Kristian Pedersen: »I like how animation may convey or illustrate while maintaining some space for a reading experience. A poem walks a fine line when paired with visuals, and I think animation can help preserve an open reading.«
Kristian Pedersens poetry film Pipene is our FILM OF THE MONTH NOVEMBER 2015. He kindly answered some questions via E-mail.
Poetryfilmkanal: »Pipene is not your first short film that is based on a poem. When did you start making poetry films and how did you get interested in this genre?«
Pedersen: »The first attempt was during art school (where else?) around 2007. One of my childhood friends had published his first book around the time I was looking for a bachelor project. His short stories boggled my brain, and they seemed like something adaptable as a short episode series. So the first film was a pilot for a series never completed.
I was later made aware of small presses exercising alternative means of publishing – that a publication doesn’t necessarily have to be a hardbound book. Literary expressions can take most any form. So the MA project culminated in a new film, and suggested motion graphics as a means of literary publication. This was later catalyzed and published by the Norwegian small press Gasspedal, and so a series of short poetry films begun. These films have since travelled the world, mostly through ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival, which also was our gateway to the poetry film genre. I appreciate how these films are hybrids and fit in several places: festivals for film and animation, literature events, galleries and even for educational purposes.«
Poetryfilmkanal: »Can you tell us what you like about the relation of poetry and animation?«
Pedersen: »Any technique can be the right one for the right film – animation is the tool I have at my disposal. I like how animation may convey or illustrate while maintaining some space for a reading experience. A poem walks a fine line when paired with visuals, and I think animation can help preserve an open reading.«
Poetryfilmkanal: »How did you come across the poem Pipene by Øyvind Rimbereid?«
Pedersen: »This was through the collaboration between Gasspedal and Rimbereids publisher Gyldendal. Rimbereid is one of Norways most celebrated poets, and was on our top wish list. This poem appears in his poetry collection Orgelsjøen (»The Organ sea«). Pipene (in Norwegian meaning both chimneys and musical organ pipes) is an ode to the industrial and cultural history of Stavanger, a city that thrived for a century on the canning industry before it shifted to the oil industry. It was first performed at the opening of Stavanger Concert Hall and the inauguration of its custom built organ.
Rimbereids editor sent us the soundtrack used in the film: a live performance with organ accompaniment, recorded at a literature event in Oslo. The poem mentions that »no sound came from the pipes/chimneys« – and in the beginning you hear the organist play without pumping air through the instrument. So what you hear is the keys and parts in the organ being played and handled without air to create sound.«
Poetryfilmkanal: »Can you tell us more about how you developed the idea for the film Pipene?«
Pedersen: »I wanted to make references to history of visual music. So I knew it would be abstract, but I needed a visual toolbox to design from.
A remnant from the canning industry is the vast amount of printed labels from all the canned goods. Today these are popular collector items. Dating from late 1800s and onward, many of these were artistically designed and illustrated and screen printed, with strong colors and high contrasts. So those led to the use of color and a certain paper texture in the film.
I also went to visit the organ workshop that built the instrument for Stavanger Concert Hall. They showed me around and told me about the building process and I documented everything I could see. All over there were shelves and rooms filled with parts and pieces of instruments the size of houses. The escalating arrangement and size of pipes and pipe mouths led to a great deal of how the graphics took form.«
Poetryfilmkanal: »Do you think that non representative forms are a particularly good way to relate to a poem on a visual level? And if so, what makes this combination so powerful?«
Pedersen: »No poetry film is alike, and choice of technique will vary according to the lyrical content and the filmmakers’ preferred tools and intentions. I appreciate abstract visualization because it leaves space for an experience. If a poetry film is a room, it may already be crowded with connotations by voice, words, and in this case a musical soundscape. All of these convey something themselves. To introduce a visual and animated language in here, should sometimes be taken in gentle steps, to avoid suffocating the film. Too many levels of expression in one place can fill in all the blank spaces so nothing is left for the imagination. Non representative visuals or subtle abstractions can leave space for an individual reading, and I find this effective for these projects: trying to give a third party the opportunity to participate in the experience.
