About

Pierre Hébert

 

 

 

 

SURFACE TENSIONS: The Films & Videos of Pierre Hébert

Friday, February 15th 2013

Doors: 7:30pm, Screening: 8pm

Seating is limited; groups looking to sit together should come as early as possible
$5 dollars, advance tickets available at SAW Video and The Manx Pub



Arts Court Theatre, 2nd floor, 2 Daly Avenue

Admission $5

Presented by SAW Video Media Art Centre

Surface Tensions presents a retrospective of the work of Pierre Hébert, including films he made during his 34-year tenure at the National Film Board of Canada and his newer independent video productions. Hébert’s work displays a curiosity around the nature of cinematic representation and the definitions and limits of cinema and animation as mediums. This screening shows a progression from early abstract animated films reminiscent of his NFB colleague Norman McLaren to an increasingly expanded practice that explores the possibilities of live performance, improvisation and digital technologies. Throughout his distinguished career, Hébert has experimented with hybrid cinematic forms as a way of expressing his anthropological and humanistic view of the world, exploring themes of urban alienation, social politics, the particularities of place and geography, the presence of forgotten histories in everyday life, and the impact of industry upon the environment. Hébert gets us to think about our relationship with images, and by extension, how we interact with the world around us.

The filmmaker will be present at the screening to introduce and discuss his work, and will give a special live performance of his piece Tropismes the following evening, accompanied by clarinetist Lori Freedman.

Presented by SAW Video Media Art Centre in collaboration with the Downtown Rideau BIA.

Notions élémentaires de génétques / Elementary Notions of Genetics, Songs and Dances of the Inanimate World: The Subway, and Adieu bipède courtesy of the National Film Board of Canada.

 

         

Screening list:

Histoire verte / Story in Green (1962, 16mm, 3 min.)

Opus 1 (1964, 16mm, 4 min.)

Notions élémentaires de génétques / Elementary Notions of Genetics (1971, 35mm, 7 min.)

Songs and Dances of the Inanimate World: The Subway (1984, 35mm, 14 min.)

Adieu bipède (1987, 35mm, 16 min.)

The Statue of Giordano Bruno (co-directed with Bob Ostertag, 2005, SD video, 12 min.)

Herqueville (2007, HD video, 22 min.)

Thunder River (2011, HD video, 8 min.)

Triptych-2 (2012, HD video, 10 min.)                                          

TOTAL DURATION = 96 min.

Film and video synopses:

Histoire verte / Story in Green (1962, 16mm, 3 min.)

Pierre Hébert’s first film, made while he was still a student majoring in anthropology, was started when a friend gave him some exposed but underdeveloped film. He began to scrape away the emulsion and fill in the patterns with colored inks. Gradually a film took shape. His original title, Histoire verte, was abandoned when he discovered he couldn’t afford to print the film in colour. Instead he printed it in black and white and re-titled the film Histoire grise. It was only in 1997 that the film was finally printed in colour with a soundtrack and given its proper name.

Opus 1 (1964, 16mm, 4 min.)

This film was realised independently one year before Hébert joined the NFB. The soundtrack features an improvisation with friends, slightly reorganized using the same source material when the film was remastered in 2006 for the NFB’s 3·DVD set The Science of Moving Images. It was the first film in which Hébert used the effects of persistence of vision to compose virtual images by adding different elements to different frames.

Notions élémentaires de génétques / Elementary Notions of Genetics (1971, 35mm, 7 min.)

This animated film illustrates the laws of hybridization discovered by Mendel in the last century: the law of dominance of one character over another, the law of disjunction of these characters. It was intended by the NFB to be primarily for science students, yet it could not be called didactic as no explanations are given to enlighten the viewer.

Songs and Dances of the Inanimate World: The Subway (1984, 35mm, 14 min.)

In this animated film without words, filmmaker Pierre Hébert and musicians Robert Lepage and René Lussier worked together, and separately, in their respective media. This cinema/music performance recreates, impressionistically, the dehumanizing environment of the urban subway. Drawings etch the outlines of people hurtling through space in underground tunnels. The soundtrack, elemental and atonal, gives compelling expression to their alienation.

Adieu bipède (1987, 35mm, 16 min.)

Made in tribute to the poet and painter Henri Michaux, who died in 1985, this animated short is based on one of his books, Movements. The film showcases an unusual combination of an exceptional practice of writing, painting, and the art of animation and film.

The Statue of Giordano Bruno (co-directed with Bob Ostertag, 2005, SD video, 12 min.)

This film was created from a performance done in Rome on January 19th, 2005 at the Teatro Paladium during the Festival Sensoralia. The film is a commentary about pictures shot at Campo dei Fiori plaza where the philosopher Giordano Bruno was burned as a heretic by the Inquisition in February 1600. The gloomy statue of Bruno dominates this place where many people walk every day, not knowing the meaning of this monument. This film is a step back to a part of history.

Herqueville (2007, HD video, 22 min.)

The Herqueville shoreline lies downhill from the Cogema nuclear waste processing plant, one of the worlds largest. Its vitrified wastes are buried deep in the granite substrate at La Hague. In the summer of 2003, Michelle Corbisier and Serge Meurant, two friends of Pierre Hébert, visited Herqueville. Afterward, they created a series of etchings and poems. Wishing to associate himself with their modest poetic undertaking, Pierre Hébert went there to film these images in July 2005. The music, composed by Fred Frith, was recorded during a live performance in San Francisco.

Thunder River (2011, HD video, 8 min.)

An exercise of looking intensely at a rock face, shot near the waterfalls of Rivière au tonnerre, on the north shore of the St-Lawrence River. A meditation about opacity, about fissures that can open up anything, any situation on the infinity of meaning. It is about the ontological moment, the moment of pure seeing. The film is part of the Places and Monuments series, which explores the fissures that can crack open any banal scene of daily life, any anonymous crowd, any forgotten monument, and that let seep through, until they explode, the invisible constellations of history.

Triptych-2 (2012, HD video, 10 min.)

An abstract film made from the video capture of a live animation performance presented in Vienna on May 30th 2011 at the Stadtkirche with Andrea Martignoni for the Vienna Independent Shorts Festival. It was a double performance where elements engraved directly on 16mm black film are inserted into a background made with the help of live mixing software. The film is based on a process of condensing the original footage that serves as a departure for animated interventions that intensify its energetic potentialities.

 

Artist’s bio

Formerly an employee of the National Film Board of Canada, where he directed over twenty animated shorts and a feature (La Plante humaine, Best Québec Feature award, 1996), Pierre Hébert is now an independent artist and filmmaker. Since 2001, he has traveled the world with his musician colleague Bob Ostertag and presented the Living Cinema live animation performance over 70 times. He has also worked with other musicians like Ornette Coleman, Fred Frith, Stefan Smulovitz and Robert Marcel Lepage. He equally collaborated with dance companies in New York, Montréal and France and published two books and many more articles on cinema and animation. His latest projects are the multilingual video installation Only the hand…, the solo performance 49 Flies and a new series of videos called Places and Monuments. In 2005, he received the Albert Tessier Cinema Award from the Québec government for lifetime achievement, in August 2010, he was granted an honorary professorship by the Emily Carr University of Art and Design, and in February 2012, the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec gave him the prestigious Career Grant for cinema. He is currently President of the board of the artists’ centre Vidéographe.


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