Seule la main... 2008 René Jodoin Songs and Dances from the Inanimate World L'expression instrumentale UC Davis Berlin John Cage Praha-Florenc Special Forces Éblouissement d'Icare André Martin Nathalie Sarraute Rodrigue Jean Basmati FNC Buenos Aires Free Radicals Tropismes Fred Frith cycles décallés improvisation Halifax Victoriaville Jean Detheux Beirut installation vidéo Robert Marcel Lepage Max Lieux et monuments Mingan Rivière au Tonnerre Toi la Mordore Casa Obscura Place Carnot Pierre Juneau Chloé Op Hop New York Duplicity O Picasso - tableaux d'une surexposition Jitter Home René Lussier Karl Lemieux Filature Living Cinema NFB Fantômes Henri Meschonnic 2007 Triptyque O Picasso Perugia Double négatif The Subway 49 Flies Blu Variations sur deux photographies de Tina Modotti Agamben Len Lye dessins Le métro reloaded Solo la mano... Festival du nouveau Cinéma gravure sur pellicule en direct San Francisco «49 Flies» Photographies Herqueville Rendez-vous du cinéma québécois Muto documentaire Exercices d'animation Georges Didi-Huberman

Monday 29 March 2010

The "Only the hand..." video installation

ONLY THE HAND…

Video installation by Pierre Hébert

A celebration of the multiplicity of languages and of the possibility of “translation”.

The installation

To this date, the installation was shown once, in the Norman McLaren exhibition hall of the Cinémathèque québécoise in Montreal, from December 3 to 21 2009. It consisted in the simultaneous projection of twelve versions, in twelve different languages, of the “Only the hand…” performance which is a live animation performance where I animate the sentence Only the hand that erases can write the true thing (more details follow about this). The languages were: English, French, Italian, Dutch, Yiddish, Portuguese, Lakota, Paiute, Romanesco, Romagnolo, Ojibway and Innu. There were four screens side by side on three walls of the space. The different versions were placed from left to right in chronological order so that beyond the multiplicity of languages it did give evidence to an evolution in time in the way of approaching the animation of the words and to a geographical circulation in order to do each performance in countries were the language was spoken. The date, location and language were identified under each of the screens. The installation repeated itself every 35 minutes and it played with a music track by Stefan Smulovitz.

I was very happy with the way the installation was put up at la Cinémathèque québécoise in a single quite large space (approx 12 meters wide, 24 meters long and 6 meters high) but I can see that the spatial distribution of the different screens, the number of screens (there can be more than twelve, or less but there should be at least six of them for it to be meaningful), and the choice of languages will vary as the project develops and depending on the configuration of the spaces were it will be shown. This is all to be evaluated in every specific situation.

It would be quite natural, I think, to accompany the installation with the presentation of a performance in a new language spoken locally, which would then be included in the language mix of the installation. There are other possibilities of performances (like a Living Cinema performance with my colleague Bob Ostertag - http://pierrehebert.com/index.php/2008/07/07/53-living-cinema-special-forces) if it is wished. There is also the possibility of presenting a program of my films as a complement to the installation.

Technical requirements.

I imbedded two images on each DVD, so to have twelve versions of the performance on the walls, only six video projectors were needed (two projectors projecting on each of the walls) and six DVD players. The DVD players needed to be synchronized in some way. To be more precise, every time the installation starts a new cycle (more or less every 36 minutes), the six DVD players must start simultaneously. It does not need to be synchronized while it runs – over a 36 minutes period, the discrepancies between the different players cannot be a problem. But if the little differences accumulate over a full day of playing, then it would become problematic. Some rigs are needed to suspend the video projectors from the ceiling. Appropriate cabling is needed depending where the projectors and the DVD readers are located. The brightness of the different projectors should be the same, but the adjustment between the different images is just moderately critical since all the sources were created in sometimes very different conditions, and those differences are part of the concept of the piece. In Montreal, we used 3000 lumens projectors, but the space was large and so were the projecting surfaces.

There are other technical options than the synchronized DVD players used in Montreal. I am currently assessing the possibility of playing the tracks from solid state media players using SD memory cards, which would give better images (including HD format if the appropriate projectors are available) and which would make the whole set-up more reliable. If this is confirmed as a valid solution, I would considerer acquiring all the necessary players so that the venue would have to only supply the video projectors.

Actual screens are not needed; it is better to project on a white wall. The size and the height of the images depend on the configuration of the space. The adjacent images must be precisely fitted so that their adjacent sides touch each other. A stereo sound system is needed to play the music track, which is read, from one of the DVD’s. The space must remain dark with just a little light in the central area so that the visitors find their way when the images become totally black.

See the VIDEO, visit the gallery.

History of the project: the “Only the hand…” performance.

