Meeting with the artist
SAISON VIDEO 2018
Thursday 12th April 2018 at 2pm at ESAAT - l’École Supérieure des Arts Appliqués et du Textile – 539 avenue des Nations Unies – 59100 Roubaix – +33 3 20 24 27 77 -
Here the professor is played by the actor Gérard Hernandez who plays the part of a wild “Father Castor/Beaver” who talks to us about Henri Bergson and Bruce Lee, Zinedine Zidane, “The Wire”, teaspoons and the film “Avengers”.
In the set of strange sculptures, we can see a window opening onto fake exteriors (discovered) (which change with every episode. Drawings are hung on wallpaper that is rich in details, the subjects broached follow each other in quick succession, animations of explanatory diagrams appear… Everything is done so that the viewer’s attention wanders from one item of information to another. The conclusions that can be drawn from each episode are never very distinct. The series is an opening onto rarely taken paths.
Les Histoires de Gaston are informed by the same energy of the “homemade” and “simplicity” that can be found with the above-mentioned YouTubers, and they thumb their nose at the “official” forms of mediations (TV, university, even YouTubers?...)
The ten episodes which make up the first season manipulate and reinvent subjects often taken from popular culture. The series is posited like the pirating of a reasonably contained culture, disinformed and constantly manoeuvred from above. The aim of the series is to find its place in a gratuitous and “horizontal” medium, where the spectator has a more “active” role than when he is looking at TV.
With Gérard Hernandez,
2D Animation : VALENTIN COLCOMB,
Stage set : Rosa-ly Chave, Musique : xavier pettegola
LES HISTOIRES DE GASTON
A series of 10 episodes in project
Mo Gourmelon: Your new project “Les Histoires de Gaston”, which takes the form of an Internet series, is in the process of being worked on. The pilot has already been filmed and is available. You announce your references very clearly: “Didactic” but above all “popularizing” series on YouTube, such as “V-sauce”, “Dirty Biology”, “Micmaths”, “Tu mourras moins bête”. Could you tell us about the origins of this project and thus your sources?
Théo Hernandez: “Les Histoires de Gaston” was originally a publishing project with the title “The Way of the Intercepting Fist”, which put together a series of stories/anecdotes which had to do with Bruce Lee, Zinedine Zidane, “The Wire”, and Henri Bergson…
In tandem with that book, I was making a film about Bruce Lee which explored another way of recounting the life of the little Dragon, mixing fiction and real facts. I was also discovering the above-mentioned YouTubers who, at that time, were opening up a new way of transmitting information and knowledge… Even if, today, this form of transmission has become almost dogmatic and has ended up by espousing many of the “vices” of the traditional media. In fact, the new YouTube recommendation algorithm (the competiveness of “likes”, the number of hits, the number of comments, scarce presence of “YouTubers”…) also alters the content of the videos. However, the home-made form that we find in this kind of platform interested me. In fact the protagonists of “Micmaths” and “dirtybiology”, respectively a mathematician and a biologist, have no audio-visual training. These latter nevertheless produce a large number of videos, often exploring at times surprising and experimental new forms. I wanted to draw inspiration from those practices which are enjoying a certain success: “V-sauce” has 11 million subscribers and gets 3 to 15 million hits per video. I want to continue the experimental work which was there during the emergence of those video-makers, and which, in the end of the day, is peculiar to visual artists. If the idea was basically to subvert the traditional media, the way Terrence Gower has managed to do in “New Utopias”, where he parodied a Walt Disney giving “lessons about things”, the challenge now is also to subvert what is being done today on YouTube.
MG: Can you explain this desire to “subvert”, to use your own word, what is being broadcast on YouTube?
