Living Cinema is the creation of Quebecois film maker Pierre Hébert and San Francisco composer Bob Ostertag. The project is innovative in many ways, bringing the creation of cinema out of the movie and recording studios and on to the stage. Ostertag has created innovative software which allows the two artists to actually perform an animated movie with soundtrack, live on stage.
For decades, Hébert was considered one of the masters of the unusual craft of creating animated films by engraving directly on film. Living Cinema allows him to apply the craftsmanship acquired through years of engraving on film to whatever materials he wishes to use. Ostertag brings his years of experience with live manipulation of sampled sound to the project, using a variety of objects and techniques to create a soundtrack that is synchronized with the image as both are being created.
The flexible, open-ended character of Living Cinema gives the artists the ability to respond immediately to political and cultural events in a way that conventional cinema never could. The work is thus profoundly influenced by world events.
The performance is innovative enough to be difficult to describe to those who have not seen it, yet transparent enough to be easily grasped by those in attendance. Children have typically been among its most enthusiastic fans.
* 2003: Images Festival, Toronto
* 2004: Rendevous du Cinema Quebecois
* 2000: Meet the Composer International Collaboration Commission
* 2004: Prix de la Creation Artistique du Conseil des Arts et des Lettres de Quebec
Special Forces is Living Cinema's most recent work, an hour-long performance which takes as its starting point the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in the summer of 2006. Special Forces was previewed at the Guelph Jazz Festival on September 6, 2006. The world premiere of Special Forces was presented in Beirut, Lebanon, at the prestitious Théatre Monnot on April 3, 2007. The US premiere was presented at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, co-sponsored by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the 50th Anniversary Edition of the San Francisco International Film Festival, May 4, 2007.
The Statue of Giordano Bruno began and a Living Cinema performance using footage of the statue of the infamous heritage in Rome. The performance piece had its premiere at the Sensoralia Festival in Rome in 2005. A film version was released by the National Film Board of Canada the following year.
Portrait of Buddha is a more contemplative work in which vocal sounds and images from the concert location recorded the day of each show form the basis of an extended meditation. Hébert's painting on glass in this work is suggestive of Japanese calligraphy.
Endangered Species, Living Cinema's second work, features Ostertag using mechanical toy animals in a tuned and amplified boxing ring, where their images are captured by Hébert and become the basis for live animation.
Between Science and Garbage is Living Cinema's first production. Hébert creates images by drawing marker on paper, chalk on chalkboard, blowing dust on mirrors, and manipulating piles of garbage. Lots and lots of garbage. The garbage is used as both the subject of the animation and the source of the sound. Ostertag records the sound of garbage food, and manipulates it by drawing shapes on a digital drawing tablet.
Although technologically intensive, Living Cinema does not celebrate technology but questions it, and its relation to the bodies of performers and the world around us, and, of course, garbage. Today's cutting edge technology is of course tomorrow's garbage. This paradox is not banished to the shadows as an unspoken embarrassment, but is rather the starting point of the entire project. Ostertag and Hébert sit on stage and try to sense out of science and garbage -- a more explicit rendition of the situation we all live in every day.
New York Times
January 14, 2003
"Creating Layered Sounds to Match Layered Animations:
'Between Science and Garbage'
Merkin Concert Hall"
Junk food and trash were the makings of "Between Science and Garbage" by Bob Ostertag, an electronic composer, and Pierre Hébert, an animator, on Thursday night. The music started with Mr. Ostertag popping the top of a Coke can; he handed the can to Mr. Hébert, who put its image on screen, to be combined with images of a swinging watch, an apple and a computer motherboard that looked like a city seen from the air. There were also drawings that Mr. Hébert made on the spot of a man falling, reaching for the apple or diving into a garbage can.
Meanwhile Mr. Ostertag and his computer layered pop-tops, fizzes, rubber-duck squeaks and the crunch of chips into assemblages that could be sparse and funny. Then he transformed them into thick, rumbling, throbbing soundscapes like distant ominous factories. The imagery grew apocalyptic: a city buried or perhaps bombed, a man perpetually plunging and reappearing. Despite its comic moments, the piece left eerie memories.
-- Jon Pareles