The “Only the hand…” project started in Vancouver in February 2007 when I was invited as a visiting artist at the Emily Carr University of Art and Design. At this occasion, an evening of image and music improvisation was organized and I played in duet with a Vancouver musician, Stefan Smulovitz. I choose to work from a sentence that shortly before had been brought to my attention by a French friend: Only the hand that erases can write the true thing. My friend knew very well that this sentence would interest me for many reasons: the fact that it expresses itself in the form of a paradox and also the fact that that it centers on the gesture of erasing which had become a key element of my live animation performances. He had heard about “the sentence” during a conference given by professor Carlo Ossola of Collège de France, in Paris. This sentence is sometimes attributed to the German mystic Master Eckhart but actually its origin remains obscure and contested. At any rate, this idea of associating truth and erasing has a very ancient history. Traces of it are found a bit everywhere, in the Gospels, in Dante amongst others. Beyond the austere mystical undertones of this sentence, what interested me fist and foremost in it was its precise relationship with my workflow when I do live improvised animation, alternately drawing and erasing. The animated movement cannot appear without the action of erasing. It also interested me because it relates the question of truth to very physical actions that put the body into motion (writing and erasing), and not just to the act of “saying the truth”. It seemed to me that the impossibility to attribute this sentence to any single author did authorized me to give it a meaning that suited my needs, without necessarily discarding all of the possible historical interpretation of it. I did the first performance in the English language. The following performances were in French (Seule la main qui efface peut écrire la vérité) in Toronto, Beirut, Montreal and Chicoutimi. In Beirut, I regretted not having done the necessary preparatory work to be able to do it in Arabic. Nevertheless, this planted in my mind the idea of taking advantage of all of the occasions that would permit me to do the performance in as many languages as possible. This is how it became a major project for me. Also, the fact of associating the austere theme of erasing carried by the sentence to the burgeoning abundance of virtually all the languages of mankind allowed me to add another layer of paradox and to give a less unilateral value to the whole enterprise: to advent, truth must not only face the exercise of taking away all superfluities, but also engage itself in the infinite repetition in all the idioms of mankind. So the “Only the hand...” performance became not only a celebration of the multiplicity of languages but also a celebration of the very possibility of “translation” which is a fundamental condition of the existence of “mankind”. I still had to decide what I would do with this series of performance (obviously, I did a video capture of each of them). I considered releasing them as a DVD collection, but it quickly appeared absurd. I finally came to think that the simultaneous viewing of different versions in the form of a video installation would create a vaster dynamic and visual ensemble and would make the point much more strongly and much more clearly. What makes this visually interesting is, on the one hand, the fact that all the performances were constructed around the same structure (a structure that came with the inner organization of the sentence itself and also with Stefan Smulovitz's music which I used in every performance) and, on the second hand, the fact that they all are quite different because of the difference of languages and of the variations in timing, accentuation and visual construction. So when it was technically possible, I began to do the performances with a three screens setup (two previous versions being shown on each of the side screens, and the new one on the center). This was the beginning of the transformation of the performance into a video installation project. By December 2009, I had accumulated twelve versions in twelve different languages. As already mentioned, I performed it in English and several times in French, I did it in Italian, in May 2008, in the village of Macchiagodena, south east of Rome and at ZOCulture in Catania (Solo la mano che cancela puo scrivere la verita). On January 29 2009, I performed the Dutch (Flemish) version (Enkel de hand die uitwist kan de waarheid schrijven) at the Vooruit in Gent. On February 4 2009, I performed a Yiddish version in Paris at Théâtre de la Vieille Grille (Nor di hant vos ken oysmenk di ken shraybn dem emes). On February 6 2009, I performed it in Portuguese at the Faculdade de Belas Artes de Lisboa (FBAUL) in Lisbon (Só a mão que apaga pode dizer a verdade) and on February 14, I performed a North American native language version (the Lakota language - nape kin lece hena pajuju wowicake he okihi owa) at performance Works in Vancouver. On April 20, I performed it in the Paiute language spoken in Nevada (Emi kaahemá katoo myuk’u, key hemá nomy yow qua) at the University of California in Davis. On September 29, I did a Romanesco version (the traditionnal vernacular idiom of Rome) at the INIT Club, in Rome (solo a mano che cancella po scrive a verita), and on October 4, a Romagnolo version (the traditional idiom of Romagna) at Area Sismica in Meldola (Sol la man c’la scanzèle po scrivar la vérité). On October 30, at the Cinematheque of the Winnipeg Film Group, I did an Ojibway version (mininj eta gaa-gaasii'ang odaa-ozhibii'aan debwewang). The last language of the installation, the Innu language spoken by a First Nation living in Quebec (muku mititshi ka kashinimatshet tshi ui uitam tapueunu), was performed at La Cinémathèque Québécoise on December 4 and was readily included in the first version of the installation that was shown from December 3 to 21 in the Norman McLaren exhibition hall.

Notes about the “Only the hand…” sentence and animation cinema.

(What follows is just one section of a number of texts where I try to draw on the writings of the French critic and theoretician of animation, André Martin, to define my own approach to cinema. This series of texts which, for now, exists only in French, can be found on my web site: http://pierrehebert.com/index.php/2009/03/13/117-l-expression-instrumentale-et-la-pensee-d-andre-martin)

I believe that what interests me most in the sentence of “Only the hand…” (Only the hand that erases can write the true thing) is the fact that I could extract this title. “Only the hand…” from it, that finally has a value of its own. But I can say this only after the fact. When the conference of Professor Ottola was reported to me, what attracted me was the fact that through the paradoxical association of truth and the action of erasing, this sentence described what I do cyclically when I do live animation with dry erase felt pens (draw-erase-draw-erase etc.) and thus constituted a potential statement in regard to animation.

A whole constellation of meanings is vibrating around this connection between “erasing” and “writing the truth”. “Erasing” could refer to purifying, removing the superfluities so that only remains the essential, the truth. In a more radical way, it could mean that there is truth only when everything has been erased, that is to say that truth is the emptiness, the ground zero of all human activity, when all contraries are cancelled. It could also all be transported in the domain of potentialities, then we could understand “Only the hand that can erase, can write the true thing” which implies that truth is possible only for the hand that has the empowerment of the inverse action, and pushing even further, that truth is only a potentiality, to be able to write the truth as much as to prefer not to…(like Bartleby) – this is the one I like best. Or again, it could be understood that the effacement of all past discourses is necessary to the appearance of truth, a sort of tabula rasa, the emergence of something radically new (which is not the same thing as the mystical purification of the superfluities.

In all cases, it is a game with emptiness. This reminds me of the famous sentence of Norman McLaren describing animation (and not forgetting the meaningful erasure that most of the time is forgotten when the sentence is quoted):

  • Animation is not the art of DRAWINGS-that-move but the art of MOVEMENTS-that-are-drawn.
  • What happens between each frame is much more important than what exists on each frame.
  • Animation is therefore the art of manipulating the invisible (that) interstices that lie between frames.

As I developed it in another text (Corps, langage, technologie, Les 400 coups 2006, p. 110), the “that” that was crossed out on the manuscript note that was pinned on McLaren’s bulletin board (the French critic André Martin saw it in the 50’s and got it reproduced in the French cinema magazine Cinema 57 – number 14) shows that McLaren came very close to describe animation as “the art of manipulating the invisible that lies between frames”, literally as a game with emptiness. This is more or less what the purged sentence says but in a less radical way.

In repositioning the sentence in the context of the material proliferation of images (this is inherent to animation, the effacement is never definitive, rather a transitory and recurrent phase in a chain of actions – to draw, to erase – which allows to induct the animated flow), another layer of paradox appears that acts as a counterweight to an interpretation in terms mystical purification of superfluities. This has a similar value as the proliferation of languages that came later in the process. I don’t mean to abolish the constellation of meanings that surrounds this sentence, quite the contrary, but to avoid any unilateral interpretation and to set it in a new unexpected context where its center of gravity shifts. Consequently, the action of erasing appears as the condition of the illusory movement of animation. Through “the manipulation of the invisible”, it then occupies the fugitive position of “truth”. This, in the same time, gives a material weight to the meaning of the sentence and adds a philosophical resonance to the act of animating. At first glance, it is a description of my specific way of animation (with dry erase felt pens) but it also says something more general about animation, which is also what is at stake in my performances as well as in the installation.