I often start the process with wanting to place too much together; shape. color, movement and reference. After struggling with it a while and wondering why it doesn’t work, I start taking things away, and then it slowly starts making some sense. So I am a fan of simplicity, even though I always start out with overly saturated visuals. This usually leads to a bunch of process downfall; well intended but failed attempts of animation that are now orphans somewhere in my computer. I don’t have the heart to delete them either, they’re all part of the end result.«
Poetryfilmkanal: »Did you try to evoke certain associations that are related in any particular way to the content of the poem?«
Pedersen: »I tried! But I guess it’s kind of subtle. In the poetry collection where Pipene is featured, every poem has some correlation to the organ instrument. The opening poem describes a sort of ›world‹ bellows that continuously throughout time breathes life into everything in the world by day, and inhales by night. A way of translating this visually was to have the music and voice breathe life into the colors, and this is why the film starts and ends in black and white. I introduce or saturate colors in correlation with the soundtrack: air pumping through the organ pipes, or certain changes in the voiceover. When the film is coming to an end, it desaturates as the last breaths of air fades away. Then someone in the audience coughs, and kicks up one last square jumping in and out of frame. I could’t resist it.«
Poetryfilmkanal: »Which films are you influenced by?«
Pedersen: »Most anything! But it varies between projects. For Pipene I devoured Oskar Fischinger and other visual music artists. Classics like Len Lye and Lis Rhodes or contemporary motion graphics like JR Canest and Impactist. I was especially fascinated by Rainer Wehingers visual score for Ligetis Artikulation.* These may not necessarily shine through in the film, but they’re somewhere in the matrix.
Otherwise I guess the earliest and strongest influence was Tom & Jerry and most any Looney Tunes episode. That’s where I learned bouncing or squeeze-and-stretch, and a general disregard for laws of physics. And I love digging for golden title sequences at ArtOfTheTitle or WatchtheTitles. Check out Dr. No ** or the end credits for X-men: First Class ***.«
Poetryfilmkanal: »Despite the fact that the forms we see in the film have a very haptic, almost analogue feel to it, they are generated digitally. The way you treat the color makes them look like a projection or reflection rather than an object or a physical form. Would you define this as your general style or in which way did you relate the aesthetic to this particular poem?«
Pedersen: »The different film projects usually follow their own labyrinthine design process, and end up in different aesthetics because they have different starting points. But I guess the way I have the graphics behave and react is a general style, I can’t hide how I walk! I also like taking the edge off a digital appearance, to make it seem tactile. The graphics in Pipene are are also hinged to analogue sound. They follow the clicks and bumps or any crescendo or forte in the soundscape.«
Poetryfilmkanal: »Can you tell us more about the dramatic visual structure of the film? For example, there seems to be a development from flat 2D forms to illusionary 3D forms and vice versa as well as a colour dramaturgy. Do you plan these things – or are you working intuitively on this?«
Pedersen: »The cube shapes are actually remains of taller pipes that were discarded somewhere in the design process. These busy cubes could better be an image of a mechanical orchestra playing together, or the mechanichs inside a large instrument being handled. Through the film the image is tilted to seem slightly 3D.This is to create some space and variations for the eye, and a sense of there being something more outside the frame. Also, with the paper texture, it’s a close up of a sort of label, where the ›printed‹ graphics are alive.
I try to plan these things, but it seems with poetry films I have to follow intuition. A storyboard with style frames can look promising at first, but as the animation progresses the planned scenes often won’t shake hands with the impression of the voice or content. They can rarely be treated separately. So then follows experiments with timing and momentum: where does the voice need to be alone, and where can the graphics be acrobatic? The trick is usually to have done extensive research and design testing, so I have a large toolbox to rummage through while working: to find the right shape in a scene like an author finds the right word in a sentence.«
* Rainer Wehinger.
** Dr. No.
*** X-men: First Class.
About the artist
Filmmaker and designer Kristian Pedersen graduated with an MA in Visual Communication from Bergen Academy of Art and Design. Working as a freelance animator and designer in Oslo, he has produced animated poetry films in collaboration with the small press Gasspedal and editor Audun Lindholm, the publishing house Gyldendal, and the Norwegian National Library. His films have been featured at festivals for film, animation, literature and poetry.Filmmaker and designer Kristian Pedersen graduated with an MA in Visual Communication from Bergen Academy of Art and Design. Working as a freelance animator and designer in Oslo, he has produced animated poetry films in collaboration with the small press Gasspedal and editor Audun Lindholm, publishing house Gyldendal, and the Norwegian National Library. His films have been featured at festivals for film, animation, literature and poetry.