TH: For some time now, the content of YouTube has had a tendency to pick up the bad tics of TV. Even “Dirty Biology” who, for me, is the French speaker who has best explored the form of popularization, has very recently given us a video very similar to a hackneyed TF1 TV news programme: how to properly revise for your BAC. In addition to this, dogmas peculiar to YouTube seem to have been imposed. An individual, often a young white man, talks to us, looking at the camera, from his bedroom. The editing is brutal (jump cuts left, right and centre), words appear in huge letters on the screen. The video makes us laugh or at least smile…
The appearance of these rules can be disappointing, when we consider the freedom that this kind of platform was meant to offer. All the same, there are things to be pleased about, when you see the success of video makers such as “Horizon Gull” and “Bonjour-tristesse” who get away from the beaten track (in two very different ways). “Horizon Gull” is presented as a character straight out of a post-apocalyptic world who explains current social phenomena to us. Invariably with home-made means, he appropriates the codes of science-fiction in a very simple way (one or two minor light effects, distorted voice…) to serve his idea as an observer of our world. “Bonjour Tristesse”, for his part, pushes the principles of the YouTuber to their absolute limit and ends up by subverting them. He sets up a very spare set: sofa, coffee table, bottle of wine and book, which change with every episode. He is sitting down, someone starts the recording, he then talks for between 10 and 20 minutes uninterruptedly, mainly about politics. There are no cuts, no editing, no credits. And he ends with his gimmick: “Have a nice, shitty week, guys”. The camera is then cut more or less at the end of that sentence. So the aim of “Les Histories de Gaston” is the following: appropriate the new rules of this kind of transmission and, in one and the same gesture, disobey them to find what is magic in these platforms: the independence, freedom and originality of their content.
MG: In 2014, with Jules Lagrange you made “Centre du Ciel”, a very free homage to Bruce Lee, a classic form of video which Saison Video 2015 distributed. What do you remember about that video essay which you pursue in “Les Histoires de Gaston”?
TH: Even if that video is still modest, I have above all good memories of it. It was the first time that Jules and I collaborated on a film, and I found us quite cunning in our way of approaching the thing. We did a great deal of research work. We read more or less all the literature about Bruce Lee, and looked at all the video documents that existed. We exchanged ideas about that subject for almost a year and in the end we wrote, filmed and edited the video in a week. I am working on “Les Histoires de Gaston” in exactly the same way. “Centre du Ciel” was also the first time I tried to mix a popular form (here the biopic) with the energy and freedom of the home-made. Today, this lies at the hub of my activity, and more especially so with “Les Histoires de Gaston”.
MG: Several questions arise when we discover the pilot titled: “Achille, Bruce et Antonin”. The choice of your grandfather Gérard Hernandez as storyteller. The static shot in a manufactured décor, sitting in an armchair near window which seems artificial. The use of animation, which seems celebratory. And lastly the slow motion which permeates the stories of Achilles and the tortoise, Bruce Lee, and Antonin Panenka. Are the other episodes already written, or are you making them up as you go along?
TH: I had already worked with my grandfather on other videos. So it was a chance to work for free with an excellent actor who was very readily available. For that series, the choice was driven by an additional dimension: cocking a snook at television by using one of its most popular representatives. My aim with this series is also to try and reach an audience other than that of art centres, which is too often the same, and too often hails from the same social class, despite the considerable efforts which are being made by these centres to open up to other strata of society.
With “Les Histoires de Gaston” I wanted to explore popular subjects ( film, football…) by taking paths hitherto little used. For the first video, I wanted the subject to be the medium itself: the moving image. Showing another way of understanding movement (the impossibility of movement according to Zeno, the movement which is not necessarily the 24 frames per second of film, or the audio-visual stamp of Panenka) was thus a way of laying the foundations for my series. As for the set by Rosaly Chave, Valca’s music, and Valentin Colcomb’s animation, I think they stem from the same mainspring: taking a certain essence from our pop culture, be it poetic, pathetic, or witty.
Three episodes are written. I’ve also got an idea about the content of the first 10 episodes. The fake window in the set will incidentally be more meaningful in the second episode which explains the current merger between reality and fiction.
A pilot of the series has already been made in order to try out a certain number of things. Originally written to last 15 minutes, this pilot has helped me to understand that “Les Histoires de Gaston” will finally be shorter instalments (between three and five minutes). “Les Histoires de Gaston” belong to a category that is closer to the reports of a YouTuber than a series of master classes. As a result, the pilot has also highlighted the importance of the actor appropriating the text. The writing of the episodes will now be reworked with Gérard Hernandez, and there will also be room for improvisation.
In addition, there is a desire to explore and appropriate the “web” medium. And, for me, the fact of making short instalments and rendering the argument more fluid go hand in hand with the idea of creating such a content. The rewriting of the episodes by the actor will involve the confrontation of worlds which will be ceaselessly at work in “Les Histoires de Gaston”.
I am even planning to delegate the writing of the episodes to a certain number of contributors: authors, scientists, philosophers, athletes… As from the second half of the season.