animation and sculpture. He said, “I would be talking and thinking animation again. It would take over for at least half of the year, after which I would drift back into sculpture.” 33

Bourdieu’s34 habitus is determined through a temporal interplay between past and present events. Where Taylor describes the open-endedness and impulsiveness of his practice he sketches his habitus’s field of operation:

It’s the engagement in the process, the excitement and the interest in what is actually evolving, and the open-endedness of it all that I’ve found beguiling.35

He continues,

…make a mark and that mark could develop and evolve without the need for some noble or high level of content to pursue and illustrate. That gave incredible license to go with the impulse; and once the impulse starts, one very quickly formulates a conceptual framework within which it can operate: this framework becomes the rules of the game. 36

The habitus is created and reproduced unconsciously, “without any deliberate pursuit of coherence… without any conscious concentration”37 Taylor conjures this unconscious through rote repetition and the incorporation of chance events: “My inspiration is in the animation itself rather than wishing to animate any particular content.”38 This reflexivity re-produces Robert Breer’s approach, where “the hat should be transparent and show the rabbit”.39 Breer’s method of short abstracted stanzas of hand-drawn animation culled from daily life, and the continual incorporation of chance events throughout the production process have influenced Taylor’s practice. Like Taylor, Breer entered animation through painting. Animation was mobilized as a tool to record Breer’s abstract paintings’ metamorphosis. For Taylor:

I had a problem that I could never finish paintings. There was always a new level of imagination. I could keep working: the process could never just stop. So the painting would follow idea after idea- which in turn seemed a forecast towards animation, of a process-based work, rather than a finished object.40

Taylor’s problem of not finishing has become the subject of his animation practice, which performs and comments on the relentless flux of information flow and its body impact.

The Education System

Taylor’s path through the Victorian secondary and tertiary education systems and his functioning within them co-incides with emphatic structural changes that shut down the Technical Schools in which Taylor had been trained and taught. Lesley Preston points out that the technical system was considered mediocre to the high school system:

Despite the academic and social class stereotyping that classified them as second rate, secondary technical schools survived and evolved until the 1980s – when the Labor Party, the same political party that in 1930 preserved their existence – brought about their demise. 41

Preston consequently witnessed the dismantling of Shepparton South Technical School first hand:

Many children channelled into secondary school, then university in the 1960-70s became ‘professionals’. As university graduates replaced working class politicians, their assumption that ‘brains’ were superior to ‘hands’ resulted in the downgrading of technical schools, and forced all young people to aspire to qualify for university entrance. 42

An Education Minister in a Labor Government, Joan Kirner exemplified this shift, successfully homogenised the education system despite spirited resistance.43 Kirner was a parent activist; schooled through Aberfeldie State School, Penleigh Presbyterian Ladies College and University High School, graduating from the University of Melbourne in 1958, and subsequently teaching in a Technical School for eighteen months. She implemented views expressed in the 1984 Blackburn Report: “the early division of young people into academic and practical courses must be challenged on the basis of its inconsistency with open options, democracy, and the changed nature of the work force”.44 Kirner pronounced that there would be “no such thing as technical schools and high schools to divide and layer students after 1 January 1990”.45 For Preston “the homogenisation of the secondary system did not put into place the sustainable alternatives offered by the previous dual system.”46 The amalgamation

ignored progress achieved, restricted diversity by eliminating the dual system in favour of one homogenised system of education, disadvantaged academic underachievers, and overemphasised the role schools play as agents of equality.47

Edward Body documented similar developments within the New Zealand education sector: “What the development of equal education opportunity did not do was eliminate long-held prejudice in the community against technical schools.”48 For Bourdieu the education sector functions not to bring about equality between the practices of the ruling and technical classes but to reproduce the culture of the dominant class. Ironically Kirner’s dismantling amply demonstrates Bourdieu’s following thesis:

The school is in fact the institution which, by its positively irreproachable verdicts, transforms socially conditioned inequalities in matters of culture into inequalities of success, interpreted as inequalities of talent, which are also inequalities of merit.49

A decade later former Shepparton South Technical School teacher Ray MacDonald lamented this loss and its impact on a generation of boys:

It’s a shame that the young people are not being given the opportunity to develop their physical project skills that we found were the strength of the former technical systems. It used to get students interested in practical areas of work, and now there’s nothing for them there and we wonder why they lose interest in their school and have got problems. 50

As Preston notes, “the loss of the Victorian techs evoked deep personal trauma for a great many students and teachers, in addition to what is now a cause for public redress and regret.” 51

Neil Taylor Experimental Animation

Taylor’s wire sculptures

Taylor’s practice survived this demolition, migrating succesfully into the tertiary sector and high art. His wire based sculptures have participated with success in Niagara Art Gallery’s Biannual exhibition program and he features in its stable of supported artists.

In Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste (1984), Bourdieu links taste in art to social class, shaped through the culturally deep-rooted habitus described earlier. An upper-class individual’s taste for fine art has been hard-wired from childhood, whilst a working class youth’s access to art is traditionally restrictive, resulting in a habitus generally unsuitable to the art game. Yet Taylor’s technically grounded habitus and practice proved capable of attracting merit within that game at a time of technological transition from analog to digital media.