It all refers to a conception and practice of animation through the constant destruction of the previous state of things versus the conception centered on the fluid preservation of the appearance of continuity. In effect, there are, historically, animation techniques that proceed effectively through erasure, elimination, partial or total destruction of the preceding phases in the succession images that makes possible the synthetic emergence of motion. It is the case, for example, with animation that uses paper cutouts, puppets, objects, paint on glass, charcoal or pastel, etc. Opposite to this constellation of destructive techniques, stands the classical technique of cartoons (cell animation) were the successive drawings keep their material existence, which is essential to the division of labor between key drawings and in-betweens and allows for a precise verification of the fluidity of motion even before shooting. Thus the feel of “danger” (to use André Martin’s expression, “the dangers of animation”) and adventure inherent to the destructive techniques is avoided.

It is remarkable that the destructive techniques were diversely used through history, first in the formative years of cinema where they were dominant, just before being brushed aside by the technical standardization brought about by the development of large industrial animation studios, then at the moment of the creative explosion of modern animation, just after World War II, as theorized by André Martin under the vocable “animation cinema” («cinema d’animation»). But, even if this bipartition of techniques is historically detectable and bears the potentiality of the radical conception of animation that lies behind the “only the hand…” sentence, we cannot conclude that the adhesion to a radical understanding of “the idea of animation” necessarily follows from the practice of this or that technique.

Often times, the adepts of destructive techniques have also invented for themselves gizmos and crutches in order to avoid the dangers of discontinuities and preserve the conditions of fluid motion, and embrace the party of the continuous. To the contrary, in an important article in Cinema 65, André Martin shows how John Hubley, mobilizing all the know how of the classical Disney animation, accepts the discontinuous radicalism of the “frame by frame” principle of animation by developing his style around the “flimsies” stage of animation (in the large animation studios, the “flimsies” stage was the first step of the process where only rough drawings on paper exist, full of imperfections, before the steps of extreme polishing that lead to the final rendering on celluloid).

In short, the “Only the hand…” sentence, by asserting the role of the hand and of erasure as a condition of truth, points toward the radicalism of “the idea of animation” when it is considered from the angle of its radically discontinuous structure. By this, it designates the rarefied and ascetic essence of animation when all superfluities are set aside, its truth – and by extension the truth of cinema.

PIERRE HÉBERT (Filmmaker and multidisciplinary artist)

CURRICULUM VITAE

Born in Montreal, January 19 1944.

Studies: Classical course: Externat classique St-Viateur (1955-1962). Baccalaureate in anthropology, University of Montreal, (1962-1965).

Employed by The National Film Board of Canada as an animation film director (1965-1999). Producer and Studio Director, French Animation Studio (1997-1999). Independent artist since January 2000. President of the board, Cinémathèque québécoise (1993-1996). Teaching: Fine Arts School of Montreal (1968), Laval University (1974-1978), University of Montreal (1975-1978), and different master classes in Switzerland, Italy, Lebanon and Belgium.

Website : : http://pierrehebert.com

Main awards

2004 Albert Tessier award (Quebec Government cinema award for lifetime achievement). For Between science and garbage, special mention of the jury at the FCMM, CALQ award for artistic creation at les Rendez-vous du cinéma québécois 2004. For La Plante humaine, Sodec-Aqcc Award for the best Quebec feature in1996, Cinéma Award of l’Office des communications sociales in 1997 and special price of the jury at The International Festival of Budrun, Turkey – Melkweg Cinema Award for Reality Research, Amsterdam, 1985; first recipient of the Norman McLaren Heritage Award 1988 - Bessy Award 1987 (NewYork Dance and Performance Award) for the films in Technology of Tears - Aqec-Olivieri Award 1993 for the best theoretical article on cinema - Aqcc Award 1985 for the best Quebec short of the year for Songs and Dances of the inanimate world – The Subway.

Main films



Triptych (2009, 30:15 min. independent prod.); Herqueville (2007, 21:40 min., independent prod.); The Statue of Giordano Bruno (2005, 12:09 min., independent prod.); The Technology of Tears (2005, 13:56 min., prod. NFB and Pierre Hébert); Variations on two Photographs by Tina Modotti (2005, 40 min. independent prod.); Between Science and Garbage (2004, 50 min. independent prod.); La Plante humaine (1996, 78min., NFB); La Lettre d’amour (1988, 16 min., NFB); Adieu bipède (1987, 16 min., NFB); O Picasso – tableaux d’une surexposition (1986, 20 min., NFB); Songs and Dances of the inanimate world – The Subway (1986, 14 min., NFB); Étienne et Sara (1984, 15 min., NFB); Memories of War (1982, 16 min., NFB); Entre chiens et loup (1978, 22 min., NFB); Santa Calus is coming tonight (1974, 12 min., NFB); Around Perception (1968, 16 min., NFB); Opus 3 (1967, 7 min., NFB); Op Hop (1965, 3 min., NFB).

The Only the hand… project

Solo performance of live animation with music by Stefan Smulovitz. Since February 2007, this performance was presented fifteen times in Canada (Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal, and Chicoutimi), in the USA (Davis - California), in Europe (Paris, Gent, Lisbon, Rome, Macchiagodena, Catania and Meldola) and also in Beyrouth.

Video installation Only the hand…

Norman McLaren exhibition hall, Cinémathèque québécoise, December 3-20 2009. Simultaneously projected on three walls, twelve versions of the performance in twelve different languages (English, French, Italian, Yiddish, Portuguese, Lakota, Paiute, Romanesco, Romagnolo, Ojibway, Innu).

The Living Cinema project

Live animation and improvised music performance with Bob Ostertag. Since 2001, in four different versions ((Between Science and Garbage, 2001-03, Endangered Species, 2003-06, Special Forces, 2006-09, Home, 2009-…), there were about seventy presentations in Canada, the USA, Mexico, Argentina, the Nederland, Belgium, France the U.K., Portugal, Italy, Austria, Germany, Slovenia, Lebanon, Israel and Japan.

Live scratched animation performances

Solo performance with music by Bob Ostertag - conference/performance on animation engraved on film, presented twelve times between 1999 and 2002, in Canada, Mexico, the USA, the Nederland, France, Italy, Portugal and Switzerland.

Since 1986, many other performances of live scratching on film were presented in North America and Europe with many musicians among which Bob Ostertag, Fred Frith, Robert Marcel Lepage, Jean Derome, René Lussier, Andrea Martignoni, Éric Gagnon, Carlos Bica and more.

Musical shows

Nitshisseniten e tshissenitamin (I know that you know) video work for the show of signer Chloé Sainte-Marie, premiered in Montreal, 2010; Roberts Creek, with Stefan Smulovitz, SoundPlay Festival, Toronto, 2009 ; Glaces , with Pierre Duchesne, Rendez-vous du cinéma québécois, Montreal, 2008 ; Filature, a sound theater by Joane Hétu, Usine C, Montreal, 2006; Entre basura y ciencia with Bob Ostertag et Baltasar Lopez, Yerba Buena Center for The Arts, San Francisco, 2000; Spiral with Bob Ostertag, San Francisco 1996; In Memory with Fred Frith, New Music America, BAM, New York, 1989; Mutation with Michel Lemieux, Montreal, 1988; Confitures de Gagaku with Jean Derome, Montreal, 1986; La symphonie interminable with Jean Derome, Robert Marcel Lepage and René Lussier, Montreal, 1984.

