ExTV is currently hosting a solo exhibition of SAIC Film, Video and New Media alum, teacher and curator Jodie Mack, known for her colorful cut-out, stop-motion and hand-painted animations that re-use the imagery and patterns of contemporary craft, and dissect themes of domesticity, feminine ritual, and personal history. Mack’s abstract animations are like carefully choreographed synchronized swimming exercises where shapes intertwine and break free of each other in a flirtatious dance. Go here to view six of Mack’s animations.
An Interview with Jodie Mack
ExTV: Your animations oscillate between narrative and abstract. What do these two things do for you and why do you consider the abstract work to be important?
JM: I started out making the purely abstract stuff. When I started, I was concurrently falling in love with the history of pure, graphic animation and what it actually means when people say things like: “This stuff doesn’t mean anything, but I’m just fine with forms and textures just moving around.” Visual music analogies between hearing and seeing, formal algorithms, eye candy–I love all of that stuff. But, my major mentor when I was first figuring all of that stuff out asked us to think about what these things [abstract works] really are. Are they just pretty? What do they do in the world? He put that on our shoulders a little bit. You have to have form and meaning! (Or, rather, do you?) One part of me feels like pure graphic abstraction is an opposition to classic Hollywood themes in itself, just by rejecting the modes and the expectations. But, I took what my mentor said to heart. And, for a while, making more narrative work was a way of answering these questions for myself. In my thematic or more genre-based stuff, the stories or ideas have just been launch pads to work with materials. I really feel as though, a lot of the time, I’m kind of forcing abstract images to mean things by way of sound or editing or some other device…
ExTV: Would you ever be interested in making more mainstream or commercial animation?
JM: There’s a long-standing history of animators making their livings doing commercial stuff–even some of the most experimental animators. You know, Len Lye making commercials for the post office, Norman Mclaren working for the NFB, Frank Mouris doing titles, Adam Beckett or Larry Cuba working on Star Wars, etc., etc., etc. The thing with animating is that it is all practice, so I definitely don’t feel opposed to doing paid things here and there.
ExTV: Do you see yourself more as a contemporary artist or as a filmmaker?
JM: I think I have seen myself more as a filmmaker, although I just did some installation work. I definitely do a lot of stuff that is beyond my films – I make a lot of cards and I am doing a lot of collage, and studying songwriting. Some of the abstract work seems to actually make a lot of sense in a gallery setting, and it’s surprising that this is something that I’ve rarely done. I am also getting together a choir. I think it will be all-female, and I don’t think they will be singing words, more syllables, like tra la la – things like that. I want to do an album of full songs and have animations to accompany them. Coming, off of “Yard Work is Hard Work,” a musical I made that took two years, I feel a bit lost as far as composing. But, I want to experiment, and I like the idea of having more voices to play with. Who knows if this will be for a gallery or theater setting?