semantikon feature artist

Oct/Nov 2007
Jean-Pierre Gagne


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Jean-Pierre Gagne, film maker, experimental, remix, cut-up, vermont, experimental video, poetry, photography, editing, film, sculpture
jean-pierre gagne feaure
picture of Jean-Pierre Gagne
Jean-Pierre Gagne is a creative soul who works in variety of mediums, including drawing, painting, still photography, and digital video. He began working with digital video in the fall of 2002 and fell in love with the medium. His recent video work includes The Smell of Who She is, Fluid Rhythm v1-4, Cherchez La Femme, and Sweet Sue (Just You) Remix. Jean-Pierre lives in Hinesburg, Vermont.

Crying Heads - 2004

Crying Heads is a multimedia work featuring distorted images of a human head in states of sadness or rage. It is my first truly surreal work. The initial idea for Crying Heads was to shoot a series of abstract self portraits using digital black and white photography. The idea came to me suddenly, without any reason, while out I was out with friends one evening. I remember leaving my friends as soon as I was able and rushing home to act upon the idea.

There was virtually no composition of the images in advance. I held the camera in front of my head, moved my head and body while I hit the shutter release, and then examined the results. Using this process, I shot a total of 69 pictures within a time span of 23 minutes. The distorted images are a result of capturing my body movements using a very slow shutter speed. The slow shutter speed also accentuated any camera movement, adding further distortion to the image. The only alterations to the original photographs were the contrast adjustments necessary for the multimedia presentation. Otherwise, the images are straight out of the camera.

The original plan for Crying Heads was a series of framed photographs. My plans changed, however, as I began my preparations to exhibit the photographs at the 2004 South End Art Hop in Burlington, Vermont. The Executive Director of the event told me that when they looked at the photographs, they wanted to hear sound as well. I loved the idea and immediately went to work on how sound would work with the photographs. The solution was a multimedia presentation.

The sound needed to be heavy and intense to match the emotions conveyed by the photographs. For the open mouths in each image, I created exaggerated “cries” and synced the sound to the photographs. The “cries” could be intense sadness or rage. To accentuate the emotional intensity of the “cries,” I created an ambient track with a very heavy droning noise. Finally, I added some static toward the end of the piece as the heads vaporize and disappear.

watch gagne short Crying Heads
Crying Heads - 2007
1:47 Minutes | 3.96 MB Quicktime File

Cherchez La Femme - 2007
(Premiering Sat October 13th at the The Vermont International Film Festival, Burlington, VT at The Waterfront Big Theater, 12pm)

Cherchez La Femme is a work exploring digital video compression as the primary technique used to manipulate an image. The video compression used for Cherchez La Femme was extremely high, resulting in a pixelated low-definition video. The distorted video obscures the images of women, requiring the viewer to "look for the woman" in each shot.

The images of the women were taken from short and full length films of the 1930s and 1940s that I downloaded from the Internet Archive. I started with approximately an hour and twenty-two minutes of video. My goal was to select one minute of the most interesting shots.

While creating Sweet Sue (Just You) Remix, I discovered that pixelated video can be very beautiful. I got the idea that an image could be manipulated by controlling how much data was in the video file. I decided to start with a video with low resolution and low bit rate, so I converted the original AVI file to a highly compressed MPEG-1 file. Through trial and error, I found the best compression settings. I reduced the resolution from 720 X 480 to 48 X 36 pixels, and the bit rate from 3.6 to .19 Mbps. Once the conversion to MPEG-1 was completed, it was converted back to an AVI file at the original compression settings. The new AVI file retained the 48 X 36 grid of pixels from the MPEG-1 file. The images were then composed of gigantic vibrating blocks of pixels and resembled moving abstract paintings. Additional adjustments were made to the frame, time, contrast and color to create the final images.

A combination of electronic frequencies and noise created the choppy pulsating sound. The sound needed to accentuate the rhythm of the low-definition video, so the timing of the chops were adjusted to match to the flickering pixels in the video.

Film Sources:
Afro Mood Burlesque -
Blonde Stag Film -
Co-Ed Secrets Stag Film -
The Girl on the Magazine Cover -
Heaven Help A Sailor On A Night Like This -
Jiveroo -
Lamp Of Memory -
One Look At You -
Sex Madness -
Surrender -

watch gagne short Cherchez la femme
watch gagne short Cherchez la femme
Cherchez La Femme - 2007
1 Minute | 12 MB Quicktime File

Sweet Sue (Just You) Remix - 2007

Sweet Sue (Just You) Remix is an experimental work featuring a rhythmic, low definition video remix of the 1940s “SoundieSweet Sue (Just You). It was my first venture into remixing. I really love editing video, so the remix process felt very natural to me. Remixing brings editing to the front of the video making process, elevating its importance in the creation of a work.

I stumbled across Sweet Sue (Just You) at the Internet Archive while looking for video clips containing interesting body movement. The dance routine in Sweet Sue (Just You) gave me a lot of body movement to work with, so it became my source video. After downloading the MPEG-2 file of the video, I converted it to an AVI file. I started editing the video by isolating shots of the dancers that I found interesting. I would then go through each shot, frame-by-frame, to isolate the body movements. Once the body movements were isolated, I would begin putting together visual “riffs” composed of combinations of movements (Without any concern about continuity).

During the editing process I began experimenting with re-framing shots to vary the riffs. To re-frame a shot, I had to increase the scale of a frame anywhere between 100 to 600 percent, and then adjusted the composition. Increasing the scale caused the pixels to enlarge, which is typically undesirable. However, for me it added a “dirty” texture and flickering rhythm to the image which I found desirable.

The audio remained synced to the video throughout the editing process. As video was cut and re-arranged, the audio changed as well. If time was altered (Faster or slower), the pitched changed or was adjusted to remain the same, depending on how the change in pitch affected a visual rhythm. The result was a synthesizer like sound that accentuated the visual riffs.

Source Video:
Sweet Sue (Just You) -

watch Gagnee short Sweet Sue (Just You) Remix
watch Gagnee short Sweet Sue (Just You) Remix
Sweet Sue (Just You)  Remix - 2007
02:32 Minutes | 8 MB Quicktime File

Drain - 2004
Drain is an experimental short about a surreal journey into a dark world via the drain of a bathroom sink. The viewer is taken from the comforts of a typical home to encounter strange beings and otherworldly environments.

I drew inspiration from the vegetable kingdom, animal kingdom, and human anatomy to
determine what the world of Drain would look like. Once an image came to mind, I would sketch it out on paper and keep revising the drawing until I had an image I was satisfied with. Once a final drawing was achieved, I would then determine what type of material the model would be built from. With the exception of the sequence in the home; the models and sets of Drain were constructed by using plaster, clay, latex, food, and other materials (including a dead fly).

The visual style in Drain is influenced by film noir. Throughout the short, scenes are lit with spots of light, surrounded by darkness. No fill light is used to smooth out the transition between light and the dark areas of a scene and the result is an extreme contrast of light. Most scenes are dominated by darkness, contributing to the overall sense of impending doom.

All of the sound for Drain is original, and no canned effects were used. Sounds were created from ordinary household objects or physically by yours truly. Once the sounds were captured (digitally), they were manipulated in an audio editing program until the sound environment fit the visual environment.

Production Stills for Drain
Flying Slug
Jean Pierre Gagne Still: Flying Slug
Heart Shaped Being
jean Pierre Gagne Still: Heart Shape Being
Watch Gagne short Drain
Watch Gagne short Drain
Drain - 2004
03:40 Minutes | 8 MB Quicktime File
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Broadside Poster
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