Scenographic films for dance

Elles, choreography by Louise Bédard, Théâtre de La Chapelle, Montreal, November 2002; Ville invisible choreography by Jean-Marc Matos, Centre national art et technologie, Reims, France, 1991; Braise Blanche choreography by Louise Bédard, National art Center, Ottawa, 1991; The Technology of Tears choreography by Rosalind Newman, Joyce Theater, New York, 1987; Timber choregraphy by Ginette Laurin, Montreal, 1986.

Main publications and conferences

Pierre Hébert wrote two books of essays about cinema, animation cinema and about the relationship between art and technology : Corps, langage, technologie, Les 400 coups, 2006 et L’Ange et l’automate, Les 400 coups, 1999. He also published many articles in specialized journals and collective books and presented conferences in many colloquium. His work was the subject of a monograph, Pierre Hébert, l’homme animé, by Marcel Jean Les 400 coups, 1996.

Retrospectives

Buenos Aires Festival Internacional de Cinema Independente, (complete retrospective) Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2008 ; Regard sur le court métrage du Saguenay , Chicoutimi, Canada, 2008 ; Holland Animation Festival Utrecht, Nederland, 2000 - Cinémathèque Québécoise Montreal 2000 and 1982 - Fantoche Festival, Baden, Suisse, 1999 - Festival international du film d’animation Annecy, France, 1997 - Cinémas du Canada Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, 1993 - Ottawa International Animation Festival 1988 - Festival du cinéma québécois Liège, Charleroi et Bruxelles, Belgium, 1986 - Melkweg Cinema Amsterdam, 1985 - Canadian Cultural Center Paris, 1983 - Biennale de Paris, Paris, 1967.

Full and detailed accounts of Pierre Hébert’s works and activities can be found on his website: http://pierrehebert.com

Pierre Hébert - Tel: 450-247-0081 - Cell: 514-217-8138 P.O.Box 492, Hemmingford, QC, J0L 1H0, CANADA ph@pierrehebert.com - http://pierrehebert.com

Sunday 14 March 2010

The portrayal and presence of the body in animated film

Presented at the Society for Animation Studies Conference Ottawa, October 1990

by Pierre Hébert

Before I begin, I would like to define the scope of this presentation. As an outsider addressing a learned society, I feel I should emphasize that I will not be speaking as a university researcher, but as a filmmaker. I'm not trying to side-step your requirements of theoretical and historical rigour, but it is important to remember that my reflections are based on my practical experience as a filmmaker. It was my filmmaking that created the need for this theorizing and it is my filmmaking that will ultimately benefit from it. I don't see how one can make "experimental" films without this theoretical counterpoint. Thus, my primary goal is not to produce knowledge, but films. However, I hope that, imbedded as it is in the practical side of filmmaking, what I am about to say will be of some use to you.

So, on to the subject of my presentation: the portrayal and presence of the body in animated film, a rather surprising topic, I must admit. In particular, the question of the presence of the body or rather the mode of presence of the body is certainly a less obvious one than that of its portrayal. When I say "mode of presence of the body", I mean the body of the animator, the role and place it has in the creative/technical process of animated filmmaking and how it thus defines a mode of meaning that is proper to that art.

This idea of presence of the body was originally inspired by certain aspects of the work of Norman McLaren and Len Lye, which hint at a kinesthetic concept of animation. However, I will not elaborate on that here. At the time, it was merely an aesthetic bias I had that was closely related to my preferred technique of etching directly on film. It was only later through my frequent contact with dance that I came to see the question of the body as bringing into question the whole art of animated film.

ANIMATED FILM AND DANCE

When I first collaborated with dancers, I intuitively felt that beyond certain formal similarities stemming from an abstract idea of motion, which is usually not explored any further, there were fundamental differences between danced motion and animated motion. A different approach to motion. That was what I wanted to verify by watching dancers and choreographers at work, not just when they were performing but especially in rehearsal, when they were actually working on motion.

It seemed to me that the difference between the two approaches was not a function of the motion itself but, rather, of the mode of presence of the body. In dance, the motions are somebody's motions, they come directly from the body of the dancer and the energy he expends; they are literally his motions. In animated film, however, the motions seen on the screen are nobody's motions; they do not come directly from the animator's body.

This split between the physical energy expended by the artist when he animates and the kineticism observed when watching the film comes from the animator's purely cerebral process of conceptualizing motion, on the one hand, and the technological process by which he simulates this conceptualized motion, on the other hand. This results in a purely instrumental relationship between the concept of motion and the illusion seen on the screen -- an instrumentalism that is the effacement of the body.

This effacement also operates in relation to still drawings. The strokes that make up the still drawing are a materialization of the drawer's motions and the energy he expends, and thus have an unquestionable corporal value. However, this value is lost when viewing the series of drawings that make up the animated motion. It is as if the singularity of each drawing were absorbed by the effect of motion so that the viewer mentally forms a virtual image of the moving entity, at the expense of everything in each drawing that cannot be reduced to the virtual image and which therefore constitutes a sort of perceptual residue. The classic technique of standardizing the drawing from one image to the next does its best to eliminate this residue.

Thus, animated film, torn between "drawing" and "dancing", would seem to have its own distinct imaginary world without any corporal foundation. Should this art therefore be seen as a confrontation between the body and machines, a confrontation that has been aggravated with the development of new computerized images? At the very least, this would entail a fundamental debate regarding the place of the body in art, with respect to both the artist and the viewer, as a basis of communication between the two.

These were the reflections that grew out of my association with dancers. And which led to an extremist approach to animation in an attempt to overcome what I perceived as an absence of the body. It was an impossible mission that I expressed through paradoxical formulas: animate with what becomes lost when a drawing is made to move; animate with the perceptual residue instead of with the illusion of motion. This led me to undertake experiments in "live" improvised animation, in which my body in the act of animating was part of the performance.

A DRAMATURGY OF SIMULACRA

I now return to the first question the portrayal of the body whose terms were singularly modified by the considerations I have just mentioned. It could no longer simply be a question of why the body was represented graphically in such and such a way. I found myself faced with a new, more general question: Why are moving bodies portrayed dramatically by means of animated simulacra? This was a more fundamental question.

