Dear Shaded Viewers,
Following is a conversation with Julien Ribot and Annabelle Jouot on their collaboration on the Zootropic project.
Can you give a short history of you and Joana Preiss, and how you started this particular collaboration?
Julien Ribot: We had planned a project with Joana Preiss a few years ago on a theatre project (Son Son, by Nicolas Maury and I, where I composed the music), but it didn’t happen. We finally met for the first time on the Zootropic project.
I had already used the zootropic faces on Do You Feel Nine? a creation for La Nuit Blanche in 2015, then again on The Volga Project in 2017.
I wanted to collaborate with Annabelle Jouot who is fashion editor, as I really wanted to mix my art and her fashion.
I proposed the project to her, she said yes.
On this film, we did everything together, from the artistic direction to the musical editing.
I did the drawings, she did the paintings.
It’s been a fantastic adventure.
Annabelle Jouot: Julien and I had already collaborated together years ago on his music (we wrote and sang songs together on two of his albums) but never on a visual creation. The wish to work together again was very strong. He knew that I adored the rotative portraits of kids he had done on The Volga Project, so he proposed me a film mixing art and fashion in the same mood. It was like a gift. Then we chose Joana Preiss and it’s been such an inspiration that we couldn’t dream of a better muse.
What you want to convey with Zootropique?
Julien Ribot: Zootropique comes from the ancient Greek « zoe » that means « life » and « tropos » that means « to turn ». Our planet turns on itself at more than 1000 km/h. It sounds logical that my portrait turns on itself too. I like the idea that the movement of the celestial bodies and the movement of the human bodies are linked. Through those zootropique portraits, I also want to show that a portrait is always an indecent trip through the heart of the model. Zootrope is the ancestor of cinema in which the spectator had to watch through a hole to see the character moving. It reminds me of the peep show booths. Here you see the same immodest dimension of voyeurism.
Also, this invention based on illusion and the phi phenomenon interests me very much, because the mind has to imagine images that don’t exist. In this zootropique portrait, there are 12 images for a 360-degree rotation movement. The audience has to invent all the other images, and is doing a big part of the job, which is convenient for me, I agree (laughs).
What is your connection with Joana’s music, was that the starting point for the film?
Julien Ribot: We knew her project White Tahina and we loved it very much.
But no, the music was not the starting point for our film.
At the beginning, we didn’t just want a model, we were looking for a muse and someone crazy enough to take part in such a project.
For each zootropique portrait, I ask for a total involvement of the model, by asking them to give me some sounds or noises from their environment, that they choose and record by themselves. I don’t want to influence the choice of that sound material, even if afterwards I modify it.
The same as for the kids of The Volga Project, I asked Joana to bring her own sounds, in order to create the music of the film with that material.
Annabelle Jouot: Joana played the game and came with great sounds. She is singing in the film, which was not planned and which is absolutely stunning.
Salvador Dali created the Zootropic Model in 1971 representing man of the future and his lifestyle, was this in any part an inspiration for your Zootropique?
Julien Ribot: Yes of course. Dali also created the « Buste de femme retrospectif » in 1936, with a zootropic band around the neck of a milliner’s bust. I was amused by the fact that Dali mixed a fashion object (the model or the bust) with a zootropic band.
It was a perfect reference for my project.
Also, Dali is an anagram of Dial and I like the idea that making a portrait is like dialling the soul of someone.
How do you work with the graphic designer, is it all stop motion?
Julien Ribot: I don’t work with any graphic designer. I do all the drawings and animation myself. All is stop motion. On the set, the model sits on a rotating stool in a rough environment. No decorum. I just put marks on the floor (12 for this portrait, like the 12 divisions of a clock). All the images are shot with an old smart phone. There is a certain lack of exactness in the images, which is what I like, because it is essential for me to keep it raw. Then, I draw (hundreds of drawings).
Annabelle Jouot: We really wanted to make an artistic object, not a glamorous film or a clean thing. That was very important to keep it raw. I had in mind that Celine campaign shot by Juergen Teller in 2016 where the images of the models were cut out and placed on a single-coloured background. We loved that « collage » aspect.
Why Chanel, did they have any input aside from lending the clothes?
Annabelle Jouot: Chanel because of Joana Preiss. She is strongly linked to that maison de couture. It was obvious. Chanel loved the project and naturally accepted to lend the clothes.
What were the main challenges in making this film and where do you want to see it projected?
Julien Ribot: The main challenge was the huge quantity of work. Stop motion is a very long process. But another challenge was probably the heat, as we’ve been working on this film in Paris under the roofs in the middle of a heat wave. It was something (smile).
We’d love to see this film projected on large screens or walls, in museums or art galleries. It is not a miniature project, it is an immersive project, and that’s what I’m trying to reach with all my actual creations, I’m really into gigantic works, involving the audience.
We already planned to make new zootropique portraits with other models. We have few ideas in mind, we just need to find the time to do it, which is no small matter (smile).