This distinction has been achieved, however, at the expense of the demise of the education system that produced it. His sculptures and animations can be considered as an aesthetic trace of that technical practice excised from the secondary education sector in Victoria under a banner of equal opportunity and in the service of an aspirational technical class in search of a white collar identity.

What remains available in Taylor’s practice is a critical language that can be mobilised to unpack the impact of the “technical image” on everyday life. This is an important consideration as those forces that excised a body-centred ‘hands-on’ moving image practice out of secondary education now wreak havoc in the tertiary sector. Why this is happening at a time when the ability to speak critically through imagery within mainstream culture is essential will need to be discussed at another time but can, no doubt, be productively framed through Bourdieu’s profoundly lucid analysis of cultural production.

This article has been peer reviewed.



  1. John Hanhardt, “The Medium Viewed: The American Avant-Garde Film”, in A History of American Avant-Garde Cinema (New York, American Federation of the Arts, 1976), p. 44.
  2. “Neil Taylor Interview” in Australian Animation: Neil Taylor, eds. Lienors and Dan Torre (Melbourne: Cinematic Seedlings, 2008), p 5.
  3. Zander Navarro, “In Search of Cultural Interpretation of Power”, IDS Bulletin 37:6 (2006), p. 16.
  4. Lesley Preston, “Second Rate? Reflections on South Tech and Secondary Technical Education 1960-90”, Doctoral thesis, Faculty of Education, The University of Melbourne 2005.
  5. Quoted in Arthur McIntyre, “The Plight of the Mature Metaphysical Painter,” The Age 14 May 1987, p.14.
  6. Sarah Thomas, “Neil Taylor”, Artlink 25:3 (September 2005).
  7. Robert Lindsay, “Sequence and Pattern; The Art of Neil Taylor”, in Neil Taylor: In Review (Melbourne: Deakin University Art Gallery, 2008).
  8. Louise Bellamy, “Its All in the Wiring’ The Age 6 April 2005.
  9. Thomas, Ibid.
  10. Bellamy, Ibid.
  11. Eyeworks Festival of Experimental Animation, Chicago 2014, program notes.
  12. Ken Shepherd, “Film as Movement is Drawing Realized,” Cantrills Filmnotes 63/64 (December 1990) pp. 10-12.
  13. Taylor, 2008, p. 7.
  14. Taylor, 2008, p. 8.
  15. Shepherd, Ibid., p.10.
  16. Roger Horrocks, Len Lye A biography (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2001), p. 104.
  17. Horrocks, Ibid., p. 105.
  18. Paul Sharits, “Postscript as Preface, January 1973”, Film Culture, 65/66 (1978) pp. 1-6.
  19. Taylor, 2008, p.10.
  20. Ibid, p.21.
  21. Ibid.
  22. Hollis Frampton, “Film in the House of the Word,” in Circles of Confusion: Film, Photography, Video: Texts 1968-1980 (Rochester, New York, Visual Studies Workshop Press,1983), p. 85.
  23. Taylor, 2008, p.13.
  24. Sol LeWitt, “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art”, 5.10 Artforum (Summer 1967), p. 80.
  25. C. Brewin, “Memory Processes in Post-traumatic Stress Disorder”, International Review of Psychiatry, 13 (2001): pp. 159-63.
  26. Andreas Ströhl (ed.) Vliem Flusser: Writings (Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 2004), p. xxiii.
  27. Vilem Flusser, Towards A Philosophy of Photography (London: Reaktion, 2000), p.14.
  28. Neil Taylor, “Short Lives and Roll Film”, Cantrill’s Filmnotes (1990), p. 15.
  29. Flusser, Op. Cit., p. 20.
  30. Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2001), p.307.
  31. Taylor, 2008, p.7.
  32. Ibid, p.6.
  33. Ibid, p.7.
  34. Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste (London: Routledge, 1984), p. 170.
  35. Taylor, 2008, p.18.
  36. Ibid, p.22.
  37. Bourdieu, 1984, p. 170.
  38. Taylor, 2008, p.21.
  39. Robert Breer, “Letter from Robert Breer to Jonas Mekas, 5/25/70”, Film Culture, 56-57 (Spring 1973), p. 70.
  40. Taylor, 2008, p.7.
  41. Preston, 2005, p.22.
  42. Preston, 2005, p.232.
  43. Johnson, 1993, p.70.
  44. J. Blackburn, “Ministerial Review of Postcompulsory Schooling”, Discussion Paper (Melbourne: Education Department, 1984), p.35.
  45. Joan Kirner, Victorian Parliamentary Debates, Equal Opportunity in Education, 394, 23 May 1989, p. 1754.
  46. Preston, 2005, p.9.
  47. Preston, 2005, p.136.
  48. Edward, J Body, Gone: A Study of the Demise of Technical High Schools in New Zealand. Thesis (Palmerston North: Massey University, 2010), p.1.
  49. Pierre Bourdieu, A. Darbel and D. Schnapper, D (1991) The Love of Art : European Art Museums and their Public; trans. by C. Beattie. C and N. Merriman (Cambridge : Polity, 1991), p.111.
  50. Ray MacDonald interview quoted in Preston, 2005 p.237.
  51. Preston, 2005, p.9.

About The Author

Dirk de Bruyn has been practicing, writing and curating in the area of experimental film and animation for over 35 years. He is currently teaching Animation and Digital Culture at Deakin University in Melbourne, Victoria (Burwood Campus).

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