Before, when I asked myself, "What do I do when I animate?", I was frustrated to keep coming back to the founding role of technological history: I create motion image by image as made possible through filmmaking technology. Put this way, the question and its answer were trapped in an historical ghetto; the only meaning or value they have ever had or ever will have is in the period extending from the invention of filmmaking to its possible technical demise.

However, this was not the case when I asked myself, "What do I do when I draw?" I needed this new question which opened up a much broader historical perspective and did not define animation in primarily technological terms. By postulating a dramaturgy of simulacra, one lumps together animated film, new computerized images and, more importantly, puppet theatre. This is particularly advantageous for animated film since it thereby gains a history that is both universal and thousands of years old.

ANIMATED FILM AND PUPPET THEATRE

There are many obvious dramaturgical affinities between animated film and puppet theatre: relative freedom from the law of gravity, unrealistic treatment of time and space, fairly stylized characters, strong influence of plastic arts, similar narrative forms, etc. Just based on these similarities, it seems surprising, if my information is correct, that no historians of film or puppet theatre have ever thought to point up the continuity between these two disciplines.

They only look at the question from the point of view of transfer of particular techniques, that is, the use of three-dimensional figures or ombres chinoises in animated film. There is no doubt that these comparisons are relevant and historically justified: Czechoslovakian animated marionettes have their roots in the national tradition of puppet theatre and Lotte Reiniger was fully aware that she was continuing the tradition of shadow shows. However, this approach ignores the overall dramaturgical relationship that exists between the two disciplines over and above specific technical similarities or differences.

It is also significant that the two disciplines find themselves in similar situations in contemporary cultural life, both being thought naturally suited to children. Anyone who tries to appeal to adults (and thus, in the order of our societies' cultural values, to practise fully recognized arts) runs up against a chronic problem in reaching the target audience, if not outright indifference from them. This leads to the same apologetic discourse about what a varied and rich potential these arts have and what a pity it is that they are treated like poor relations. While prejudices, historical circumstances and the rigid organization of our cultural life are all real causes of this distressing situation, I feel this constitutes only a superficial explanation.

It is therefore interesting to note that traditional puppet theatres were intended for adults as well as children. It is also interesting that in the West these traditions pretty well disintegrated with the appearance of industrial societies. At the same time, with the introduction of compulsory schooling and child labour laws, there developed a children's world that would henceforth be distinct from that of adults and have its own forms of entertainment, one of which was puppet shows.

The history of Guignol, the French equivalent of the Punch and Judy show, is a perfect example of this. Initially created as working-class theatre, it degenerated into a stereotype of the children's puppet show. By the time moving pictures came on the scene, themselves a product of the industrial revolution, the change in puppet theatre was already complete, so that animated film largely targeted the same juvenile audiences from the start. I feel that the underlying explanation for this resides in the very nature of the imaginary world created by these disciplines and its place in our techno-scientific civilization, which brings us back to the question of the body.

EFFACEMENT OR DISSIMULATION

The comparison of animated film with puppet theatre is particularly interesting from the point of view of mode of presence of the body, since this question is at the heart of the puppeteer's dramatic art and technique. His art always consists in giving life, or the appearance of life, to an inanimate figure while hiding his own body.

Most often, as in the Western traditions of marionettes and hand puppets, the puppet theatre or booth is designed to hide the manipulator from the audience. In other cases, such as Japanese bunraku theatre, where the manipulation is done in full view, the manipulators' art consists in making the audience forget their presence, as if they did not exist. In certain traditions, the puppets themselves which are meant to come to life are surrounded in mystery and are carefully hidden from public view when they are not performing. Just as the manipulators hide when they give life, the puppets are hidden when they are lifeless.

Thus, the dissimulation of the puppeteer's body constitutes the mainspring of his mode of meaning. It is what makes it possible to symbolically give life to a simulacrum that remains inert without the gestures of the artist but must appear as if it had its own life independent of its manipulator. There is thus an interdependence between the two questions posed at the beginning of my presentation: portrayal of the body by means of a moving simulacrum, and presence of the body based on its dissimulation.

This helps to explain what in animated film seemed to me to be an effacement, an absence of the body. The dramaturgical process is undoubtedly the same and has the same animist intent. However, there is a technological revolution between the two. In the case of the puppeteer, the dissimulation is deliberate and requires specific technical training. There is also a direct kinetic relationship between the motions of the manipulator and those of the simulacrum. This, however, constitutes a technical limit to what is theatrically possible.

Unlike the puppeteer, the animator does not give his own life to his characters. He does not have to hide his body, nor train himself to do so, nor, like the puppeteer, does he have to be aware of the key role of dissimulation in his art -- it is an automatic, unthinking effect of the technical process, so that the dissimulation seems like effacement. However, it was this technical process that made it possible to cast off the restraints imposed by the theatrical context and push the animist intent much further. Any departure from real time and space or metamorphosis in the form of the characters became relatively easy to achieve, without the ingenious tricks needed to obtain the same effects in the theatre.

This throws a different light on my extremist approach to animation, since the effacement is no longer measured against the total presence of the body dancing, like an enormous lack to be overcome. That is only one aspect of it. The effacement of the body now appears like an unconscious form of dissimulation. Now, my aim as an animator is not to go to any lengths to assert the total presence of the body in animated film, but to reaffirm it as dissimulation.

NEW IMAGES AND SIMULATION OF THE BODY

Computer animation opens a whole new chapter in this history of the dramaturgy of simulacra. Here, the presence of the body, as I have defined it, is reduced even further and the problem of portrayal is radically changed. It is strictly from these two perspectives that I will consider computer animation; I am not questioning its multifarious applications, which are undeniable. What we have with computer animation is simulations of the real, which aim for perfection. In its most extreme form, this type of animation tries to create synthetic virtual actors -- perfect simulacra.

Michel Larouche gives a good summary of the underlying ideological aims of this simulation project in an article entitled La surréalité des images de synthèse (The Surreality of Synthesized Images) (24 IMAGES, No. 43). After bringing up "the possibility of one day being able to synthesize the body of any person, dead or alive, so that the viewer cannot tell the difference between reality and simulacrum", he adds that "once realism is attained, this paves the way to total surrealism".

One might doubt the feasibility of this from a technical, not to mention theoretical, standpoint, but it is significant just that the project has been formulated, that it has been swallowed whole without any serious critical examination and that considerable resources have been invested in research that takes a "positive scenario" for granted. In the same article, the author says, "Such a perspective leaves one puzzled on many counts....But let's look at the positive scenario." Apparently that is the full extent of his puzzlement! This scientific optimism is based both on the belief of a possible identity between the simulacrum and the thing simulated, and also on a longing for the origins of art: "Thanks to computer graphic techniques, art now has the possibility of returning to its original source, to the stage preceding its separation from science."

