François Chalet, who simply describes himself as a story teller, had a lot to talk about, when I interviewed him about his recent projects. Besides his numerous performances as a VJ all over Europe, the quirky Swiss animator talked about teaching, a collaboration with a dancer, his current participation at an exhibition at the Pompidou Center, his love and life. Here is a little resume, of our long conversation:
Written by Uleshka
François, I really like your humor and very simple characters always telling a funny story. How would you describe your own style. A minimal Tex Avery, maybe?
François VJing at Exit Festival
My work is based on very simple geometrical shapes, maybe because I went to math school? Some say it has the Swiss slickness? Some say it is very cute, because I love Japanese characters? I believe, that what I do is a mixture of all kinds of inspirations, like watching Tex Avery as a kid and traveling to Japan a lot. I invented a few, minimal characters which are telling my little stories through animation. Those are usually funny …. or heartbreaking, in case I feel heartbroken, which tends to happen a lot. (Laughs!) Basically, I try to improve the world with humor.
What are you currently working on?
VJ with dancer
VJ with dancer
I met Thomas Duchatelet, a dance choreographer, who used to dance for Pina Bausch and then set up his own company in Paris. He was reached a point where he really wanted to try out something new, away from the usual, relatively classical dance, so now we started to collaborate fusioning dance, music and visuals. I recently go to Paris a lot to watch the dancers to get some ideas and to be more involved. All I can say so far is, that there will be really long screens for projections, where the dancers will move within. I did a few experiments with that in my previous work already, and I generally like to collaborate with dancers a lot. The piece will be called “From Zero to Eternity”, about 70 minutes long and we will be on tour in early December.
You were selected as a VJ to collaborate with Patrick Jouin (designer) and Du Zhenju (multi media artist) for the spectacle “Serial Killer” produced by Didier Fusillier. Can you tell me a little bit about your part in that performance?
Barbe bleue – installing
Barbe bleue- projection on ball
Patrik Jouin wanted to make something about “Barbe bleue”- a very brutal, French fairy tale, but to suit all of us, we expanded the theme of the performance to “Serial Killer”. I interpreted that fairy tale to match my animation- purpose and came up with a story about the character “barbe bleue” using the character’s head as a projection onto a huge ball (from the front and the back) and music created by Mathias Vetter (CH). Patrick Jouin made a kind of performance creating objects, using special light interacting with the sound composition of Krikor, then I would project my musical film onto the big ball, followed by Du Zhenju, who made an interactive dance performance mixing video with the shadow of the dancers. The whole spectacle took about an hour and we performed in 3 different locations so far.
Being signed on the Dalbin label you distributed a 3 minutes movie for a 5 screen video installation to the current exhibition D-Days at the Centre Pompidou. 5 VJ-crews were selected, every team had to create a movie about one of 5 elements: water, air, fire, earth and ether. Which element were you given and with what did you come up for this exhibition?
postcard found in Kyushi
Air was my given element. Since all I do is related to a story, I remembered this photo I took in Japan of a postcard of a kite(a kite is called “Wolkendrachen” meaning a sky dragon in German), which I liked so much and also found suitable for the element air. Already having this idea in mind, I went off for an exhibition in Rappersville, a little village by a lake, where I exhibited my studio- as it is- as a piece. Walking around the area, I found this fortress, which just looked so touristy, just like a perfect fairy tale fortress- that this was where I got the final idea for my movie: a dragon living in a fortress, flying through the skies into the big city looking for his dragon girl- friend…. a love story of course. I don’t want to spoil it all for you by telling everything- have a look at it in the Pompidou Centre while it is still on!
I personally like your architectural graphics, where you use architectural photographs and turn them into your typical “Chalets”. Will they also be animated at some point in the future?
Ah, those! Yes, I am currently working on a small animation for a cinema in Zurich, together with a percussionist. I want those houses to get up and walk around and build a whole little city with them. After the dance project with Du Chaplet, I will also build a bigger, universal city out of architectural elements from Zurich, New York, Berlin and Tokyo for the DVD I am planning for Dalbin. That DVD should be finished and distributed through Die Gestalten Verlag around spring next year.
Sounds great! I especially like the kicker- comic you made already with those architecture pictures!
I made this for our shared office room. After we all lived some kind of playstation- mania, I decided to buy a kicker for our office. Designing in front of the computer all day, one is already lonely, anyway, so I believe you need to interact with real people again, need something, that brings out the feelings. We all love it and play together every day. It is such a simple game, and yet it contains everything. It is great to feel the different moods: aggression, sadness, pride, cowardess. Actually, the kicker is a great example for what I try to achieve with my work. I want to show, that life is actually really simple- we only make it complicated, but the base is simple.
You seem to be doing lots of different fun stuff with your unique style. Amazing how you can make a living of it!
Well- this is actually, what I need a girlfriend for! (Laughs!) Just kidding! Of course I do commercial work, like some animations for Mitsubishi(JP), OP Vodka(USA), M-TV(Europe) stuff and always some illustrations here and there. Then I am currently hunting for some sponsorship from the government, too. In fact, I just changed my lifestyle a lot! I prefer to be free, and have more time for the things I like and live my life- and therefore I gladly accept to have less money. I believe that I am much happier this way!
I heard, that you are currently giving lectures at the ZKM in Germany about VJing?
ZKM workshop: reduction
ZKM workshop: mistakes
I gave a few workshops to the students of the University of Art and Design (HfG Karlsruhe) at the ZKM about animation, which then turned out as visuals for VJing using Flash. The workshop was split into four modules: mistakes, reduction, movement and loops/ VJ-ing. The building gets so heated up in the summer, though, that I decided to do the last one only in the evening hours, so we spent all night creating stuff. On the third day, the students had their own visuals ready for playing a little each at a party at the ZKM. That was a great success for everyone. I enjoy teaching and did some here and there already. One very different experience was teaching the basics of design to students at the Zeppelin University for business, culture and politics. Meeting those students was very refreshing for me, because I could teach design to people with a totally different approach (… and I guess they found me pretty funny, when I arrived there in my beach sandals to hold the lectures…..) In the end, I just enjoy meeting new people and exchanging ideas.
Merci beaucoup et au revoir!