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The Animation Pimp: It’s About Time - René Jodoin

It's about an old animator... 90 plus now... and it's written LIKE listening to a 90 year old talk... random and all over the place... like my sister.

During the production of Spheres, René Jodoin and Norman McLaren. All photos © National Film Board of Canada. All rights reserved.

Precursor to style/approach the Time out of Mind book. To try and convey an essence of a filmmaker in a way that resembles their own style/aesthetic/id/whateverthefuckyouwanttocallit. Rejected by the Holland Animation Film Festival as too weird. Hmpf. Go eat toasties you gurgle speaks.

A blank screen. A portion of space. You anticipate time visible.

Pierre Trudeau (former Canadian Prime Minister) once said, “The world is evolving as it should.” A cop out? Time becomes timeless when you are the master of the space. We used to have a PM/honcho who got advise from his dog and his dead mama (k/not dada). He remembered time and so did his mutt.

Time. Not the magazine, a stranger to time. Not talkin’ Morris Day time (ie. The Time from that Prince film). Morris was wrong. His was day time (now no time). I’m talking more then day time, or time. I’m talkin’ TIME(S). Time surrounds us, swallows us, defines us, drips off us, then fucks us (we DEAD).  For centuries, state(s) and church(es) battled for control of time and space. Domination of the calendar led to ( t + s=c/p). Did ya ever look at a Fed Ex (temporal/spatial reduction of Federal Express)  box (“The world on time”)? Whose time?. Their time. Gets there next day, but only within the framework of their time  (before 9/before 12 (noon) ). T & S dissolve. FedX becomes the message. Sundays. Once god’s time. Now Gap time. Never our time. Church time now business time. But what is our time? Only recently did Ol’ Dirty Bastard demand: “take the white man’s clock off your wall.”  Billy (reduct.) Faulkner called time a tomb of hope and desire.  Is time so singular and stagnant? The time it takes to write (type) these words (digitized manipulations of space?) differs from you’re reading (scanning?) frame. The world I write (type) about itself spans eighty (80) years (itself a pre-defined, compartmentalization of time in which I’ve lived thirty-three (33)). You will always read it in a different time. Time organizes times. Even here, it restricts and colours (1200 word max.) what I can say. Everything, as Eddie Hall noted, happens in a time frame. How does this relate to René Jodoin? I dunno, but I guess it’s time I got to the . (pt.).

Rectangle and Rectangles directed by René Jodoin.

René Jodoin has sparred with time a long time. He spars because he knows the main event is lost. Ever step in, gloveless, gainst Sonny Liston (Tyson’s a pussy)? Ya just don’t.  Jodoin is no fool. Jodoin knows there will be no parade.  Jodoin’s work is about (re)thinking time. Time and space have been taken from us (see above) as we move less and less within our timeless interior plug-ins. Unbalanced.. Jodoin reminds us, as person/artist/producer, of our/his past.  He attempts to make time visible if only to shatter it into possibilities, uncertainties, freedom. Just check out Alouette (1944), the early singing film with McLaren. Words and body parts explode across the screen. Words for the folks to read to sing to take time/space and fill their blank distant landscapes.  Put Cecil Taylor on valium (or better yet listen to Taylor after inhaling) and you begin to grasp the films of Rene Jodoin. Slow, deliberate, harmonious spurts of energy, space, movement. Kinda like smoking thyme. Time slows down (try watching Jodoin’s early abstract pedagogical work (Introduction to Jet Engines) with a jazz score). Be U Tea Full! At times, time is assumed. Just watch Jodoin’s latest work, Entre Temps et Lieu (Between Time and Space, 1999). The objects move off the screen (I guess). They return (well, they re-appear/returning assumes a continuation). We don’t see the between. Time and space are assumed. Modern? society assumes/ignores time for space. Watch it with different jazz soundtracks. Each produce variables of time (s). In Rectangles and Rectangles (a punk rock film that trashes concepts, a word the Pistols ‘be ‘ard pressed ta de fine ), time is made visible through a blazing flash of colours and tempos. Then of course there’s da famous (legendary) zoom shot from Notes on A Triangle  that rivals of the awesome tension and anticipation of the synth bridge in Won’t Get Fooled Again. While sad, tipsy Strauss bangs on the bar room ivory, flatness becomes an ongoing dimensional space as Jodoin’s camera moves in/through space. Time moves. Nothing special on a computer, but the guy cut them out!

Spheres directed by Norman McLaren and René Jodoin.

“All time is a concept,” says Jodoin.  “It doesn’t exist.  Duration  fits better because it doesn’t have a direction.” Paradoxically, duration requires time. “Duration is like a tempo. It’s melodic and almost has a rhythm. It’s almost like time de-activated.” Or time within time since time itself is timeless. Duration is our ruler of time.  Remember the blank screen (see above)? Well once you’ve put something in it (on it?) you’ve already created laws (duration). The problem is where to go next. In Dance Squared, a briefly blank screen. A square tumbles then shatters. Infinite possibilities within seemingly limited options. Space/Time as flexible not restrictive.  Let’s take Spheres (1969). Like a mime, McLaren made a movement (itself  a moment), Jodoin imagined what the next movement (moment) would be. A guided temporal/spatial random (dis)placement that itself took two decades (in our time)  to complete/abandon/guide.

Jodoin is out/in time. He loathes the myth of the artist as GOD.  At the same time (actually, it’s not the same time, it’s later in the interview), he cautions the technical geeks.  “Skill by itself is boring.”  Skill alone is present minded.  Problem of our time? Where is the individual? We are in a time(s) of the negation of the individual(s). Individual time(s?) is/are absorbed by large infrastructures and with it fade the individual/personality. People seek meaning through corporations. Sure the NFB was an infrastructure, but individuals like Jodoin, Grierson, McLaren, Dunning, Lambert, McKay, Ladouceur, and Munro (just to mention animation) defined the NFB. Corporations are not like that today. They are predefined spaces. Maybe this is why Canucks have always resisted definition. Always in-between, free-floating, always in the process of defining, refusing to be defined. This is our strength. We are neither “who are we?”whiners nor the beer drinking slugs that slur aloud “I yAM CA NA DeAN” before pukin up that swill (not ‘real’ Canadian beer).

Dance Squared directed by René Jodoin.

Computers. Time’s discount? Time eater? Internal/ (over)External space. No more (need for) room. Corporate expansion (inspansion?) within us.  With a computer, Jodoin works towards a new (? or ‘nother) way of creating/imagining. Computer artist as writer and/or adventurer. A re-balancing/thinking of time/space.  “The computer offers you a mode of doing which relates to what it is. You can do what you’re saying. It’s like working your head vertically in time. It might not be good, but you don’t have to keep the material in your brain anymore.”  The medium of the century is within the palms of the hands of those not too busy holding the monkey while downloading ‘the beast of the revelations’:

Jodoin is like a butterfly. A flurry of colours and movements in space with no seeming direction that always gets to the right place. Where? Dunno, but be a shame to see him there. Butterflies look better in process. In flux, he is, like, say jazz/sax man Albert Ayler, challenging the audience to think anew. In Vietnam, someone (Canadian) called Entre Temps a screen saver. He likes that, but it ain’t. It’s a new way of seeing. It’s another way of thinking. Maybe it’s better way of living. He tries to do something that continues.  People always want an…    

Chris Robinson's picture

A well-known figure in the world of independent animation, writer, author & curator Chris Robinson is the Artistic Director of the Ottawa International Animation Festival.