Here, technical considerations give way to an anthropological problem: what is the purpose of the dramaturgy of simulacra in our day and age? Or, rather, how does its own particular imaginary world operate? To answer this, one would have to do an historical anthropological study of the dramaturgy of simulacra, look at the different forms it takes in different societies and see how the distinctive imaginary world of this dramaturgy operates in and on these societies. That's well beyond the scope of this presentation. I have reached the limits of what I can do as a filmmaker; to explore this any further, I would have to become a researcher. I will therefore confine myself to explaining the hypotheses that guide me as a filmmaker.

SIMULACRA AND MAGIC

It seems to me that dramaturgies of simulacra do two things. First, they are animist; they confer the appearance of life on the inanimate. And second, in so doing, they create imaginary worlds that are exempt from the laws of the real world; they allow us to escape into fantasy. Although not all use of simulacra can be systematically reduced to a magical function, their underlying motivation is nevertheless related to magic, and that is how they are perceived and enjoyed by the audience.

Moreover, it is recognized that the oldest puppet theatre traditions often had to do with magical, ritual, mythical or religious practices: portraying the gods, petitioning the gods or recounting origins. However, one would still have to determine how the use of puppets differed from other theatrical practices involving live actors with sacred functions, and how the puppets also served other functions, such as social criticism. Nevertheless, one can say that in the traditional theatres, the magical aspect (whether implicit or explicit) had considerable social value for all members of society, including adults, although the technical means of giving the appearance of life to the puppets may have been rudimentary. The symbolic force of the portrayals was such that there would have been no point to the perfect illusion so sought after by computer animation.

Nowadays, the opposite is true. The effects of magic and fantasy have been pushed much farther, the illusion is much more convincing and spectacular, but the symbolic force of the portrayal has disintegrated. The animist effect is no longer experienced, except by children. Adults willingly admit they feel like kids again when they watch animated films, with a nostalgia for childhood that is also nostalgia for paradise lost.

This paradoxical situation was brought about by the subversive effect of techno-scientific empiricism the dominant ideology of industrial societies and by the effacement of the body stemming from the technologizing of the dramaturgy of simulacra. And there is no hope of reversing the course of history. There is no use in dreaming of a renaissance of the sacred function of simulacra in its traditional form.

THE SACRED IN TECHNOLOGY

In reflecting on the current state and the future of the arts of moving simulacra, one cannot disregard technology. Which is not to say that one should subscribe to the technological messianism so common today. In this respect, it is not sure that the sacred has totally disappeared from simulacra; it may simply have shifted place. While puppets, the drawings that make up animated film and the virtual beings produced by computer animation can no longer aim to portray the gods, it is not out of the question that the machines themselves secretly constitute a modern, unacknowledged image of God, so that the sacred continues to play a part in the dramaturgy of simulacra.

That is how I am inclined to understand computer animation's goal of "one day being able to synthesize the body of any person", which is nothing less than a belief in the possibility of a total, formalized (i.e., mathematicized) knowledge of human nature so as to be able to symbolically create man in a virtual form indistinguishable from reality. It is interesting to note that for the time being we are only able to portray humans as machines, in the image of the god-machine. The scientific and technical appearance of this undertaking does not in any way alter its ideological basis. Thus, animated films are only one step in a process of dematerialization and decorporalization extending from puppet theatre to computer animation. As for puppet theatre, it necessarily remains essentially corporal. Although, under the influence of our times, the place of the body has become unclear there too. In the magazine Marionnettes published by Unima-France and issue No. 51 of the magazine Jeu, one finds a recurring concern with the status of the puppeteer -- whether he is a simple manipulator or a full actor, hence the popularity of visible manipulation. This confirms the ambiguous situation of the dramaturgy of simulacra today.

So, where does this leave me as an animated filmmaker? As I indicated at the beginning, my response will be my next film. It will not be conclusive and will resolve nothing with regard to history or theory. For my work, what I need is to find answers, or at least practical solutions, to the following questions: What purpose can simulacra serve today? How can they be reimbued with symbolical force that is neither nostalgia for the sacred nor technological messianism? How can we compass this reference to the sacred which seems to be consubstantial with animist art? And to this end, how can technology be put to the test of the body and vice versa? And how can a dramaturgy based on dissimulation be reoriented toward a body/mind subject seeking its voice through its very effacement? It's a paradoxical undertaking, and I don't know if it's possible, only that what makes it meaningful is that it's a paradox.

Translated by: Janet Chapman Secretary of State, Translation Bureau, Montreal

Answers to Mohamed Ghazala (March 2010)

1-why Pierre Hebert is different ?

Fundamentally, I am different just like anybody is different. But it is true that my standing in the world of animation is quite special. Not many people know me, I think, and for those who heard my name, I probably sound like a strange outsider. I generally don’t follow much of the rules that are usually considered as the criteria of good animation. I am very attached to the idea of animation but I don’t think many animation films live up to what the idea of animation is, to its importance. So I don’t feel very comfortable in the world of animation and I guess this is why I do all those things where I use animation outside the usual field of animation. I am not always sure that I was right to follow that road. It may be a presumptuous attitude. My work is seen by quite a number of people, especially the performance work I do, but it is always in different contexts, different types of music scenes, visual arts contexts, new media contexts, I am always an outsider everywhere and I sometime feel isolated.

2-why you chosen Animation as a main way to express your art ?

I choose animation by accident. I was supposed to become an archeologist and things did not work out as they should have and I found a student job at the National Film Board of Canada and I stayed there 34 years. I started in the wake of the big animation renewal after WW2. Cinema as a whole was experiencing big changes. I was in a group of young filmmakers and I chose animation because I knew how to draw, because I went to meet Norman McLaren and he explained to me how to scratch directly on film. There was a whole set of positive circumstances. The gap between live action cinema and animation was not as deep as it became later on. There was also a good connection between animation and experimental cinema. Those were all things that I liked but they all progressively vanished and animation became more of an artistic ghetto. This is the way I felt it. So for myself, I wanted to continue to consider animation as a part of cinema as a whole and as a part of experimental cinema because this is how I discovered it and adopted it. But sometimes I feel that I choose animation by mistake.

3-what is the difference in the direct animation techniques to make you choose it ?

I came to animation through the direct technique of scratching directly on film as I learned it from Norman McLaren and Len Lye. So from the start my relationship to animation was essentially a relationship with direct techniques. For myself, I cannot conceive another way of being an animator. I like direct techniques, and more particularly the direct technique of scratching directly on film, because it is very physical, because it is very crude both in term of graphics and it term of continuity (the flow of time), also because it is a delinquent technique, it is a sort of challenge thrown at the face of the legitimate technology of cinema. It is very critical in all the meanings of the word and it puts the artist in a critical situation. There is an element of danger to it. This is probably because of this that it was quite natural for me to try do live animation performances. Doing performances of animation brings all those aspects of direct techniques to a point of paroxysm, to their more extreme development. I like to practice animation as an extreme form of art, I like to think of it as the sharpest point of cinema.

