Combining hands-on techniques with digital and analog technologies, No Objects transfigures forms of expression, turning photographs into etchings and sound into motion. An ode to touch in which every gesture is magnified and the image can be heard, the film offers both a bracing and contemplative meditation on the tactile world.
Textures, repetition, vibrations, oscillations and sounds: the image is heard. Scratched and scarred photos form a cascading avalanche of shapes, a choreography of people performing repetitive tasks, their silhouettes etched directly onto the surface. No Objects is the work of an artist who views the image as a hybrid of matter and motion. Gestures and sleight of hand are everything. Bodies are transformed by light as the moving images in this experimental short speak for themselves, their impact amplified by an intense sound design. No Objects offers both a bracing and contemplative meditation on the tactile world.
Can you explain the technical steps involved in directing your experimental short film, No Objects? You seem to alternate between filming, pausing on an image, scratching, and then returning to the image in motion. No Objects evokes a continuously evolving process in which all movement is under construction and in which energy transforms bodies into light.
I work from live-action images that I convert into photographs, and I use a mix of digital and analog techniques. There were a dozen shoots for No Objects. Before printing the sequences, I always do a preliminary video edit to select excerpts, movements I want to use, and so on. Once I’ve printed the sequences on photographic paper, I go through a long scratching process to modify them by hand, one at a time. Then I wash them to get rid of any residual emulsion, and I digitize them after they’ve dried. That’s when these images, which started off as live-action stills that became frozen, are put into motion again—during a second edit. I can repeat the process several times, using the same photo. My creative process is not linear. I move from one stage of the process to another, depending on how my work evolves. And I don’t use a storyboard. I uncover the work myself in the process of creating it, through movement, experimentation, and my own decision-making.
No Objects, the title of your short film, is both intriguing and revealing. At first, we think we’re watching an abstract film, but we quickly realize that the “object” of the film is movement and gesture. So, in a sense, these images in motion are self-referential. Does the title help drive your creative process? Or do you choose your title at the end of the process? And why the “s” in “objects”?
I’ve always struggled with titles. If it were entirely up to me, none of my projects would have them! The title is not a driver for me, nor is it essential for an understanding of the work. It just serves a purpose when the time comes to share and distribute it. I often consult people around me when it comes time to choose a title, and I was happy when my producer, Marc Bertrand, suggested No Objects. I liked his idea right away because it is simple and accurate: we don’t see a single object in the film. The word “objects” is plural simply because it refers to objects we don’t see… and there are many!
Several people took part in your short film, as participants or collaborators. Can you tell us how you approached them? How did you choose them? Were you looking to feature certain specific gestures?
We filmed 14 people, but we could easily have had many more. At a certain point I had to restrain myself from recruiting more participants! As for choosing them, I went about it in different ways, but one of the constraints was to find gestures that allow us to see the hands well—I didn’t want them covered or encumbered by objects they were handling. We shot in several different locations. Some of the people I knew very well, others I knew in passing, and there were also some I had come across during the course of my travels. I chose some participants on the spot, spontaneously, while others came about as a result of more thought and reflection. In some cases, I wanted to make connections between certain types of movements, the objects used, and the positioning of the body. I should also point out that about half the people in No Objects are either musicians or sound artists, because of my strong interest in those forms of expression. It was really great, because they all agreed that we could use their sounds for the film’s audio track. I loved putting all these people on screen—many of whom had never met each other—in the same image. It was a bit of a puzzle, but I enjoy the idea of having all these people in the same shot and then being able to share it, because they are all individuals who inspire me by what they do and who they are.
Even though they are images, we can’t help but think of matter and bodies when we look at the images that make up No Objects. Your approach is primarily that of a visual artist, rather than of a creator working in media arts. You literally carve into the image to find hidden layers. It’s a very physical process that takes a lot of time. Can you tell us how much time and effort go into a single sequence?
My experience is very variable and changes depending on whatever state I find myself in at the time when I’m working, or depending on what stage in the process I’m at. Many people think you need a lot of patience to create animation. In my case, I think it’s a question of desire, passion, and sheer obstinacy. Sometimes I find the work long and hard, especially when I’m seized by doubt. But at those times I try to tell myself not to worry too much, to persist, and that can help get me to the next stage. It allows me to take a step back and return to it later. At other times, I don’t even notice the passage of time. I become completely absorbed and have trouble stopping!
The technique I’ve developed requires me to change my type of activity, move between work stations, stand in different positions and make a variety of movements. I don’t like standing in the same position all the time. My body does not handle being sedentary very well. I have some chronic pain, so the more varied movements the better! The NFB was great, because they took that into account, and I was able to set my own schedule as a result—and have an adjustable work station at which I could stand or sit.
Given that you have a background as a percussionist and the soundtrack of your short film is made up of different textures, repetition, vibrations, oscillations and noises, can you tell us a bit about your relationship to rhythm?
My relationship to rhythm is as much visual as aural. If I’m looking at an image in silent motion, there is a rhythm that stimulates my pupils—especially if I watch the same sequence several times. In some ways it’s like I’m hearing the image. And when sound and image come together, I’m very aware of the relationship between the two. If I’m not happy with the result, I keep tinkering until I find the “correct” rapport between them. It’s very subjective! But it’s an important step for me… and incredibly satisfying when I get it right! Benjamin Proulx-Mathers, who did the sound design for No Objects, has a similar sensibility to mine when it comes to rhythm and tiny details of sound and image. That’s one of the reasons I asked to have him collaborate with me on this project.
In 4min15 au révélateur, we move from an interior space to the exterior—the urban landscape. No Objects plunges us into landscapes whose reliefs quickly become anonymous bodies toiling in close quarters. They are very focused and barely interact with each other. Meanwhile, their hands have a lightness, a quality like dancing. The abstractions of the film lead us to a certain kind of interiority. You could see your short film No Objects as an allegory for an overbearing and individualistic world, but would it be fair to say it’s more simply a stimulating and contemplative meditation on the tactile?
“A stimulating and contemplative meditation on the tactile”: I like that! I’ve always been fascinated by watching people move. No Objects is a film about people who move and the energy they give off. This is more or less what I had in mind when I was scratching the photos: trying to translate that energy into vibrant abstract forms, revealing that which is not visible to the naked eye… to at least imagine it. It’s an invitation to look closely, to observe, to step back from reality and dive into the world of the senses, of creativity, and of play. I hope that people will have a sensory experience when they watch and listen to the film. It’s also a kind of homage to everyone who works with their hands, and the concentration it takes for them to do what they do.
Direction, Animation, Editing
Julie Cloutier Delorme
Julie Blanche Vandenbroucque
Music, Sound Art
Julie Cloutier Delorme
Scie musicale, improvisation no 1