4- how you start to plan you art pieces (films,clips, installations ,performances )?

I never really worked from storyboards, just once or twice I think. Not more. I try to approach the development of my pieces as if I was a writer, diving into the flow of time as it comes and see what happens, or as if I was a dancer who find the shape of its work through improvising. So there is not real planning ahead of time. My work is more organized around approaching a problem from all sides in a physical way rather than around telling a story. I was very lucky to work at the National Film board of Canada because it was possible there to maintain this approach. In the industry, this is absolutely impossible. Now that I am an independent artist (for the last ten years), I do this more radically than ever before. Most of the time when I start something, I have no idea what the outcome is going to be, if it will lead to a performance, an installation or a film…or nothing…or stuff to write about. My last film, Triptych, started as studio performances that I was doing just by myself, not in front of a public in order to test an new way of setting up my performance software. I got caught by it and started to do a new performance everyday, which I was recording. So I was accumulating a lot of material that I found interesting but I did not know what to do with it. The film arose from working on the problem of how was it ever possible to compose something out of all those improvisations. Not an easy problem actually which raised many question that I considered fundamental. So while I was trying to find a practical solution more for the sake of experimenting – I was not at all sure that there would be an actual film – I started to write to describe my process. At one point, I realised that suddenly a film had appeared and I also found myself in the process of actually writing a book about it, which lead to a performance project called Animation Exercise which I started to do publicly, which also lead to reintroducing scratched animation along with computer processed live animation in my performances, etc and so on. Mind you, this is probably the most radical experiment I ever did in my creative life. This is the ideal way of working for me.

5-The Animation performances, how hard or how easy is it? What is the future of performance of animation in your opinion? Live animation performances are difficult because they contradict all the reasonable ways of doing animation. Everything goes to fast for the kind of activity animation is, even with a lot of experience, you are constantly threatened to be out of control. This is not a natural thing to do. To do it you have to be really obsessed by the question of what you are going to find if everything goes too fast and you loose control. It is like jumping through a window not knowing which floor you’re on. There is also the aspect of confronting the technology, of creating a strong adverse relationship with the machines. I find this important because «relating to machines» is probably one of the most important problem mankind is facing. So there is an ethical dimension in putting yourself on stage displaying such a confrontation. This is the way I see it. There is a lot of live cinema performance going on (the development of technology made all of this much easier) but most of the time (like vj’s) it consists of manipulating already existing clips or automatically generating moving images through algorithms. I don’t know of many other people doing it the way I do it, i.e. creating the flow of images with my hands at the same time I am processing it. This is very extreme, it has a meaning for me to do it, I resent it as a necessity, but since it is so extreme, I don’t think we can say there is a future to it. It is sufficient for me to say that it has a meaning in the present moment.

The Utrecht declaration

Highly personal thoughts on the state of animation By Pierre Hébert

The circumstances in which I am writing this article are quite special: that of being a jury member at a festival competition which grants equal importance to narrative and non-narrative animation - which, as far as I know, is a precedent. Since most of my films fall into the latter category, being involved has a quite emotional resonance for me.

In addition to which, I find myself at a turning point in my career. After 34 years, I have left the National Film Board of Canada. No doubt I had to remove myself from any kind of institutional framework to be able to reposition myself, as much in terms of my own work as in terms of what animation is becoming today, and negotiate a path between fidelity to the long-held beliefs of my youth and a willingness to confront the great changes which are currently taking place. Indeed, loyalty isn't enough. Overall, I have tried to position myself on the artistic side of film more or less in opposition to the other side, that is the side of commerce and industry. That might seem clear enough, but when I try to specify what I mean, it all becomes much more complicated.

Experimental film, non-narrative film, abstract film, auteur animation, are all categories which are conceptually quite different, but which in practice intersect. Most of my films fall into one or the other of these descriptive boxes. The term "auteur film", which is both vague and all encompassing, nonetheless corresponds to a quite precise historical reality. The term was coined after the Second World War, reaching its height in the 60s, and concerns animation as much as it does live action. But today auteur film is undergoing a crisis of identity. So am I.

As far as animation is concerned, this movement to assert the notion of auteurship defined itself in several areas at the same time. 1- The classical technique of drawn animation on acetate cel, which had hitherto been "the" canonical form of animation, was overtaken by a real explosion of direct techniques. Technical inventiveness has long been the impulse prompting many significant and important works, and inspired a whole generation of animators. 2- Similarly, there was an outburst of graphic styles drawing directly on the inexhaustible possibilities to be found in the history of art. 3- We invented a history for ourselves, rehabilitating the great pioneers, such as Emile Cohl and Winsor McKay, and creating a pantheon of heroic figures such as Alexander Alexeieff, Norman McLaren, Len Lye, Jiri Trnka and others, filmmakers who had done the groundwork and whose inspiring work shone out like beacons. 4- We created institutions to fight for this new vision of animation, festivals such as Annecy, and an international organization of animation filmmakers, ASIFA. 5- Significant geographical areas emerged which were not subject to the rules of the market and where production organizations with relatively substantial resources were given free rein: for example, Eastern European countries and an institution such as the Canadian National Film Board. In the USA, the period also saw a significant movement led by dissident Disney filmmakers. Conversely, there was a temporary decline in industrial animation production, which allowed for the whole heritage to be recycled via television, which was growing in popularity.

These circumstances encouraged an unprecedented creative outpouring almost everywhere. What emerged has left us a legacy of masterpieces which now constitutes our historical perspective in terms of "auteur animation". It was during this climate of euphoria (which also existed in live-action cinema) that I became a filmmaker and I remain strongly attached to the guiding ideas of that time. I am not a historian, and my point-of-view is subjective and ambivalent. One the one hand I see this period as an absolute, with an enduring firmament of stars but also, on the other hand, as an accident of history, eminently transitory. Because in effect, although the rhetoric celebrating animation which dates back to this era has persisted, things have changed a great deal and in such a way that in my view the would-be unanimous and justificatory discourse, which prevailed for a long time, is no longer enough.

The industrial context has changed. In fact, commercial production for television eventually experienced a period of unprecedented expansion. It involves enormous financial interests and has brought about an international division of labour which takes advantage of the cheaper workforce in Asian countries. This has had various consequences, although not all of them are negative. 1- Not only has the production of auteur films been terribly marginalized in relation to the all-conquering march of commercial production, but it has become difficult to define what exactly is an auteur film other than in nostalgic reference to the golden era evoked above. This makes the whole area something of a internal minefield. 2- It has led to a global demand for specialized labour skills and the establishment of numerous schools. This development is, in general, subject to the requirements of the industry, but, by the same token, it creates a vast pool of young professionals who will not all want to remain within the standardized confines of commercial animation. But for the moment, auteur film production seems to be well-placed in the schools. But how often do we wonder, seeing so many brilliant graduation films, whether we will see any follow up! 3- We have witnessed the disappearance or weakening of the privileged spaces which gave the production of auteur films a critical mass. I am thinking of the enormous upheavals in Eastern Europe, and also the erosion of places like the National Film Board of Canada whose resources have melted away like snow in the sun. Festivals have proliferated and diversified and ASIFA has been somewhat marginalized and lost its regulating role. 4- More profoundly, the internal frame of reference of animation practice is changing radically. The widespread use of digital tools has definitively confounded the once established typology of techniques. The use of computers has brought about a kind of free zone where all anterior techniques can virtually communicate at the same level, similarly with the various formats and distribution channels, film, video, digital video, CD-ROM, DVD, internet, etc. Technical creativity takes on a whole new dimension. The development of special effects has eroded the boundaries between live-action and animated images, reiterating the decisive importance of animation principles to the invention of cinema. Video games, pop promos, the internet move the goalpostsin terms of what can be called a creative work.

Commercial products constitute the vast majority of all the above, but nonetheless the fact remains that the animated image, as such, is undergoing profound and rapid mutations – which in itself is something neither positive nor negative. That is why is it is of no use to simply wish auteur animation back to the ways and values of yesteryear. But beyond making such observations, what should one do?

I have no magic solution, and, clearly the question raises different issues for me, who as a young man experienced this golden age and for whom, 40 years in the job, it remains a reference point, and for those young people who are now taking up this discipline and from the outset accept what it has become. Luckily for them, they have the unrestrained insouciance and all the energy of youth. For my part, and for all those of my generation, I imagine there is the requirement for a degree of wisdom, the responsibility of conveying that tradition whilst recognising the actuality of the present.

There are small, almost unnoticed, things in the developments over the last 40 years which bother me a great deal. The first is the disappearance of the relationship that existed at the turn of the 60s between the then-new live-action cinema and animation, a very real and reciprocal awareness. It was this relationship, for example, which led François Truffaut to recognize a great filmmaker in Norman McLaren. The loss has been on both sides. Caught in its claims to realism, live-action cinema has not managed to retain awareness of the position the concept of animation occupies in the technological matrix that formed the basis of cinema. As for animation, it has let itself drift into an embittered, corporatist and willful isolation, valuing good craftsmanship and good animation and slightly losing sight of the philosophical position that underlies the act of animating.

The second thing has been the loss of the equally problematic connection between animation and experimental film. The fact that, on the one hand, Len Lye's Free Radicals was made for the Knokke le Zoutte Festival and that, on the other, a Stan Brackhage has always remained outside animation circles is a pertinent illustration of the two aspects of this rupture. I believe the result has been the subsequent absence of a connection between animation and video art and, more generally, contemporary practice in the plastic arts.

These are small, apparently very minor things, but which are profoundly bound up with what can make an art form of animation and which in this respect should be resolutely re-established. I use the phrase "what can make" advisedly, since the "art" of animation shares the same ambiguity as the other technological arts in their relationship to the technical devices which make them possible. There is no way to nuance dealing with the conundrum that, in a sense, not all animated images can claim the status of art, and the fact that the artistic potential of an animated work inevitably depends on the very nature of its apparatus or device (both technical and conceptual). It thus becomes very difficult, within the traditional categories, to decide where art begins and ends in animation, and in cinema generally. The difficulty arises from the fact that the apparatus of film is more than a simple tool that can be reduced to its instrumentality. And there is, in the very terms "apparatus" or "device", an implicit reference to a complex organization involving technology, skills and social relationships, which from the outset institutes a relationship with the world and which always provides something other than a natural image of it. This is all the more true of animation where the machinery is obvious and unconcealed. Hence, the setting in motion of these devices, rooted as they are in technology and its vertiginous mobility deemed "progress", as it already carries a weight of meaning in itself, all the more so as it dramatizes in a pure and rarified form that which is the infernal centre of the life of modern humanity, the multi-faceted experience of technology.

When one says "magic of cinema" or even "magic of animation", this tends to indicate the totality of what is produced using these devices, not only that segment one can define as a work of art. Hence the difficulty of finding solid criteria to discriminate between what is art and what isn't and, by extension, that which is auteur cinema and that which isn't.

In light of these considerations, the comprehensive assertion that "the" cinema is an art, or that "the" cinema of animation is an art, seems false to me. It seems more appropriate simply to say that cinema, and animation, "can be art", that through their apparatus they intrinsically contain a potential for art but that this potential requires a decision to become actualized. And in my view, the aesthetic and ethical impact of this decision depends on the setting in motion of the apparatus being also the invention of a conception of technology, however implicit and non-formulated it might be. That is, for example, the great strength of McLaren. One might as well say that what might be art and auteur cinema must always be re-made and invented anew today, in the context of what audiovisual technology and its social insertion is becoming.

To return to my opening remarks, I would add that it is probably in non-narrative animation that this issue arises in its purest, most extreme and most theoretical form. That is said not to denigrate the other dominant forms of animation, but to emphasize the specific and irreplacable position of non narrative film, analogous to the position poetry occupies in the language arts, dance in the theatre arts, and music in the time-based arts. Shorn of the filter of anecdotalism, it sets out to be an always singular, always timely, thus always historical experimentation with the invigorating relationship between language, corporeality and technology, where voice, body and machines combine in an ethical simulation of contemporary life.

Pierre Hébert Independent filmmaker, publicist and performing artist of live scratched animation.

Thursday 11 March 2010

Spectacle de Chloé Sainte-Marie-2

Je n’arrive pas à m’écarter de l’esprit l’idée que j’ai réalisé cet accompagnement vidéo du spectacle de Chloé Sainte-Marie comme si c’était un film, un authentique film allusif de 100 minutes. Ce qui recoupe mon obsession de la dernière année à savoir de prétendre que je fais plus que jamais du cinéma bien que mon travail se développe dans la marge, totalement à l’écart des cadres du «cinéma» au sens classique du terme. C’était le cas avec les performances Exercices d’animation, avec l’installation et l’ensemble du projet Seule la main… Toute ces entreprises tentent de répondre au problème de comment maintenir le «cinéma» comme idée centrale dans le radicalement multiple, dans une constellation fragmentée d’images.

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